1. 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, May 5)
2A. S0739: 1) Requires that the local share of funding for school districts and charter schools (i.e. the non-state aid share) of be provided by the “the local district from local resources”, 2) freezes the number of students used for the state education “funding formula” calculation for public charter schools at their 2015 values and 3) requires the town/city council or school committee of every community to be served by a mayoral academy to give its approval before a charter school can increase its enrollment. (S Education; Wed, May 6) This looks to be the major anti-education-reform bill for this session, but also pay attention to some of the “smaller” ones immediately below.
2B. S0087 requires the town/city council or school committee of every community that would be served by a new mayoral academy to gives its approval in order for the academy to be opened. S0202 subtracts the entire amount of “allocations not born by the charter school based on uniform chart of accounts data such as out of district special education and district costs required by the basic education plan” from a school district’s budget, in order to reduce the local share of money that follows a student who attends a charter school. S0699 makes the school district “where the student resides shall be responsible for all special education costs associated with and provided to that student”. S0700 requires Mayoral academy teachers to participate in the state retirement system. (S Education; Wed, May 6)
3. S0210: Exempts “any income from social security benefits” and “up to twenty-five thousand dollars of income received from public and private pensions, interest income, 401K plans and individual retirement accounts” from the state income tax. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)
4. S0541: Authorizes the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to issue $65M in bonds, without voter approval, resulting in $152M in debt to paid out over 30 years, “for the purpose of providing funds to finance the renovation, renewal, repair, rehabilitation, retrofitting, upgrading and improvement of the Pell Bridge, the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, the Sakonnet River Bridge, Mount Hope Bridge, and other projects authorized under the Act, replacement of the components thereof, working capital, capitalized interest, a debt service reserve and the costs of issuing and insuring the Bonds”. The bonds don’t need voter approval, because the resolution says “that the Bonds will not constitute indebtedness of the State or any of its subdivisions or a debt for which the full faith and credit of the State or any of its subdivisions is pledged”. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)
4B. At the same hearing as the bill above, the committee will also hear (by someone’s request) S0543 which adds the following to the language giving the Bridge and Turnpike Authority the power to issue bonds: “The state does pledge to and agree with the holders of any bonds or notes issued under this chapter that the state will not limit or alter the rights vested in the authority to fulfill the terms of any agreements made with the holders until those bonds or notes, together with their interest, with interest on any unpaid installments of interest, and all costs and expenses in connection with any action or proceeding by or on behalf of those holders, are fully met and discharged. The authority is authorized to include this pledge and agreement of the state in any agreement with the holders of those bonds or notes”. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)
5. S0433: Prohibits non-compete agreements for licensed physicians. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 5)
6. H6151: Authorizes a referendum on dissolving the Bristol-Warren regional school district. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, May 6)
7. H6150: Encourages hospitals to have patients designate at least one caregiver “no later than twenty-four hours following the patient’s entry into a hospital”, who is to be consulted on such matters as discharge plans and after-care needs. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, May 6) The preamble of the bill discusses “a surging population of older adults and others living with chronic conditions and who have significant needs for long-term services and supports”, but the active part of the bill seems to apply to anyone who is hospitalized.
8. H6072: 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 5)
9. H6145: Requires that redevelopment agencies in Providence and only Providence (i.e. in “any city or town with more than one hundred thousand residents”) “be permitted to construct new buildings for commercial or industrial uses contemplated by its redevelopment plan”. (H Municipal Government; Thu, May 7) It’s not immediately clear from the language in the bill whether “be permitted” means “be allowed” or “be automatically given permits”.
10. H6035: Requires a certificate of good standing from the Rhode Island Division of Taxation to be included with certain business “instruments” (i.e. paperwork) filed with the Rhode Island secretary of state. (H Corporations; Tue, May 5)
11. S0542: Allows a deduction against the state income tax for medical expenses “not compensated for by insurance or otherwise, for medical care”. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)
12. H6147: Expands the power of municipal courts, allowing them to issue restraining orders in housing-related matters and to order buildings into receivership. (H Municipal Government; Thu, May 7)
13. H6073: Increases the maximum penalty for “driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, resulting in death” from 15 years imprisonment to life imprisonment. (H Judiciary; Wed, May 6)
14. S0588: Allows patients to sue both nursing homes and individuals working for nursing homes for negligent care. (H Corporations; Tue, May 5) (S Judiciary; Tue, May 5)
15. S0448: Constitutional amendment (requiring voter approval) to have the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island run on a single ticket. (S Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs; Wed, May 6)
16. H6054: Moves Rhode Island’s Presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in April to the fourth Tuesday in March. (H Judiciary; Wed, May 6)
17. H6075: Authorizes (and regulates) the use of “automated school zone speed enforcement systems” in Rhode Island. (H Judiciary; Wed, May 6)
18. S0667: Adds “individually identifiable evaluations of public school superintendents, administrators, principals and all other school employees” to evaluations of teachers on the list of records not considered public under the access to public records act. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 5)
19. H5429: Before any party could sue over a “condominium dispute”, they would be required to “petition the department of business regulation for arbitration”. (H Corporations; Tue, May 5) Included on the list for how it illustrates what may be Rhode Island state government’s most fundamental problem — a political elite that really believes they are the human resources bureaucracy for every aspect of life.
20. H6146: Extends the definition of “building” in the state’s abandoned property law to include buildings or structures whose use is entirely commercial. (Under existing law, a structure must have at least one floor that’s residential to be considered a “building”). (H Municipal Government; Thu, May 7)
21. S0369: Accelerates the 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”. (Senate Environment and Agriculture; Wed, May 6)
22. S0537: Allows “those facilities in the state of Rhode Island that currently discharge wastewater from an on-site wastewater treatment and disposal system that do not have reasonable access to an available sewer within the city or town where the property is located” to connect to a sewer line in a neighboring city or town, if the neighboring sewer line is closer, connection would be cheaper, and surplus capacity exists. (S Environment & Agriculture; Wed, May 6) Is this targeted at current situation in RI?
23. S0016: Charges the office of management and budget with creating “an implementation plan for a centralized hearing agency which will standardize the state’s administrative hearing process, reduce confusion, improve efficiency by dedicating qualified state personnel to administrative hearing duties only”. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)
24. S0408: Transfers responsibility for the state’s “water quality protection funds” away from the Water Resources board and the General Treasurer, and moves it directly to water suppliers. (S Environment & Agriculture; Wed, May 6)
25. S0733: Extends charges added to utility bills for “demand-side management programs” currently set to expire in 2018 to 2030. (S Commerce; Tue, May 5)
26. S0606: Creates a “governmental responsiveness, expediency and efficiency team program”, aka the GREET program, “to place qualified [private-sector] executives on a voluntary basis without state renumeration in state agencies”. (S Commerce; Tue, May 5)
27. 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.” (H Corporations; Tue, May 5)
28. S0397: Gives the RI office of regulatory reform specific responsibilities for “providing for full municipal participation in the statewide electronic permitting system”, “developing and implementing a plan to review existing municipal regulations, and “developing and implementing a plan to expand statewide electronic permitting to other permit management, inspections and programs”. The first concrete step taken towards this is a regulatory mandate that every RI city and town designate a regulatory liaison (S Commerce; Tue, May 5)
Inobvious Priorities: S0448 >> Designates the American Burying Beetle as the state insect.