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House Republicans Call for Preemptive Measures to Help Curtail Forest Fires in Rhode Island
 
State House, Providence, RI – Rhode Island House Republicans, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), are calling for the creation of a comprehensive fuelwood harvesting program as a preemptive measure to help combat costly forest fires within the state.  Rhode Island continues to experience severe to extreme drought conditions, adding urgency to adopt permanent mitigation measures.
 
The House Resolution calls upon the Governor to reassign personnel to RIDEM to help direct efforts to reinstate a program that will permit the public to clear dead or dying wood from state properties. Currently, there is a successful fuelwood harvesting program on Prudence Island, managed by RIDEM, which could easily be expanded across the state.  It is estimated that there are between 45,000-50,000 dead trees, or 13 percent of all Rhode Island trees have fallen and are susceptible to fires.  Seventy-five percent of Rhode Island’s trees are 40 -80 years old, increasing the likelihood of dead limbs on live trees; and only two percent are in the range of 0-20 years old, resulting in fewer trees being harvested. Rhode Island’s forest health has also been degraded due to the prevalence of invasive species, including outbreaks with the emerald ash borer, the spotted lantern fly and the gypsy moth caterpillar infestations.
 
In 2020 alone, there have been more than 80 forest fires within the state, some requiring fire-fighting assistance, or mutual aid, from Connecticut and Massachusetts. As witnessed throughout the United States, forest fires continue to grow in size and severity, as does the costs to fight and contain them.  Nationally, fighting forest fires and the damage sustained is reported in the hundreds of billions of dollars – not to mention the tragic loss of life. Rhode Island cannot afford to go without addressing this high priority issue.
 
“In 1942, Rhode Island experienced a major forest fire crisis when multiple fires broke out statewide,” said Minority Whip Michael Chippendale, the primary sponsor of the resolution. “To extinguish the fires it required over 1,000 personnel from multiple states, as well as active duty soldiers. Our conditions are such that we are situated for a much worse scenario if we do not commence preemptive measures.  The cost of life, and the extensive damage to property, far exceeds the costs to reinstate this fuelwood harvesting program.  For years, RIDEM has had their budget continually gutted by the legislature while simultaneously being responsible for a vast and growing number of regulation and enforcement responsibilities.  It is time for us to adequately support our core government functions and fulfill our responsibilities as stewards of our state properties.  This program will also create opportunities for residents to obtain firewood to heat their homes at little or no cost.”
 
“As a resident of a neighborhood which abuts Lincoln Woods, I have been particularly concerned about the eminent threat of a catastrophic incident due to fallen trees,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “Unfortunately, RIDEM has been the victim of underfunding which has resulted in understaffing to deal with this serious problem. I pledge to continue to fight to provide RIDEM with the resources it needs to take care of our pristine woods.”
 
“Most of our Caucus members reside in districts that are deeply impacted by the drought and the stress it places on our forests,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “We believe a robust public fuelwood harvesting program is a first step in helping to prevent massive forest fires in our state.”
 
Leader Blake Filippi, Representative Brian Newberry, Representative George Nardone, Representative Sherry Roberts, Representative Justin Price and Representative David Place are also in support of this resolution.
 
 

10/23/2020RepRep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; #169; #253; #238; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Thursday, October 29 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on a proposed budget amendment from the governor that concerns Rhode Island Capital Plan Funds and Capital Projects.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

10/27/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) is scheduled to meet virtually tomorrow.

The meeting will be held virtually tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 3 p.m. The meeting will include a discussion on reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.

The task force, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers.

The 13-member task force includes:
  • Senator Metts
  • Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
  • Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
  • Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
  • State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
  • Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
  • Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
  • NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
  • Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
  • Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
  • Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
  • Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
  • Rev. Chontell N. Washington
 
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.
 
 

10/27/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is opposing the rate hike National Grid is proposing for its gas customers in Rhode Island, saying the utility needs to be more resourceful and creative rather than add to the public’s burden as the pandemic drags on this winter.

“Just about everyone else, from families to businesses to government at every level, is using their creativity to get through this crisis as best we can, tightening our belts and, in many cases, cutting some slack to those who are struggling. National Grid needs to work with Rhode Islanders and create a plan to mitigate these costs. Now is the wrong time to add to the heavy burden being carried by many Rhode Islanders. Not only are many people out of work or underemployed as a result of the pandemic, but the expensive winter months are coming and electric rates have already increased,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).

National Grid has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve rate increases totaling 7.3% effective Nov. 1, which would raise the average customer’s annual gas bill by about $93 annually. The proposed increases would be a utility rate double-whammy for most gas customers, since National Grid, by far the state’s dominant electrical supplier, already raised its electric rates effective Oct. 1. The increase from 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 10.4 cents, raises the typical electric user’s bill by $10.78 a month.

While expected higher wholesale supply costs are behind the proposed rate hike, Representative Ruggiero pointed out that the PUC does have the power to defer part of a proposed rate increase, so customers pay for the increased costs gradually over more time. The PUC has not exercised that option since 2014, but Representative Ruggiero is strongly urging the PUC to do so now.

“If ever there was an appropriate time for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to defer a proposed increase, this is that time,” said Representative Ruggiero. “This rate increase would hit as Rhode Islanders enter the ninth month of the pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown, and as winter approaches. Increases like this force struggling people into impossible decisions about necessities, to the real detriment of their health, safety and wellbeing. I urge the Public Utilities Commission to use the power it has to protect Rhode Islanders from this one-two punch of utility hikes this winter.”
10/26/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) participated in a panel on October 21 hosted by the National Infrastructure Bank Coalition touting the importance of local and national infrastructure projects that has the potential to create 25 million high-paying new jobs.

“It’s no secret that our state and nation’s infrastructure is crumbling at an alarming rate.  The backbone of our country has been left to wither for far too long and significant action is needed immediately.  Benefits of the passage of this legislation is not only the repairing of our existing transportation infrastructure, but also the creation of 25 million high-paying jobs and future projects that will put our country into line with the rest of the world.   Some of these projects include enhancing the reliability, resiliency and capacity of our electric grid, including addressing the cybersecurity challenges, high-speed rail and other desperately needed projects.  This is why I participated in this virtual panel, joined by various experts from across the country who recognize the importance of this federal bill.  It was an extremely productive meeting, and it will all be for naught if H.R. 6422 is not passed.  I ask everyone to contact your federal delegation and stress the need for this very important bill to be passed into law,” said Senator DiPalma.

The panel stressed the significance of H.R. 6422 (“The National infrastructure Bank Act of 2020”) which would create the bank with $4 plus trillion in lending capacity and the ability to repair all of the crumbling infrastructure in the country, such as bridges and roads.  In addition, there would be substantial funds available to create a new nationwide system of high-speed railroads, build new affordable housing, and make broadband available everywhere.  When created, this will be our country’s fifth such bank, the first being created by Alexander Hamilton and the most recent one created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

Many state, county and local governmental entities and labor organizations have already passed resolutions in support of H.R. 6422, including Providence, RI.

Senator DiPalma’s fellow webinar participants included Andy Kunz, President, US High Speed Rail Association, Alexandria VA; Rick Harnish, Executive Director, High Speed Rail Alliance, Chicago, IL; Alexander Metcalf, High-Speed Rail Economics Expert, TEMS, Inc., President; Jason Parker, President, Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council; Rep. Lisa Sobecki, Ohio State House of Representatives; Gov. Roy Barnes, Georgia, (former); Ydanis Rodriguez, New York City Councilman, Chair Transportation Committee; Erika White, President CWA Local 4319, Vice-President NW Ohio AFL-CIO; Stanley Forczek, Infrastructure consultant; former Amtrak Corporation Executive; and Alphecca Muttardy, Macroeconomist, Economic Policy Director Coalition for a National Infrastructure Bank.  The panel was moderated by Robert Lynn, Organizer, UA Local 50, Ohio, who is retired.

The webinar, which was recorded, can be found at the following URL:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5AH6tliqUs&feature=youtu.be

10/23/2020SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, in conjunction with Congressman James R. Langevin, will be holding the fourth annual Cyber Hygiene Event on Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. and the event will be held virtually on Senator DiPalma’s Facebook page and his Twitter account, as well as Congressman Langevin’s.  The purpose of the event is to provide the public with an increased awareness of the various cyber exploitations and practical steps to protect one’s self, family, identity, and data from cyberattacks. The event is free and open to the public.

