Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Five Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, April 14 – April 16


1. Constitutional Amendments

2. Gun rights/Gun control bills.

3. H5819: 1) Outlaws stop-and-frisk police procedures by extending the current requirement that motor vehicle stops be predicated on “reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity” to pedestrians, 2) requires that, whenever possible, motor vehicle stops be recorded (but not making the recordings part of the public record), and 3) mandates that the department of transportation gather data on whether “racial disparities in traffic stops exist”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

4. Bud. Art. 11, sec 15: Creates a statewide property tax on non-owner occupied residential property, applied to properties valued at $1M or more.(S Finance; Tue, Apr 14) The odd construction regarding taxing the privilege of owning property rather than the property itself is slated to be removed by amendment (h/t Katherine Gregg).

5. S0296: Repeals the section of the law allowing “deferred deposit” loans, i.e. “pay-day” loans, also eliminating the provisions in the law that allow check-cashing businesses to automatically operate as pay-day lenders. (S Commerce; Tue, Apr 14) According to the official description, this is a complete repeal of pay-day lending.

6. Bud. Art. 29: Gives the Commerce Corporation power to issue tax-credits for large construction projects, with special provisions allowing projects in Providence — oh, excuse me; in communities with 150,000 or more in population — to be fast-tracked, allowing them to bypass local building and inspection requirements. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 15)

7. Bud. Art. 5: Some seemingly rigid medicaid price controls, e.g. “for the twelve (12) month period beginning July 1, 2015, Medicaid fee-for-service outpatient rates shall not exceed ninety-five percent (95.0%) of the rates in effect as of July 1, 19 2014″.  Also, amongst other items, Bud. Art. 4: sets a limit of $136.8 million to be paid out in “disproportionate share hospital payments” under the “uncompensated care” section of the law. (S Finance; Wed, Apr 15)

8. Bud. Art. 2: $5.1M in bonds — not going to the voters for approval — resulting in $8.1M in debt (based on an assumed average interest rate of 5% for 20 years), for improvements to the University of Rhode Island’s fraternity circle. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 14)

9. H6051: 1) Charges the secretary of state with setting up a statewide system for electronic voter registration and 2) establishes in-person early voting in Rhode Island beginning “on the twenty-eighth day before a general or primary election and extend through the day before the general or primary election”. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 15)

10. Bud. Art. 6: Ends funding for transportation and textbook loans to private schools. However, House Finance Chairman Raymond Gallison has said of this article: “We will be restoring the monies as necessary so that children who attend private schools will be able to have the cross-district busing and the textbooks that they need”. This article also mandates full-day kindergarten for RI school districts as a condition of receiving state education aid. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 14)

11. H5250: Prohibits EBT cards from being used for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, tobacco products, visual material or performances intended to create or simulate sexual conduct or sexual excitement, firearms and ammunition, vacation services, tattoos or body piercings, jewelry, gambling or fees, fines, bail, or bail bonds ordered by a court. H : requires that a photo ID be presented when using an EBT card. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

12. H5999: A “stolen valor” act for Rhode Island. (H Veterans’ Affairs; Thu, Apr 16)

13. S0470: Raises the income threshold for the state childcare subsidies from 180% to 225% of the poverty level. S0099 makes permanent a temporary extension of state childcare subsidies to parents with incomes at 180% of the poverty level, who are  “in training, apprenticeship, internship, on-the-job training, work experience, work immersion, or other job readiness/job attachment program sponsored or funded by the human resource investment council (governor’s workforce board) or state agencies that are part of the coordinated program system”. (S Finance; Wed, Apr 15)

14. H5632: Adds “when [a] minor person is involved in a relationship deemed by a parent or other interested party to be a dangerous and unhealthy relationship” to the definition of domestic abuse where protective orders can be issued. Also, allows a third-party to file for domestic-abuse related protective orders. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

15. Bud. Art. 25: A convoluted budget article 1) whose stated purpose is to use some part of or all of $45M of Google money allocated to the state police to help fund their pensions; 2) sets up a trust to fund retirement benefits for the state police, but without saying in so many words that Google money should be deposited into it; and 3) makes the interesting “legislative finding” that “unless a trust is established, these members’ benefits will continue to be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis and would not be recognized as a liability on the state’s financial statements under generally accepted accounting purposes”. (H Finance; Thu, Apr 16)

16. H5798: Amended version of the bill that repeals the prohibition on building a hotel at the Twin River casino site. (S Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs; Tue, Apr 14)

17. H5296: Allows cities and towns to exempt 100% disabled veterans and their spouses from local taxes. (H Municipal Government; Thu, Apr 16)

18. S0358: Allows unemployed individuals to register their vehicles, even if they are delinquent on tax-payments which normally would prevent them from doing so.  (S Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs; Wed, Apr 15)

19. H6063: Some changes that, in principle, are supposed to make it easier for different units of government (and even under the Federal government) to collaborate and share services. However, most of what this law does is already in place for collaboration between municipalities, and what this bill does is expressly add units like “fire districts” and “school districts” in the mix. In the end, this could end up enabling some weird arrangements, for example a town and a fire district within a town creating a “regional” body above (maybe between?) them that has decision making authority. (H Municipal Government; Thu, Apr 16) Is this bill targeted at a specific situation? Or is this a case of Rhode Island’s addiction to creating new jurisdictions to do basic government things?

20. H5668: Accelerates a goal of cesspool replacement in Rhode Island, basically by mandating “any cesspool found to be serving a building or use subject to sale or transfer shall be removed and replaced with an [on-site water treatment system] or the building served by the cesspool shall be connected to a public sewer system within twelve (12) months of the date of sale or transfer”. (H Environment and Natural Resources; Thu, Apr 16)

21. H5161: Makes “attendance at a seminar relating to financial literacy, developed and conducted by the department of human services” a condition of the Rhode Island Works program (where “parents are mandated to enter into an employment plan, as a condition of eligibility for cash assistance”). (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 15)

22. H5874: Excludes records from marijuana violations from being open to the public. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

23. S0214: Not quite sure how this one works; it appropriates “out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated for the fiscal year 2015-2016, the sum of $15,000,000 to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals, Division of Developmental Disabilities for services for the developmentally disabled”, even though the budget for FY2015-2016 is still under consideration. (S Finance; Wed, Apr 15)

24. H5873: Makes some process changes related to expungement of criminal records. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

25. H5261: The world still waits for the GA to finish its work on the nuanced issue of reversing the Board of Elections decision to disallow bake-sales at polling places on election day. (S Judiciary; Tue, Apr 14)

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, Apr 14)

On Wednesday, April 15, the Senate Labor Committee will hear 5 bills relating to worker’s compensation, including one that would have workers’ compensation cover costs of transportation to and from medical care (S0185), and another that would completely eliminate the section of the law on “partial incapacity” (S0186).

Inobvious Priorities: H5820 >> Adds “inspectors of the public utilities commission and division of motor carriers” to the list of RI “peace officers” with the power to make arrests.

Local Impact: Barrington 2 3, East Greenwich 2, Glocester 2, Middletown, Newport 2, Pawtucket, Richmond 2, Smithfield, Tiverton 2.