Coming up in Committee: Twenty-One Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, Today, May 26


1. H6174 “The division of motor vehicles is authorized to issue driving privilege licenses and driving privilege permits to any applicant who meets the licensure requirements of this chapter but is unable to establish legal presence in the United States”. The bill then lists an extensive set of documents, two of which must be provided to establish eligibility for a “driving privilege license”. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 26)  Issue 1: If “undocumented immigrants” are expected to have documents before they get their driving privilege license, then add said license as an additional document to the documents they already have, does it seem honest at any time to refer to a status of “undocumented”?  Issue 2: The archaic, one-off legal concept that being able to drive is a privilege and not a right — indeed, that there is any broad class of human activities that fall into a category of government-granted “privileges” — should be resisted and ultimately rejected whenever it appears.

2. H5387: Government takeover of healthcare, creating a state-run insurance plan, and prohibiting providers who accept the state insurance from billing “any patient for any covered benefit”, while also subjecting the providers to comprehensive price controls. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

3A. H5104: Requires that a photo ID be presented when a person between the ages of 18 and 60 who is not blind, disabled or a victim of domestic violence uses an EBT card. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

3B. H5347: Requires school-aged children of families receiving welfare benefits through the Rhode Island Works program to have an 80% attendance rate at school. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

4. S0610: Allows a municipal economic development zone (where qualifying businesses are “exempt from the requirement to charge and collect fifty percent (50%) of the current sales and use tax…for a period of ten years”) to be established “in a municipally designated and state-approved ‘growth center’ in accordance with the Land-Use 2025 element of the state guide plan”. (S Finance; Tue, May 26)

5. S0348: 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”. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 26) Recent events in Cranston, where the school committee took it upon itself to decree that people aren’t required to go to church during school hours on Good Friday, raise a question about this bill: Is the reference to “religiously mandated objects” something narrower than “religious objects”, i.e. does this bill put condominium associations in the position of being able to decide that yes that’s a religious object on your door, but you still have to take it down because we don’t think your religion requires you to put it there.

6. H6218: Prohibits insurance companies from imposing pre-authorization and co-payment requirements for medical imaging, “in cases where there is an immediate, substantial and imminent threat to [a] person’s health”. (H Corporations; Tue, May 26)

7. H5262: Prohibits “any and all public adjusters from engaging in any solicitation or inspection or any physical presence on the premises under investigation until twenty-four hours after” control of the scene of a fire is released. (H Corporations; Tue, May 26)

8. S0635: Removes the affidavit procedure currently required of a person whose name is not on the voter list at their polling place, before he or she can cast a “provisional ballot” in an RI election (H Judiciary; Tue, May 26)

9A. H5348/S0099: Extends indefinitely what was a pilot program extending child-care subsidies to families making 180% of the Federal poverty level, who meet eligibility requirements for welfare benefits with one of several alternatives to work. (H Finance; Tue, May 26 & S Finance; Tue, May 26)

9B. H5544: Increases the income eligibility for state child-care subsidies from 180% to 225% of the Federal poverty level (but lets the pilot program modified in H5348/S0099 run out at the end of June 2015). (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

9C. H5399: Allows full-time college enrollment to count towards welfare program work requirements. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

9D. H5926: Allows the number of hours needed to meet the work-requirement for welfare benefits to be split between two parents. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

10. H5564: Provides benefits to individuals with disabilities in the form of “Achieving a better life experience accounts”, i.e. “ABLE accounts”, designed to be used for “for disbursements relating to education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses and any other expenses approved under regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Treasury”. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

11. S0828: Another bill in this year’s series requiring “an appropriate certificate of good standing issued by the Rhode Island division of taxation” in order for business to be conducted, in this case to allow a business merger to proceed. (H Corporations; Tue, May 26)

12. S0622: Seemingly mild eminent domain “reform” which mostly reiterates that the state has to follow already existing eminent domain process (details here) when a taking a property. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 26)

13A. 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 26)

13B. 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 26)

14. H5033: Allows for the immediate expungement of a deferred criminal sentence upon its completion. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 26)

15. S0222: Reduces the corporate income tax by 0.25% multiplied by the “the number of units of new employment for each such taxable year through the taxable year ending on or before December 31, 2017” or after 2017, by the “the number of units of new employment reported for such taxable year ending in 2017″, up to a maximum reduction of 6% “for the applicable income tax rate” or 3% “for the applicable personal income tax rate”. (S Finance; Tue, May 26)

16. H6086: Strikes the requirement that cigarettes seized in violation of state tax-laws be destroyed. Also, H5732 and H5327 make various changes to the cigarette tax. (H Finance; Tue, May 26)

17. H6111: “Any provision, clause, covenant or agreement contained in a motor carrier transportation contract that purports to indemnify, defend or hold harmless…an indemnitee from or against any liability for loss or damage resulting from such indemnitee’s negligence or intentional acts or omissions shall be void and unenforceable”. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 26) This bill is presumably directed at ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft — though this could be a reasonable change in the law to account for a new circumstance.

18. Presently, municipal governments are allowed to “aggregate…one or more classes of the retail electrical loads located, respectively, within [them] and…enter into service agreements to facilitate for those loads the sale and purchase of electricity”, under the condition that 1) the agreement is done in consultation with the Public Utilities Commission, 2) two public hearings are held and 3) the agreement is approved by voter referendum. S0917 would reduce the above conditions, by eliminating consultation with the PUC and eliminating the voter referendum, and only requiring one hearing. (S Commerce; Tue, May 26)

19. S0575: Excludes state-owned properties from certain liability protections extended to private owners who allow their property to be used for recreational purposes free-of-charge. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 26)

20. S0270: In a section of the law titled “Limited Guardianship and Guardianship of Adults”, requires “any legally appointed guardian…to file the durable power of attorney for health care and/or living will of their appointed ward, with either the probate court or the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs, within thirty days of his/her appointment”. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 26)

21. S0306: Requires an annual appropriation of $12.5M “in capital financing for affordable housing development” (but then adds the qualifier “or whatever amount deemed necessary to enable the commission to carry out its assigned purposes under this chapter”) and another $2.2M “to support the efforts of the housing resources commission” (without any wiggle-room).  (S Finance; Tue, May 26) Mandating an appropriation like this, outside of the budget process, is very unusual in the Rhode Island system of government.

Ranking Indeterminate: H5978: An “electric supplier consumer bill of rights”. (H Corporations; Tue, May 26)