“Cybercrimes and attacks are not only becoming more prevalent in our society, but their complexity and methods are also becoming far more problematic as we are currently witnessing a multitude of cyber scams being perpetrated surrounding the upcoming election.  This event will allow the public to get firsthand knowledge from experts in the field on how to best protect against such intricate and nefarious cybercrimes and I encourage all to attend,” said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton).

“Good cyber hygiene is more critical than ever as Americans rely on online connectivity to learn, work, access services and carry out business during the pandemic,” said Langevin, a member of the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission and a senior member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Homeland Security. “I applaud Senator DiPalma for continuing this tradition during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month to cover the steps we should all be taking to ensure our devices and systems are secure. Through events like these, more Rhode Islanders will be able to identify risks and address them to ensure privacy and safety.”  

The event will be hosted by Senator DiPalma and Congressman Langevin, both whom have been leading advocates for cyber defense on both the state and federal level. Ron Ford, of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security will also be presenting at the event.

10/21/2020SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling for meaningful solutions to the problem of recreational motor-bikes operating on Providence streets so that incidents like the accident that occurred on Sunday afternoon in which a young man was seriously injured do not occur any longer.

“Yesterday’s incident was completely avoidable and unnecessary, yet, we are once again witnessing a young man seriously injured at the possible hands of our capitol city’s police force.  While there is a serious problem of large amounts of dirt bikes and ATV’s operating in an inappropriate manner on our streets, the actions taken by our decision-makers to remedy this problem has caused far more harm than help.  We need real solutions here, not just the typical political grandstanding that seems to be coming from all sides,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams points to a recent event in Providence where over 30 confiscated motor-bikes were destroyed.

“Rather than destroying these vehicles for the cameras, why weren’t these vehicles sold instead, giving the money to an organization that could assist and educate these riders about safely operating their vehicles within current city regulations.  This deterrent clearly did not work as evidenced by the over 300 riders who took part in Sunday’s demonstration of their interest and joy toward their chosen sport,” said Representative Williams.  “A large part of this problem is that our decision-makers have yet to identify any suitable locations for these city residents to enjoy their sport.  There are facilities, parks, and land throughout our state that can be utilized for this exact purpose for not only the residents of our urban core, like Providence, but all of our state’s motocross enthusiasts.  Rather than demonizing and threatening these riders who are simply pursuing their passion of enjoying their chosen sport, we need to be more proactive, less reactive, and work together toward positive and safe solutions for a simple problem that is being exaggerated and sensationalized.  King Park would be one example of a place for these riders to operate away from the residential streets of our city, as are numerous other open spaces throughout our state,” said Representative Williams.

“With a young man fighting for his life in the hospital and the police department in question of using unlawful force once again, now is not the time for finger-pointing, grandstanding, or hollow promises to ‘look further into the matter.’  Now is the time for concrete solutions and plans that can be followed and will preserve public safety for all of our residents, including the riders who are part of our city and state too,” concluded Representative Williams.

10/20/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference is scheduled to take place Thursday, October 22 through Friday, November 6. Due to the restrictions on public gatherings imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance by the public will not be permitted. The meetings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Twice yearly, in the spring and the fall, the conference principals (the State Budget Officer, Senate Fiscal Advisor and House Fiscal Advisor) must reach a consensus on what the state general revenues and caseload expenses are estimated to be for the current fiscal year and the budget year. The General Assembly and the State Budget Office use these projections to prepare the budget. The principals include State Budget Officer Thomas A. Mullaney; House Fiscal Advisor Sharon Reynolds Ferland; and Senate Fiscal Advisor Stephen H. Whitney.
 
The meeting schedule of the fall estimating conference is:


Thursday, October 22 - Testimony

9 a.m.              Cash assistance and medical caseloads —
Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Friday, October 23 - Economic Overview and Testimony

9 a.m.               U.S. and R.I. economic forecasts —
IHS Markit economist Michael Lynch
 
Consensus Economic Forecast
 
10:30 a.m.       Lottery Receipts —Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery
 
Thursday, October 29 – Testimony (if necessary)


9 a.m.              Cash assistance and medical caseloads —
Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services


Monday, November 2 – Caseload Estimate
 
9 a.m.              Caseload Estimating Conference
 
2 p.m.             Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
 
                        Accruals — Accounts and Controls, State Controller Peter Keenan
                                                                                                                
 
Wednesday, November 4 – Follow-up testimony   

1 p.m.              Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
                       
Friday, November 6 - Revenue Estimate

9 a.m.             Revenue Estimating Conference

Meeting Materials will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/Pages/2020CCREC.aspx.

10/19/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #199; #202; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is highlighting recently announced expansions to the Restore Rhode Island Grant Program in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has affected us all and our small businesses have been particularly devastated by the effects of this virus.  I urge all of our struggling small businesses and residents to see if they are eligible for these crucial lifeline grants that can help so many weather the uncertainty that has been caused by COVID-19.  I applaud the governor and Commerce for increasing the help that our residents and small businesses desperately need,” said Representative O’Brien.

Governor Raimondo and RI Commerce recently announced that the program will be increasing the size of potential grant awards from $15,000 up to $30,000. Eligibility for the program is also being increased to allow non-profit organizations and private child care facilities that have not received other CARES Act funding opportunities. These changes will be implemented over the next week.

Applicants who have already received Restore grants and have expenses not covered under their original grant application will be eligible to request additional funding under a streamlined process.

Rhode Island Commerce also announced a new grant program for Rhode Island companies whose businesses have been significantly impacted because of the pandemic and have been unable to continue their normal operations.  Beginning next week, Commerce will begin accepting applications for Business Adaptation grants. Business can apply for competitive grants of up to $50,000 to adapt their business. The program is being funded through the state’s Coronavirus Relief fund and is capped at $1.8 million.

 More information on the Business Adaptation Grants will be on www.commerceri.com in the coming days and Rhode Island Commerce staff will be holding information sessions and Zoom office hours to answer questions directly from businesses.

10/15/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson and Rep. Terri Cortvriend will host a virtual meeting next week for parents of students receiving special education services locally.

The meeting, scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 21, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Zoom, will be an opportunity to discuss and provide feedback about special education services at this time. All parents of students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan enrolled in Aquidneck Island schools are encouraged to participate. Registration is required, and registrants will be sent a link to the meeting. To register call (401) 363-9899 or e-mail scocchi@thearc.org.

The conversation will center on what can be done to improve special education services and supports for Rhode Island students now and in the future. Representative Carson and Representative Cortvriend are interested in knowing whether students are getting what they need, how they are doing, what is working and what isn’t, and what parents would like to see changed.

“We recognize that the pandemic has made everything, including special education services, more complicated. We’d like to have a candid conversation with parents about how things are going, what’s working for their children, and what they would like to see changed. Many kids in special education also have health issues that make it especially important to protect them from the virus, but at the same time, they very much need educational consistency. We’d like to foster this conversation about how to make sure we’re doing everything possible to support those needs,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

Said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), “Special education services require incredible flexibility from schools. Even at the best of times, it’s a challenge to find ways to provide the high level of personalization that kids really need. What we’re hoping to do with this forum is to identify any special issues that need addressing right now, but also talk about the challenges that already existed and what parents would like to see in the future. We look forward to a constructive conversation that we hope will bring up helpful ideas to provide the best educational services possible to our students.”

Representative Carson introduced legislation (2020-H 7814) this year that seeks to have the Department of Education develop minimum accountability standards that school districts must meet in order to be in compliance with IEPs and 504 plans.
10/13/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; Rep. Terri Cortvriend; #224; #258; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Animal Rescue Rhode Island, a private, no-kill animal shelter in South Kingstown, has honored Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown) with its annual Golden Paw awards.

Each year, ARRI honors an individual or organization for their contributions benefiting the animals of Rhode Island. This year, Solomon and Valverde were honored for their tireless advocacy for animals in the state legislature. The two lawmakers sponsored legislation earlier this year to limit the use of live animals for medical training in Rhode Island.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for my efforts by such a prestigious organization,” said Representative Solomon, a longtime animal advocate who also sponsored a law protecting dogs from severe temperatures. “Using animals for medical training is outdated, unnecessary and is no longer considered the most effective way to train physicians. I look forward to continuing to act as an advocate for our furry friends in the General Assembly.”

“Animal Rescue Rhode Island is well known for its work protecting animals,” said Senator Valverde. “I am truly honored to receive this award and look forward to building upon Rhode Island’s laws to see that all animals are protected.”

