Either Way, They Get Credit For Having Their Names on a Bill

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Before we get to some details about the budget…

Monday’s review of the coming week at the legislature noted that a bill had been submitted that would give the Bristol County Water Authority the right to foreclose on a property, if a tenant failed to pay his or her water bill. That bill has been pulled from committee at the sponsor’s request, and a new version has been submitted.

The new bill has the opposite effect of the original.

The original Water Supply Act read…

…the Bristol County Water Authority or successor entity thereto is authorized to issue bills directly to and in the name of property owners who lease or rent their property,

…while the revised version reads…

…the Bristol County Water Authority shall be prohibited from issuing bills directly to and in the name of property owners for use of authority facilities and/or for water furnished directly to a tenant or lessee of the property owner, when the property owner is not a party to any agreement or contract between the authority and the tenant or lessee.

The original version made explicit that a BCWA lien against a property could result, if a renter didn’t pay his/her water bill…

…and a lien shall be created against the rented or leased property regardless of whether said bill is for water furnished directly to the property owner or to a tenant, lessee, or other person or entity who is lawfully in possession of the property with the property owner’s permission.

…while the revised version makes explicit that a BCWA lien against a property cannot be created solely as the result of a renter not paying the water bill…

No lien shall be created against the property solely because of the use of authority facilities and/or for water furnished to a tenant or lessee of the property when the property owner is not a party to any agreement or contract between the authority and the tenant or lessee.

Finally, the original version went as far as to authorize foreclosure by the BCWA, if a renter failed to pay his/her water bill…

Any lien arising from the furnishing of water by the said Bristol County Water Authority shall be deemed a lien against the property, regardless of the party who actually uses the water. Said Bristol County Water Authority is further authorized to foreclose on any lien arising pursuant to this section against the owner of the property, regardless of the party who actually uses the water.

…while the revised bill makes no mention of foreclosure by the BCWA and prevents any BCWA lien against a property from including costs of “water furnished to tenants”, while preserving a “right of action” against tenants…

Any lien that arises pursuant to this section against any real property serviced by the Bristol County Water Authority shall not include the cost of facilities used and/or water furnished to tenants or lessees of the property when the property owner is not a party to any agreement or contract between the authority and the tenant or lessee. Provided, that this subsection shall not limit any cause or right of action of the authority against the tenant, lessee, or any party with whom the authority has contracted with. As used herein, the term “Bristol County Water Authority” includes any successor entity to the authority.

The new bill has is sponsored by the same four representatives as the old bill and, as you can see from the above, the difference between the two bills is more than a misplaced “not” or two.

It’s no secret that there is a problem at the Rhode Island General Assembly, with representatives not being given adequate time to read bills sponsored by other representatives before they have to vote on them. This week, we can add to that problem evidence suggesting that legislators don’t always know what’s in the bills they themselves sponsor, before they are submitted.   When four sponsors of a bill miss that they are sponsoring an expansion of the power of a quasi-public agency they are (apparently) trying to limit, it makes you wonder how attentive rank-and-file legislators are to the process of actually legislating.



  • Warrington Faust

    "legislators don’t always know what’s in bills they actually sponsor."

    "We've got to pass it to find out what it means". Where have I heard that before?

  • John

    When has a marionette ever controlled it's actions?

  • MoniqueAR

    Wow. This is pretty bad, even for the RI GA.

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