1. Bud. Art. 11, sec 15: The oddly-constructed statewide property tax, written not as a tax on property but on “the privilege of utilizing property as non-owner occupied residential property within the state during any privilege year commencing with the privilege year beginning July 1, 2015″, which applies to non-owner occupied properties valued at $1M or more. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 7) A tax on the “privilege” of owning property is very difficult to justify (using earth logic) from the perspective of trying to writing laws that are clear and fair, as a tax on a “privilege” can be assessed whether the privilege is exercised or not. But here’s an interesting question: Is a tax on “privilege” versus actual property deductible from Federal income tax? There are ramifications either way…
2. H5784: Requires that at least one health plan offered to individuals and small businesses by the Rhode Island health benefits exchange exclude “coverage for induced abortions”, with exceptions for cases involving rape and the life of the mother. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7)
3. H5903: Salary controls for hospital administrative staff, limiting non-health care professionals to “a rate of compensation [not] greater than one hundred and ten percent (110%) of the amount determined annually by the director to constitute the northeast regional average compensation level for comparable personnel serving in comparable hospitals”. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7)
4. S0620: Centralizes healthcare decision making in government in a new “office of health policy”, whose powers include the power to cap the amount of healthcare in RI paid for with commercial insurance. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 7)
5. H5374: Constitutional amendment (requiring voter approval) restoring Ethics Commission jurisdiction over the legislature. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7)
6. S0546: repeals Rhode Island’s $500 corporate minimum tax. S0302 takes a more minimalist approach, exempting corporations from the $500 corporate minimum tax for just the first year of their establishment. (S Finance; Tue, Apr 7)
7. H5662: Constitutional amendment (requiring voter approval) stating that “any taxpayer shall have the standing to contest the validity or legality of any governmental expenditure or tax in the appropriate forum”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7) This definitely won’t be popular with “the peasants must be ruled by a strong hand” crowd in charge at the GA.
8. H5930/H5931: Allows an application for a mail-ballot, by itself, to serve as confirmation that a voters address is still legitimate, after an official mailing from the state or municipality has been returned as undeliverable. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7)
9. H5988: According to the official description, “this act transfers jurisdiction over health insurance regulation from the director of business regulation to the office of health insurance commissioner”. Also, H5939 mainly moves regulation of health-insurance rates from the Director of Business Regulation to the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7)
10. H5663: 1) Expressly adds state “department heads” to the list of people barred from being employed by another stage agency, for up to one year after leaving a high-level position; 2) eliminates the exception to this law for persons “holding a senior policy-making discretionary, or confidential staff position who has a minimum of five years of uninterrupted state service”; and 3) eliminates the Ethics Commission’s power to grant case-by-case exceptions in this area… (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7) …aka the aftermath of Richard Licht being appointed a judge bill.
11. Bud. Art. 14: Eliminates the requirement that “representatives of all state agencies” participate in the “revenue estimating conferences” used to develop the state budget, replacing it with a requirement that state agencies be informed of estimates that “the department of revenue and legislative economist shall develop”. The bill also eliminates a moderately detailed description of what the output of the revenue estimating conferences should be. (S Finance; Tue, Apr 7)
12. H5598: “Small employer carriers shall permit small employers, collectively as a group, to purchase group health plans, health benefit plans, wellness health benefit plans, and any other form of health insurance plan authorized by this chapter”. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7) The bill may make permanent this section of the law, which has been left hanging as of the year 2010.
13. 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”. (S Finance; Tue, Apr 7)
14. H5481: Repeals Rhode Island’s participation in a multistate compact where “a license to practice registered nursing issued by a home state to a resident in that state will be recognized by each party state as authorizing a multistate licensure privilege to practice as a registered nurse in such party state”. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7)
15. H5958: Requires licensing of “body works establishments”, with “body works” defined as “body rubs, body stimulations, spa services, and spa treatments”. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7)
16. H5306: A “code of conduct” for state and local officials that includes such restrictive items as “channel communications through the appropriate senior staff and managers”, “Never publicly criticize an individual employee. Criticism is differentiated from questioning facts or the opinion of staff” and “Keep political support away from public forums”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7)
17. S0615: Creates a tax-credit of up to $5,000 for homeowners who “purchase a new residence” that they will occupy, or “retrofit…an existing residence” that they already occupy, in order “to improve accessibility, provide universal visitability, and meets the eligibility requirements established by guidelines developed by the [Rhode Island housing and mortgage finance corporation]” . (S Finance; Tue, Apr 7)
18. H5246: Gives “the general assembly in grand committee” the power to fill a vacancy in the Lieutenant Governor’s office. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7)
19. H5838: Allows “developmental disability agencies…to self-insure health care provided to their employees, and their dependents and their retirees and their dependents and to 17 create and establish a fund for this purpose”. (H Corporations; Tue, Apr 7) From the text, it’s not immediately clear whether this bill is closing a loophole or defining an exception, but it does raise an interesting question of why a specific type of employer needs its own health insurance section of the law.
20. S0550: Mandates that patients be able to obtain copies of their electronic-format health records, with some basic rules for how much they should be charged. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 7)
22. A weak-sauce package of campaign finance reform bills, in the wake of former House Speaker Gordon Fox’s guilty plea to the charge of misuse of campaign funds. H5789 requires bank statements (that don’t become part of the public record) to be filed with campaign finance accounts. H5840 requires that political candidates maintain separate bank accounts for their campaign money. H5920 requires that political candidates who receive more than $25000 in any year appoint a campaign treasurer who is not themselves. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 7)