Animal Rescue Rhode Island is a no-kill organization committed to the humane welfare and well-being of animals in need. The organization rescues abandoned, abused and surrendered animals, nurturing them to be adopted as pets in loving homes.
10/13/2020SenRep. Joseph J. Solomon; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #214; #264; Daniel Trafford
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‘Public safety needs to be protected and upheld,’ says Raptakis
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) will be reintroducing bi-partisan legislation dealing with and punishing certain kinds of disorderly conduct, specifically unlawful interference with traffic, such as blocking highways during a protest.

“There are ways to demonstrate in a peaceful manner, and there are ways to demonstrate that can be dangerous to other members of the public,” said Senator Raptakis. “Even though it might be unintentional, it is possible that protestors shutting down a highway could delay an ambulance on its way to a hospital, causing grave harm or even death to the individual being transported.  What happens to the pregnant woman beginning her delivery, or the heart attack victim or elderly person during an emergency when seconds are vital for survival?  Should these people lose their lives or experience severe repercussions due to the blocking of a highway during a protest?  It could impede firefighters on their way to an emergency, or first responders heading to a volatile domestic situation. Even the protesters themselves could be put in great danger if they are in need of emergency medical care and transport.  There need to be consequences if and when a protestor’s premeditated actions cause harm or death to the general public,” added Senator Raptakis.

“I have and always will support the right to protest.  This type of activity, however, is dangerous to drivers, protestors, and first responders.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to address this issue,” said Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, Smithfield), who is planning to cosponsor the legislation when introduced.

Under the Raptakis legislation, which is modeled after a bill (2015-S 0129) he previously submitted, a person will be found to have committed the crime of unlawful interference with traffic if he or she “stands, sits, kneels or otherwise loiters on any highway or roadway under such circumstances that the conduct could reasonably be construed as interfering with the lawful movement of traffic” or if that action causes “the interruption, obstruction, distraction or delay of any motorist operating a motor vehicle” on the roadway or highway.

Individuals in violation of the law would be guilty of a felony. A first offense would result in imprisonment of between one and three years, with no eligibility of suspension, deferral or probation for the first 60 days of any sentence. A second violation would increase the prison term to between three and five years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for one year. A third violation will result in imprisonment for between five and 10 years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for two years.

Sen. Raptakis plans to strengthen his prior legislation to issue more severe penalties of 20 years imprisonment if serious injury or death results from the blockage of traffic, since the act is premeditated.

Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) will be introducing the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Protestors have rights, but so does the rest of the public. This legislation will ensure that individuals who interfere with the safety of others on roadways and highways will face legal consequences.  America was built on the right of the people to express their views, publicly and as loudly as they choose, but impeding drivers and potentially putting other people in danger, or even at the risk of death, is not the best way to protest.  I ask that all other local, state, and federal officials join me in supporting this legislation which will draw the red line on this dangerous type of protesting that will not and should not be tolerated in our state,” concluded Senator Raptakis.

10/13/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas Raptakis (D-Dist 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) said he will be taking advantage of early voting on October 14, the first day early voting is allowed for the upcoming November election, and he is encouraging all voters to take advantage of this voting opportunity. 

Rhode Island currently allows voters to cast an “emergency” ballot in-person at their city or town hall in the twenty days before the November 3 election.

“I appreciate and thank Secretary of State Gorbea for her efforts to give Rhode Island voters all the options they need to safely cast a ballot this November.  Voting early in-person gives each voter the confidence that their ballot will be counted and not be lost in the mail and the comfort of not being around large crowds on Election Day due to COVID-19.  I urge every voter to take advantage of this voting opportunity like I am doing,” said Senator Raptakis.

Senator Raptakis notes the importance of voting and that voting does not necessarily mean electing a particular person to office.

“Voting is too important for the process to hinder anyone’s ability to cast a ballot.  When voting, the public not only selects candidates to assume office, but crucial votes are also cast for ballot referendums, bonding, budgets, and various other items with significant financial implications.  We must make voting accessible for everyone, and voting early in-person allows our voters to cast their ballots safely and without doubt that their vote will be counted,” said Senator Raptakis.

10/13/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Thursday, October 8 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a review of the FY 2020 preliminary closing results.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

10/7/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Rep. Rebecca Kislak, in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women, led a march around the U.S. District Court in Providence today in honor of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The event was a twist on a tradition in many Jewish communities of marking the end of shiva (the period of mourning) with a walk around the block. Similar walks were held at courthouses around the country today to honor the legacy of the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Before the march, leaders offered remarks in honor of Justice Ginsburg, who often led the dissent on the Supreme Court bench.

“Justice Ginsburg said, ‘Dissents speak to a future age. It is not simply to say “my colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way,” but the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: That they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow,’” said Representative Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) “One of Justice Ginsburg’s famous lace collars had on it the word ‘tzedek,’ which means ‘justice.’ And indeed, her jurisprudence supported a more just world. We should be inspired by her example. We should keep her memory alive through our actions.”

Said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), “Every one of us has the power to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy of brave dissent, and we are about to get that opportunity on Nov. 3. The most fitting honor is to carry forward her work by voting for those who will strongly support civil rights, reproductive freedom, gender and racial justice and progress toward true equality for every single person in the United States.”

Prayers and a tribute to Justice Ginsburg were offered by Rabbi Sarah Mack of Temple Beth-El in Providence, where Justice Ginsburg gave an inspiring speech in 2018. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed also spoke about Justice Ginsburg’s lasting legacy.

IN PHOTO: Front, from left, Rep. Rebecca Kislak, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Rabbi Sarah Mack and Sen. Gayle Goldin lead a march at U.S. District Court in Providence today to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
10/2/2020RepSen. Gayle Goldin; Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #200; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — As COVID-19 continues to tragically separate nursing home residents from their families, one state senator, Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), plans to introduce legislation that would give family members access to their loved ones in nursing homes during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill would mandate that long-term care facilities establish an Essential Family Caregiver program that would allow a resident to have an essential caregiver designated. The caregiver would be a person such as a family member, outside caregiver, friend, or volunteer who provided regular care and support to the resident prior to the pandemic; and that person would be given more access to the resident on a regular basis to ensure their emotional and physical needs are met.

“It’s a tragedy that nursing home residents — particularly those suffering from dementia — continue to be separated from their families,” said Senator Lombardi. “It’s frustrating and infuriating that the social and psychological well-being of these residents is in jeopardy because they are unable to communicate with those they love. They may be safe from coronavirus, but they’re inflicted with a debilitating loneliness.”

In the legislation Senator Lombardi plans to propose, a person may request to designate more than one essential caregiver based on their past involvement and needs. The bill would require the Department of Health to develop rules and regulations on designating an essential caregiver and the criteria to qualify. 

Seven states, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, South Dakota and Michigan, currently have a variation of such a designation that would allow visitation during COVID-19 restrictions.
10/2/2020SenSen. Frank Lombardi; #205; Daniel Trafford
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As COVID-19 continues to tragically separate nursing home residents from their families, one state senator, Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), plans to introduce legislation that would give family members access to their loved ones in nursing homes during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Rep. Rebecca Kislak, in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women, are honoring the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tomorrow with a march around the U.S. District Court in Providence.

The event, which is open to the public, will take place tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 2, at noon, beginning near the Exchange Street entrance to the court. All participants are asked to wear masks and maintain appropriate social distance.

The event is a twist on a tradition in many Jewish communities of marking the end of shiva (the period of mourning) with a walk around the block. Similar walks are being held at courthouses around the country tomorrow to honor the legacy of the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Speakers at the event include Rabbi Sarah Mack of Temple Beth-El in Providence, Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Representative Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence). U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is also expected to attend.

10/1/2020RepSen. Gayle Goldin; Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #200; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) is calling the Public Utilities Commission’s recent decision to approve electric rate increases for National Grid “unacceptable.”

“Our residents are struggling and for our lower income residents, every single dollar in their pockets counts to provide for themselves and their families.  The PUC’s decision to allow these rate increases is unacceptable and make no mistake about it, come this winter, people’s lights will be turned off and their homes will go cold due to this decision.  Rather than helping a multi-national corporation, the PUC should be doing their jobs and protecting our most vulnerable residents.  I will be looking into any and all legislative solutions to this serious matter because this is simply kicking people while they are already down, and that is not right,” said Representative Slater.

9/30/2020RepRep. Scott Slater; #155; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) is calling on Azerbaijani forces to stop attacking Armenian forces and settlements in the Nagorno–Karabakh region as tensions have risen and the conflict between the two countries is intensifying at a rapid pace.

“As a proud Armenian-American, my heart aches for Armenia and all those who are trapped within this terrible situation. The aggression displayed by Azerbaijani forces is unacceptable. Their actions have destroyed the fragile regional stability that has kept this area of the world relatively peaceful until now. Therefore, it is imperative that the United States demand a cessation to Azerbaijani hostilities and further demand that neighboring Turkey cease military support for Azerbaijani aggression. This situation must be brought back from the brink of war and resolved through peaceful diplomacy. Violence, hatred, and war must not win the day. Peace must prevail.” said Representative Kazarian.

9/30/2020RepRep. Katherine Kazarian; #194; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) is releasing the following statement concerning the Public Utilities Commission’s recently approved electricity rate hikes for National Grid.

“It is deeply disappointing to see the Public Utilities Commission once again turn their backs on the vulnerable and struggling residents of this state.  COVID-19 and its economic impacts have devastated our lower and middle income residents and to charge them more during these difficult and frightening times for the basic necessity of electricity is unconscionable.  I will be looking into what we can do to help our families, friends, and neighbors keep their lights on and their homes warm, since it is now obvious that the Public Utilities Commission will not,” said Representative Casimiro.

9/30/2020RepRep. Julie A. Casimiro; #237; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) is scheduled to meet virtually this afternoon.

The meeting will be held virtually today, Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m. The meeting will include a discussion on reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

 The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.

The task force, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers.

The 13-member task force includes:
  • Senator Metts
  • Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
  • Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
  • Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
  • State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
  • Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
  • Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
  • NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
  • Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
  • Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
  • Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
  • Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
  • Rev. Chontell N. Washington
 
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.
9/30/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello today called upon Rhode Island’s federal delegation to urge Congress and the administration to continue to support the Armenian people in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Recent military attacks on the Republic’s territory from Azerbaijani forces have brought instability to the historic, ethnic Armenian people in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

In 2012, Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), as Democratic Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, cosponsored a House resolution (2012-H 8180) supporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s efforts to develop as a free and independent nation. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is home to predominantly ethnic Armenians who, since the fall of the Soviet Union, have established a free and democratic nation of an overwhelming population of ethnic Armenians. The declaration by the House of Representatives was in honor of the 20-year anniversary of their declaration of independence, and was meant to illustrate the support of all Rhode Islanders of the wish for freedom and peace of the ethnically Armenian people in the Republic. The 2012 House resolution led to a number of U.S. states following suit on Rhode Island’s example, and then also  similar declarations from members of the US Congress.

In 1923, the Soviet Union annexed Armenia, including the Artsakh region, and forced it into administrative control of Soviet Azerbaijan, despite the region being 95 percent ethnic Armenian. With the impending disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Armenian people suffered massacres in 1988 at Sumwait and in Kirovabad, and a third massacre in Baku in January 1990. In total, 350,000 Armenians were forcibly deported from Azerbaijan, and dozens killed by Soviet Azerbaijani forces. Finally, in December 1991, ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Region voted under international monitors to declare their independence from Azerbaijan, despite the danger of military reprisal. Despite a 1994 cease fire agreement, ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have been subjected to continuous hostile acts and regional tensions. In the last week, it has been reported internationally that military hostilities have again broken out in the region between Azerbaijani forces and the citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

“Today, some 39 years after the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s declaration of independence, and our very own RI House of Representatives declaration in support, I reiterate my support for this free, democratic and ethnic Armenian country and their fight for freedom and peace, and urge the United States Congress to support all federal efforts to support the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and her citizens,” said Speaker Mattiello. 
 

9/29/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) led the dedication and unveiling of a new memorial to the nine Rhode Island Marines who were killed in the Beirut bombing attack on October 23, 1983 on Sunday.  The memorial is located at Remembrance Park along the Providence River.

“The journey to pay tribute to these nine fallen Rhode Island Marines has taken a long time.  But, I am pleased that the outcome of our efforts has resulted in a beautiful and fitting memorial to these brave young men who lost their lives in battle defending our country.  I hope that this moment serves as a lasting reminder to the courage, bravery, and dedication that was exhibited by these men, not only on that fateful day, but also during their whole careers serving and protecting the American people and our country’s ideals and principals,” said Representative Azzinaro, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Nine marines from Rhode Island lost their lives in a 1983 terrorist attack on a Marine compound in Beirut.  The nine Marines were among 241 American service personnel that perished in the attack.

At the memorial unveiling, Representative Azzinaro was joined by the Gold Star family members of the fallen Marines, several representatives of the United States Marine Corps, House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Lt. Governor Daniel McKee, and members of the Rhode Island National Guard.

The keynote speaker at the event was Gregory J. Slavonic, the Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy.  United States Marine Corps Colonel Craig Wonson, a professor at the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School, also delivered remarks.

The names of the fallen Rhode Island Marines are Sgt. Timothy Giblin of North Providence; Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian of Portsmouth; Cpl. James Silvia of Middletown; Cpl. Stephen Spencer of Portsmouth; Cpl. David Massa of Warren; Cpl. Edward Soares, Jr. of Tiverton; Cpl. Rick Crudale of West Warwick; Cpl. Edward Iacovino, Jr. of Warwick; and Cpl. Thomas Shipp of Woonsocket.

Photo: Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro at the unveiling of a new memorial commemorating the nine Rhode Island Marines who were killed during the Beirut bombing attack in 1983.


9/29/2020RepRep. Samuel Azzinaro; #134; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie Lawson will introduce a Senate resolution calling upon the City of East Providence to purchase Metacomet Golf Club to preserve it as open space.

“One thing that has become quite clear is that people of East Providence value the green space and beauty of Metacomet. I see this moment as an opportunity to create a gorgeous recreational and environmental asset for East Providence, one that would be enjoyed immensely for generations,” said Senator Lawson, a Democrat whose District 14 includes the 105-acre golf course. “Keeping Metacomet green would benefit the public and the environment, and I’m confident our community would be proud to support such an investment.”

The senator said she plans to introduce a Senate resolution matching a House resolution that will be introduced by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) calling on the city, through eminent domain, to purchase Metacomet for public use. The proposal calls for a municipal bond that could be supplemented through Department of Environmental Management grants, federal aid, various conservation organizations’ support and the forming of the Metacomet Conservancy Land Trust.

The historic Donald Ross-designed golf course features rolling hills overlooking Narragansett Bay. It could be connected to the nearby East Bay bike path to create a recreational resource that could be easily accessed and enjoyed by Rhode Islanders.

“This is a creative, outside-the-box idea, one that could be a turning point in our city’s development. I sincerely hope that our city will explore this possibility and look into every possible resource that could make the preservation of Metacomet a reality. This is a rare opportunity to not only save a green space, but turn it into an asset that everyone can enjoy,” said Senator Lawson.
9/28/2020SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano and Sen. Ana B. Quezada are calling upon Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to ensure that the state complies with minority contracting laws as it decommissions two field hospitals set up to handle coronavirus patients.

“The coronavirus pandemic has hurt all sectors of our economy, particularly small businesses. Meanwhile, the illness itself has disproportionately affected minority communities. It is always important to follow the laws that require the state to include minority contractors, but at this time it is even more critical, economically and morally,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). “Hiring minority-owned businesses – which also tend to hire more minority employees—will save some of the most at-risk small businesses and jobs, helping our communities weather this storm. It’s a smart way to makes sure our state resources do the most good.”

The State Properties Committee is set to meet tomorrow morning to take steps toward decommissioning the surge hospitals that were set up in the spring at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence and at a former Lowe’s in North Kingstown to handle patients if local hospitals became overwhelmed. That scenario, fortunately, did not play out. The state plans to leave the third surge hospital in Cranston set up for now, in case its use becomes necessary.

The two senators pointed out that Rhode Island spent $34 million to construct and equip the three field hospitals, and not a single dollar went to a minority-owned Rhode Island company. By law, 10 percent of all state construction and service contracts must be awarded to minority-owned companies that have completed a rigorous state certification process, but as an emergency measure, those contracts were exempt from the requirement.

Senator Quezada and Senator Cano said the state must do better to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law as the hospitals are decommissioned.

“There are hundreds of minority-owned business enterprises on the state’s master list of vendors, and they deserve to be considered for these valuable contracts. We have the 10-percent law for a reason. Rhode Island is a place where inclusivity is valued. Our state dollars must be spent in a way that reflects those values and lifts up communities that have, historically, often been left out,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

9/28/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #245; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) is releasing the following statement concerning the potential municipal purchase of Metacomet County Club in East Providence through eminent domain.

“As Marshall Properties comes to the residents of East Providence with an either or proposition regarding the re-development of the Metacomet Country Club and their vision of what they think is best for the city’s future, I am offering a legitimate alternative that will allow the public to determine how best to utilize one of the limited greenspaces located in our city and in all of the urban core.  I have submitted a House Resolution calling on the City of East Providence, through eminent domain, to purchase the 105 acre golf course for public use.  I am proposing a municipal bond that may be supplemented through RIDEM grants, federal aid, various conservation organizations’ support and the forming of the Metacomet Conservancy Land Trust.  I also believe that a crowd funding campaign to support the purchase and preservation of this green space would have broad appeal to everyone from school children to environmentalists, here in East Providence and well beyond.  I have written letters to Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressman Cicilline and Governor Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Audubon Society, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Sierra Club of Rhode Island to ask for their assistance in this endeavor.

“As a lifelong resident of the City of East Providence, in a position to have an impact on the future of this magnificent parcel, I feel obligated to offer a bold solution that would protect this open, green space from commercial development and preserve it for public recreational use.  Years from now, I would be filled with remorse and regret if I didn’t at least try to offer a plan to preserve this special space for future generations of Townies.  Do the residents of East Providence not deserve a public space like residents of so many of our neighboring cities and towns enjoy? Whether it be a walk through Haines Park in Barrington, a bike ride through Slater Park in Pawtucket or a jog through Roger Williams Park in Providence, our neighbors enjoy access to recreational opportunities and open, green space that we do not. The people of East Providence deserve those same opportunities.

“Imagine an accessible open space abutting the Providence River with views of the Narragansett Bay and the Providence skyline in the distance.  Imagine walking and jogging trails, picnic areas and an extension loop of the East Bay Bike Path across the parkway and through ‘Metacomet Park.’  Imagine parents and children sledding the hills on a snowy winter day during Christmas break.  We have an opportunity to create a special public space along Veterans Memorial Parkway.  A ‘parkway’ which was designed by Frederick Olmsted Jr. in his father’s grand tradition (Central Park in NYC, among others) of preserving and creating public green space for the benefit of us all.  This proposal fits perfectly into the Olmsted vision of well- planned parks having a positive effect on human behavior and improving the lives of those who have access to them. This proposal also fits perfectly into the state’s mission for the use of greenspace bond money, which appropriately funds and protects coastal features, farmland and wooded acreage all over the state.  This urban green space cries out for that same protection.

“It is crystal clear that the residents of East Providence are opposed to the destruction of an open space and the re- development of Metacomet Country Club.  It is also clear that the redevelopment of this historic golf course and transforming its open, green space into another development covered in asphalt will have an adverse impact on the quality of life of East Providence residents.  Beyond the overwhelming public opposition, neighborhood altering impact, and potential traffic congestion issues that are presented by the Marshall proposals, there are significant ecological and environmental concerns associated with commercial development. I draw your attention to the compelling public testimony of the former Executive Director of Save the Bay and former head of the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Curt Spalding who stated,  “Keeping the entire site as open space serves as an insurance policy against climate change.  Viewed through the understanding of how climate change will affect Narragansett Bay and the residents of East Providence, the rezoning of Metacomet to commercial or residential is an entirely wrong-headed decision.”

“While Professor Spalding has expertly articulated the long term public interest in preserving Metacomet from an ecological and environmental standpoint, the residents of East Providence have convincingly and passionately petitioned their government and expressed their desire to Keep Metacomet Green.  What I am proposing may be seen as a Hail Mary pass, but, anyone who watches football knows that those passes connect on occasion and it changes the outcome of the game.

“I have sent letters and a copy of the House Resolution to Mayor DaSilva and the members of the East Providence City Council asking them to support this proposal and to work with me and all interested parties in an effort to see that it comes to fruition,” concluded Representative Amore.

9/28/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, September 29 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on the budget issues surrounding Eleanor Slater Hospital and a redesign proposal for the hospital.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

9/28/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is urging that all new residents who have moved to Rhode Island recently from a different state, such as New York, be counted as Rhode Island residents in the 2020 Census that is ending on September 30.

“With the importance and urgency of a complete census count in Rhode Island determining whether or not our state will lose a congressional seat, as well as crucial Federal dollars, we must ensure that all new residents have been counted as Rhode Islanders.  The country is witnessing a mass exodus from many of our large cities due to COVID-19 and other factors, and many of these people are moving to Rhode Island.  Since there is only eight days left of the 2020 Census, we must put forth the significant effort to count these new residents so that Rhode Island does not forfeit vital funding from the Federal government or our congressional presence in Washington is lessened,” said Representative O’Brien.

9/22/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is releasing the following statement regarding the passing of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“This is another sad moment to an already trying year.  A great warrior for equality, empowerment, justice, and fairness has completed her journey and has been called to rest.  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nothing short of a legend and her record and legacy will prove this fact far into the future.  It is fitting that we found ourselves celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, because now that Justice Ginsburg has gone to that high court in the sky, we must find our new voice to continue her courageous legacy of always fighting for the rights of the marginalized, the oppressed, and the persecuted.

“The Honorable Justice Ginsburg once said, 'I was fortunate to be a child, a Jewish child, safely in America during the Holocaust. Our nation learned from Hitler’s racism and, in time, embarked on a mission to end law-sanctioned discrimination in our own country. In the aftermath of World War II, in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in the burgeoning Women’s Rights movement of the 1970s, ‘We the People’ expanded to include all of humankind, to embrace all the people of this great nation. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, of many one, signals our appreciation that we are the richer for the religious, ethnic, and racial diversity of our citizens.'

“Justice Ginsburg recognized what we as a society are capable of and she constantly fought to remind our country of its better angels and what is possible if we all come together and are ALL able to enjoy the constitutional rights bestowed upon us as Americans.  There is still much more work to be done before we reach the ideals that Justice Ginsburg taught us throughout her esteemed career.  There are still so many injustices to be righted and hate that needs to be stamped out.  But then again, I believe that was her hope for us all, to unite in one voice and loudly declare that hate, racism, misogyny, persecution, and injustice have no place in our society and that everyone, no matter their background, gender, or beliefs has the right to peacefully live and coexist among everyone else in this great land.

“Her death now greatly underscores the importance of the upcoming election.  We must take the values and lessons Justice Ginsburg instilled upon us to reject the divisiveness, the hate, and the untruths that seek to lead our country astray.  She held on, as long as her body was able, because she knew that her position, our position, was too important to relinquish in the face of those who wish to strip our God-given rights away. 

“Justice Ginsburg has been fighting for truth and righteousness for so long, and she has rightfully earned her peace and rest.  And now, it is up to us to pick up her torch, to carry on her legacy of justice and equality, and to continue the good fight for fairness, compassion, and unity.

“That is the greatest lesson I take from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are far stronger together than we are apart and that our differences do not make us weaker, but more united and ready and able to make our world a better place,” said Representative Williams.

9/22/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the restaurant industry, Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has introduced  legislation that will allow restaurants to continue the practice of selling alcohol with takeout orders through the end of 2021.

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday at 4 p.m. to hear testimony on the bill (2020-H 8130). Speaker Mattiello worked collaboratively on the issue with the hospitality industry and Gov. Gina Raimondo in March.

“Alcohol to go has proven to be popular with consumers and very helpful to restaurants during the pandemic,” said Speaker Mattiello. “I look forward to extending this practice through the end of 2021, as it was set to expire at the end of this year.  I believe this bill will continue to assist restaurants during these very difficult times.”

The bill, which would expire on Dec. 31, 2021, would allow those restaurants with Class B licenses to sell up to two bottles of wine, 144 ounces of beer and mixed drinks in original factory-sealed containers with takeout orders. It would also allow 144 ounces of draft beer or 72 ounces of mixed drinks in growlers, bottles or other sealed containers.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

“I thank the co-sponsors for working with me on this issue and for their commitment to helping the restaurant and hospitality industry,” added Speaker Mattiello.
9/21/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Daniel Trafford
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the restaurant industry, Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has introduced  legislation that will allow restaurants to continue the practice of selling alcohol with takeout orders through the end of 2021.

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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, September 23 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on a proposed budget amendment from the governor that relates to taxes.

The proposed amendment to Article 8 in the FY 2021 state budget deals with taxes and is the fourteenth budget amendment submitted by the governor.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

9/21/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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State House, Providence, RI –Members of the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus will submit legislation to address COVID-19 mandates that have denied access to individuals in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and Veterans Homes.
 
The fundamental right to have bedside companionship and health advocacy was denied to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican legislation will balance safety with the rights of our hospitalized, elderly and disabled patients. The purpose of this bill is to entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits. The policy is designed to assist facilities in balancing disease transmission protocols with the benefits of having a loved one present during a lockdown.
 
“The failure for our infirmed to have in-person visits during this pandemic has real consequences,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “We witnessed stressful and at times terrifying experiences for our elderly and disabled when they were sequestered from their loved ones. Additional suffering occurred when patients were denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments. The stories shared by our constituents who were refused access are heart-wrenching. We believe some of this stress could be avoided with this legislation.”
 
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders lost loved ones in medical or assisted living settings since the onset of this virus. An overwhelming majority of the elderly who succumbed to this virus were never consoled, or were given the chance to personally say goodbye to their families, before they passed on,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Most other New England states and healthcare facilities implemented designated support person visitation policies early on in this pandemic.  To date, over nine states have established Designated Support Person statutes in response to COVID-19. The fact the Rhode Islanders continue to be denied full access to loved ones due to the Governor’s mandates is unconscionable.”
 
“Since March, friends, personal care assistants, and family members were unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate their loved one’s needs” said Representative George Nardone.  “A designated support person is an essential worker. They become part of a strategic plan in treating medical conditions, and in helping medical professionals avoid negative health outcomes.”
 
“We also need to recognize the mental health implications,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “Scientific data proves there are strong, positive correlations between personal social interactions and health outcomes. A designated support person becomes a vital member of an infirmed Rhode Islander’s care and safety team – especially during social distancing mandates.”
 
“Our legislation allows one select individual to safely remain with the patient, nursing or group home resident at prescribed hours each day or week,” said Representative Justin Price. “The healthcare facilities need our legal support and authorization to permit safe, reasonable accommodations. We all agree that companionship is needed for the best quality of life and recuperation.”
 
“In Rhode Island, gubernatorial mandates were executed to address only one health concern—the pandemic,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “The Governor’s Executive Orders ignored all other health conditions, to the detriment of hundreds of Rhode Islanders. The social isolation within our healthcare facilities and group homes created unbearable distress to patients, residents and to their loved ones.  This overreach needs to be corrected immediately. We offer this legislation to establish standards and protocols for the duration of this pandemic and to set norms for policy in the future.”

9/16/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #218; #169; #251; #238; #219; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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State Senator suggests that with USPS threatening to endanger effectiveness of mail ballots, Secretary of State should focus on encouraging early in-person voting

STATE HOUSE – On the day that Rhode Island Secretary of State proclaimed she was going to send out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Islander without legislative approval, Colorado’s Secretary of State raised alarms about a postcard sent to voters across the country by the U.S. Postal Service that contained misleading information about voting by mail.

Sen. Leonidas Raptakis (D-Dist 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) said that while Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s intent is admirable, good intentions don’t give her the right to assume she has the authority to make law. That is the General Assembly’s responsibility and while it is unfortunate that the bill that would have required sending a mail ballot application to every Rhode Islander for the general election did not pass, it does not allow the state’s top election official to pretend the law allows her to do it.

At the same time, Raptakis said the disturbing actions of the USPS in trying to muddy the waters about the mail-in voting process, should have Secretary Gorbea focusing on encouraging people to take advantage of early voting opportunities that allow Rhode Island voters to cast an “emergency” ballot in-person at their City or Town Hall in the twenty days before the November 3 election. (That early, in-person voting will begin on October 14.)

“I appreciate Secretary of State Gorbea’s desire to give Rhode Island voters all the options they need to safely cast a ballot this November, but this has the appearance of a grandstanding play that could end up causing more confusion if the Secretary’s plan doesn’t survive the inevitable legal challenge,” said Raptakis. “Given the statements of Colorado’s Secretary of State, I fear the U.S. Postal Service may not be a reliable honest broker in effectively and efficiently processing mail-in ballots. Given that reality, Secretary Gorbea should be focused on what can be legally be done to make sure our citizens vote in November and that means focusing on getting people to vote early, as the law allows.”

Senator Raptakis notes the importance of voting and that voting does not necessarily mean electing a particular person to office.

“Voting is too important for the process to hinder anyone’s ability to cast a ballot.  When voting, the public not only selects candidates to assume office, but crucial votes are also cast for ballot referendums, bonding, budgets, and various other items with significant financial implications.  We must make voting accessible for everyone,” said Raptakis.

Late Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold took to Twitter to call out a postcard sent to voters last week by the USPS that advised them to “mail your ballot at least 7 days before Election Day.” That recommendation was made despite the fact that local election officials in many states are advising voters to mail them back much sooner. Griswold tweeted, “Confusing voters about mail ballots in the middle of a pandemic is unacceptable. It can undermine confidence in the election & suppress votes.”

Raptakis said he doubts Secretary Gorbea’s move to send mail ballot applications to every voter in the state will survive a court challenge, noting that in making the announcement, Gorbea only had one member of the Board of Elections taking part in the press conference announcing her plan. And instead of citing the statute she felt gave her the authority to essentially enact a new law, she later sent out a press spokesperson to insist that “no change in the law is necessary to send out applications.”

“If no change in the law is necessary, why didn’t Secretary Gorbea take that stance from the beginning, instead of having a Task Force call for legislative solutions in July that included sending out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Island voter?” asked Raptakis. “Why did her own press release announcing those Task Force findings say she was “reaching out to the General Assembly and Governor Gina Raimondo” to enact these plans and why did she decry the Senate’s failure to pass the bill that was approved by the House and not tell us then that she was going to declare herself a law-maker,” concluded Senator Raptakis
 
Related Links:
 
Secretary of State Gorbea’s July 9, 2020 press release on findings of elections Task Force:
https://www.sos.ri.gov/news-and-events/view/38803
 
Story on Colorado Secretary of State’s response to USPS postcard to voters:
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/griswold-accuses-usps-voting-misinfo

9/16/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) is planning to reintroduce legislation (2019-S 2378) during the upcoming General Assembly session in January to allow public schools to conduct a moment of silence for students and staff every September 11th.  Whether or not to institute a moment of silence will be left up to the local school districts if the legislation is enacted.

Senator Raptakis noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislation did not come to a vote this year.

“After the New York law was brought to my attention, I thought this policy would also be useful in Rhode Island’s classrooms.  September 11th was one of the most seminal events in our country’s history and as each anniversary of the event goes by, it’s important that we impress the significance of the attack on our students to not only memorialize all that were lost and sacrificed during the attacks, but also to help engage in conversations with students about the impact and history of that terrible day,” said Senator Raptakis.

Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) will be introducing the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The devastating and tragic impact of the 9/11 attacks will forever be engrained in our national hearts and minds.  While almost 20 years has passed since that awful day, I believe it is important to honor and remember the lives lost, the heroes that emerged, and the unity that our country discovered after that fateful date, especially for our students who were not yet born to witness the event,” said Representative Serpa, Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee.

Senator Raptakis based his legislation on a bill that was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last year.

The proposed bill would allow a brief moment of silence at the beginning of the school day on every September 11th to inspire dialogue and remembrance of the devastating attacks in 2001.  By passing the law during the next legislative session, the law would be in effect for the twentieth anniversary of the attack in 2021.

9/11/2020RepSen. Leonidas Raptakis; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #100; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, and Governor Gina M. Raimondo today released the following joint statement on the FY21 budget and bond initiatives:
 
“As we await direction from Washington regarding additional relief for states, Rhode Island’s FY21 budget picture remains uncertain. COVID-19 has caused significant damage to our national and local economies, and it is critical we have a full understanding of the funding available to the State. Likewise, the placement of bond issues on the ballot is directly linked to the overall budget plan. Given these considerations, we look forward to holding a special session in November to consider the FY21 budget, as well as a special election shortly thereafter to vote on this year’s bond initiatives.”

9/11/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, and Governor Gina M. Raimondo today released a joint statement on the FY21 budget and bond initiatives.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is thanking Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell, and others, for their support in addressing the systematic inequalities within in the state’s judicial system, including the need to diversify the state’s roster of judges with jurists of color.  On September 3, Representative Williams held a rally at the State House where she called for the support of Rhode Island’s chief judges and state leaders to appoint two well-qualified candidates of color to the bench, Superior Court Associate Justice Melissa Long to the Supreme Court and Central Falls Municipal Judge Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court.

“I’d like to thank Chief Justice Suttell for his commitment to ensure that Rhode Island’s courts operate in a manner that guarantees ‘equal justice for all’ and for his willingness to acknowledge that our court system is lacking in fair representation and diversity for our state’s community of color.  His compassion toward the struggles and inequality that too many of our underserved residents face on a daily basis and his leadership to rectify this injustice is a breath of fresh air in our current climate and I truly commend his effort to implement the change that has been called for, and now demanded, by our residents of color.  I look forward to supporting his efforts to finally fix our inequitable judicial system and a good place to start would be advocating for the qualified head of his ‘justice for all’ steering committee, Associate Justice of the Superior Court Melissa Long, to be appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court,” said Representative Williams.

“I would also like to thank Geoff Schoos for his insightful September 8th commentary, Black Lives Matter on the RI Supreme Court (www.golocalprov.com), in which he concisely, eloquently, and truthfully describes the reasoning behind and the important need to diversify our court systems so that all of our residents feel that they are properly and fairly represented on our court benches,” added Representative Williams.

“Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the efforts led by Brown University President Christina Paxson to not only remove the word ‘plantations’ from Brown University’s official name, but also her support for the upcoming November election ballot campaign to strip this hateful word from the state’s official name.  We all know that Brown University has extensive ties to slavery in its past and I am grateful that leaders like former President Ruth Simmons and President Paxson have done so much to shine a light on this insidious history and their efforts to rectify the lingering aspects of systematic racism within Brown University and the City of Providence.”

“Our movement to repair the injustices perpetrated by our judicial system and its lack of fair representation is growing by the day and we will continue forward with our campaign until we stamp out the systematic racism that has permeated our state and its institutions for far too long,” concluded Representative Williams.

9/10/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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State House, ProvidenceRhode Island House Republicans will immediately file legislation to address the pressing educational challenges brought on by COVID-19.  The Republican plan will: 1) establish Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which are restricted receipt accounts, funded by tax and CARES Act dollars, but managed by families, to provide additional education tools and home schooling to students in districts without in-person learning; and 2) to provide public school choice to parents of any school that fails to provide in-person learning despite a state determination it is safe to do so.
 
The legislation will provide options for parents in response to a number of Rhode Island school districts announcing limited educational opportunities for their students in the 2020/2021 school year. The legislation is intended to ensure that their children do not fall behind from remote learning. In any school District that does not provide in-person learning, parents have two options.
 
First, parents can continue with remote learning, and will be able to utilize ESAs to pay for tutoring, technology, supplies and other extra help measures.
 
Second, Parents may opt to home-school their children. ESAs will be utilized to fund this home-schooling program.
 
A third option will be provided to parents in schools that do not provide in-person instruction despite a state determination it is safe to do so. Those parents will be able to send their child to any other public school offering in-person learning, that has capacity, and the money will follow the child to the receiving district.
 
Funding for these programs will come from the existing per pupil school funding, as well as the utilization of existing CARES Act funding held by the state of Rhode Island and available for these purposes.
 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be directed to enact emergency regulation to carry out the intent of this legislation, if enacted.
 
“Education lays the foundation for human development,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “It is the benchmark of progress within families and our communities. It is the link between cultures, our history and advancements in science. The challenges remote learning presents in overall childhood development, in enhanced socialization skills, and in children’s mental health cannot be understated.  Each child needs to learn in an environment conducive to their specific needs, and government’s role is to provide the best setting possible for learning and growth.”
 
“We believe that parents know what the best learning environment is for their children and that they are the primary advocate for their child's education,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “We also believe that by empowering families with the use of ESA’s, we are providing various options that will allow parents to determine the best learning environment for their children, and alleviate some of the pressure on the school districts.  ESA’s function similarly to health care accounts and 529 college funds, which many families are already accustomed to. ”
 
"While we strongly agree that districts should embrace in-person learning, we feel that promoting lawsuits will only result in further delays and unnecessary expenditures in legal fees for districts,” said Filippi. “Therefore, we are offering these legislative alternatives to address the issue of education authority within the state, as is our charge per Rhode Island laws. If the House, Senate and Governor are serious about ensuring the best education for our children under the current state of emergency, and in turn embrace our efforts, our initiatives can become law within a week while still following all legal House Rules."
 
“No child can be expected to develop into an adult with a promising future without the foundation of a solid education, which includes socialization,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Currently, our children are experiencing unprecedented interruptions in their learning development and the damage created in not addressing each child’s individual learning needs is our greatest fear-- which could have lifelong, detrimental effects.  That is unacceptable.”
 
"Many districts are struggling with financial issues, working diligently to get their schools open in the medium to long-term,” said Representative Justin Price. “We need to offer immediate options for RIDE and the families of school children to set a thoughtful statewide course of action. I think this emergency plan will enable families to ensure their children receive the best education possible during this extraordinary time."

9/3/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. Justin Price; #218; #169; #219; Sue Stenhouse
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State House, Providence, RI –Members of the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus will submit legislation to address COVID-19 mandates that have denied access to individuals in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and Veterans Homes. 
 
The fundamental right to have bedside companionship and health advocacy was denied to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican legislation will balance safety with the rights of our hospitalized, elderly and disabled patients. The purpose of this bill is to entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits. The policy is designed to assist facilities in balancing disease transmission protocols with the benefits of having a loved one present during a lockdown. 
 
“The failure for our infirmed to have in-person visits during this pandemic has real consequences,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “We witnessed stressful and at times terrifying experiences for our elderly and disabled when they were sequestered from their loved ones. Additional suffering occurred when patients were denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments. The stories shared by our constituents who were refused access are heart-wrenching. We believe some of this stress could be avoided with this legislation.” 
 
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders lost loved ones in medical or assisted living settings since the onset of this virus. An overwhelming majority of the elderly who succumbed to this virus were never consoled, or were given the chance to personally say goodbye to their families, before they passed on,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Most other New England states and healthcare facilities implemented designated support person visitation policies early on in this pandemic.  To date, over nine states have established Designated Support Person statutes in response to COVID-19. The fact the Rhode Islanders continue to be denied full access to loved ones due to the Governor’s mandates is unconscionable.” 
 
“Since March, friends, personal care assistants, and family members were unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate their loved one’s needs” said Representative George Nardone.  “A designated support person is an essential worker. They become part of a strategic plan in treating medical conditions, and in helping medical professionals avoid negative health outcomes.” 
 
“We also need to recognize the mental health implications,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “Scientific data proves there are strong, positive correlations between personal social interactions and health outcomes. A designated support person becomes a vital member of an infirmed Rhode Islander’s care and safety team – especially during social distancing mandates.” 
 
“Our legislation allows one select individual to safely remain with the patient, nursing or group home resident at prescribed hours each day or week,” said Representative Justin Price. “The healthcare facilities need our legal support and authorization to permit safe, reasonable accommodations. We all agree that companionship is needed for the best quality of life and recuperation.” 
 
“In Rhode Island, gubernatorial mandates were executed to address only one health concern—the pandemic,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “The Governor’s Executive Orders ignored all other health conditions, to the detriment of hundreds of Rhode Islanders. The social isolation within our healthcare facilities and group homes created unbearable distress to patients, residents and to their loved ones.  This overreach needs to be corrected immediately. We offer this legislation to establish standards and protocols for the duration of this pandemic and to set 
9/10/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #218; #169; #251; #238; #219; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), along with Warwick Mayor Joseph J. Solomon Sr., are inviting the public to experience the memorial service at Oakland Beach in Warwick to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

This year, with the assistance of Capitol Television, last year’s event will be streamed on the General Assembly and City of Warwick websites.

“On behalf of Mayor Solomon, Representative Solomon and myself, we invite the public to commemorate the 19th Anniversary of September 11th from the safety of their homes by watching the ceremony and discussing it with their family,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “With the limitations placed on us by COVID-19, we’re proud that Warwick can stand by its promise to ‘Never Forget.’ Events such as these serve to bring us closer together as we honor those who fell; and it reminds us of the work we still need to do to combat terrorism around the globe.”

The event can be seen on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Channel 61 by Cox Communications, Channel 1061 by Cox HD customers, Channel 34 by Verizon viewers and Channel 15 for Full Channel subscribers. It is also streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and WarwickRI.gov.
9/10/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is fully supporting the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) and their concerns regarding the state’s school reopening plans, most notably if it is safe for students and staff to return to classrooms while the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Rhode Island.  Representative O’Brien demonstrated his solidarity by joining the PTU at a September 8th protest held at the State House.

“The concerns brought up by the PTU and various other educational groups across the state regarding the potential dangers of reopening our schools are valid and based on the science before us.  While our children may possess some resistance to the effects of COVID-19, the same cannot be said for many of our staff and teachers, especially those who are in the high-risk categories for severe symptoms of the virus.  These dedicated educators have also highlighted the sub-par effort that has gone into making our schools safe for return, such as unclean classrooms, lack of PPE and proper procedures, and the general vagueness of the state-wide orders the governor has implemented in regards to reopening our schools.  Our children need to be educated, but our teachers and staff must be also protected from this deadly disease.  I stand with the PTU and I believe much more must be done to ensure a safe reopening of our schools,” said Representative O’Brien.

Representative O’Brien is a math teacher at Central High School in Providence and a member of the Providence Teachers Union.

9/9/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Pawtucket – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Pawtucket Councilor At-Large Albert J. Vitali Jr. want to assure their constituency that the School Committee in the City of Pawtucket are committed to ensuring that local businesses, Minority Business Enterprise firms, and Women Business Enterprise firms are represented in every project possible. The Senator and Councilor are pleased to share that the School Committee is assuring them that the MBE/WBE regulations are a part of the upcoming rebuild of the Henry J. Winters Elementary School contract.

“Having served on the School Committee, education will always be near and dear to my heart which is why I appreciate the hard work that the Pawtucket School Committee has done to completely rebuild Winters,” said Senator Cano, who also served as City Councilor At-Large. “I am encouraged by the School Committee’s commitment to hold the contractor that is ultimately selected accountable for ensuring that MBE/WBE firms are utilized for this project.  Making sure our minority and women owned businesses get their fair share of state and city contracts has been one of my top priorities since entering public service and it will continue to be, especially due to the uncertain economic times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse effect on our businesses. As a City Councilor, I will continue to partner with the School Committee, who continues to do great work for our youth, in order to support local businesses who employ our residents and ensure that MBE/WBE firms are represented while putting people back to work,” said Councilor Vitali.

According to the State of Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity, & Opportunity website, a small business “which is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals or in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more such individuals” is considered to be MBE or WBE.
 

9/3/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 8128) which would require all police officers in the state to wear body cameras during any interaction with the public.

“Accountability for bad law enforcement is on all of our minds lately and I think we all agree that law enforcement officers who engage in illegal actions deserve fair and just punishments.  However, I think it is also crucial to point out that the majority of our dedicated law enforcement officers are good people who serve their communities with honor and distinction.  The required use of body cameras for all of our police will not only provide crucial evidence and accountability if a police officer breaks the law, but they will also protect good and moral officers against untrue accusations.  Body cameras provide the transparency that the public deserves and expects and there is no reason why our officers should not be wearing them,” said Representative Millea.

The bill would require all peace officers with arrest powers in the state to wear and activate body cameras during any car stop, search, arrest or during any interaction with any civilian or the public.  Any police officers engaged in under-cover police work would be exempt from the requirement.

The legislation also establishes protocols for the retention and destruction of body camera footage and institutes penalties for failure to comply with the regulations.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
8/25/2020RepRep. Christopher T. Millea; #248; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) will be holding a press conference on Thursday, September 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the State House steps (Gaspee Street side) to demand that Governor Raimondo appoint more judges of color to the state’s court benches.  In particular, Representative Williams will discuss the necessary and crucial appointments of Melissa Long to the Supreme Court and Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court.  She will be joined by several members of Rhode Island’s community of color who are involved with and affected by Rhode Island’s judicial system.

“We have had this conversation far too often, and for far too long.  While our state continues to grow, year after year, in diversity, our courts have remained stagnantly in the past and void of the color that fills the cities and towns of Rhode Island. Enough is enough.  With the movement for racial justice sweeping across this country at a pace not seen since the 19060’s, now is the time to finally give Rhode Island’s community of color their earned and well-deserved seats at the judicial table.  Now is the time for our judiciary to represent all of our citizens equitably and fairly.  Now is the time for Governor Raimondo to prove that her words calling for equality and unity are backed up by her actions and the only way for the governor to do this is to appoint Melissa Long and Elizabeth Ortiz to the state’s Supreme and Family Courts,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams will discuss how the state’s judicial system has failed Rhode Island’s community of color and what needs to be corrected in order for the judiciary to finally become representative of the state’s diverse communities in order to affect true racial and societal justice for all Rhode Island residents.

9/1/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – As Rhode Island police attempt to sort out the case of a Providence man who they believe illegally sold dozens of firearms that he had reported stolen, and the nation learns more about the 17-year-old who apparently gunned down protestors in Kenosha, Wis., Rep. Justine Caldwell is calling for passage of her package of common-sense gun safety measures.

Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) says the tragedy in Wisconsin and the cache of illegally sold weapons in Rhode Island just as a new wave of gun violence has erupted in Providence show that the need to address gun violence has not abated as the pandemic and racial inequity have dominated the nation’s attention.

“Gun violence is taking lives in this country every day. Inaction is compounding that tragedy.  Reducing access to the most lethal weapons, taking needless high-capacity magazines out of circulation and requiring safe storage are all ways we could save lives. Rhode Islanders deserve the protection that these bills would provide, and the sooner we take action, the more lives will be saved.”

Representative Caldwell’s bills, which she has introduced this year and last, would ban the sale and possession of assault-style weapons (2020-H 7263) and magazine clips that hold more than 10 rounds (2020-H 7364), and would require that firearms owners store all weapons in locked containers or render them inoperable while not in use (2020-H 7720). The bills were proposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Gun Safety Working Group, established after the Parkland, Fla, school shootings, and by Attorney General Peter Neronha.

“Reducing the number of high-powered weapons that are legal reduces the number of them in circulation, making it more difficult to access them illegally as well,” said Representative Caldwell. “It shouldn’t be so easy for someone like the 17-year-old shooter in Wisconsin to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon. More careful access laws would mean fewer of the most lethal weapons would be on the streets and available to those who use them criminally.”

Representative Caldwell said she is committed to working to gain passage for these bills, including working with gun rights advocates on their concerns. She recently visited a gun range in Rhode Island, fired weapons there and spoke with gun owners there to get their perspective.

“I am open to working with gun rights supporters to come up with a bill that tries to address their concerns while still accomplishing the crucial goal of limiting the damage that can be done with these weapons. I’m ready and willing to try to find areas of agreement with gun hobbyists who are open to discussion. But doing nothing is not an acceptable solution. Too much is at stake,” Representative Caldwell said.
8/28/2020RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

The meeting will be held virtually at Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 3 p.m. The meeting will include discussions of a state-by-state overview of LEOBOR statutes, a recent effort by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association to collect information on LEOBOR-involved proceedings, and a proposed draft survey from the task force

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.

The task force, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers.

The 13-member task force includes:
·         Senator Metts
·         Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
·         Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
·         Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
·         State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
·         Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
·         Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
·         NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
·         Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
·         Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
·         Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
·         Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
·         Rev. Chontell N. Washington
 
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.
8/24/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan issued the following statement today in response to the closure of Henry Barnard School:

“It has come to my attention that Rhode Island College has made an abrupt decision to close the Henry Barnard School. I implore the college administration to work with the parents and numerous stakeholders, many of whom are my constituents, to help us understand the nature of this decision and to work toward a solution that will maintain the school’s viability as a successful part of the fabric of our state’s education system. At the very least, parents and teachers deserve a level of professionalism when it comes to the future of their children’s education. I stand ready to assist RIC’s administration to help find a solution.” 

8/21/2020RepRep. Daniel P. McKiernan; #212; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today issued the following statement on the several shooting deaths that have occurred in Providence in the last two weeks:

“My heartfelt love and prayers to all the families impacted by the senseless acts of gun violence over the last weeks, months, and years. Gun violence is a totally preventable public health issue.

The recent upsurge of gun violence in the City of Providence resulting in the tragic and unnecessary loss of lives breaks my heart. It also strengthens my resolve to fight to end systematic racism, structural poverty and hopelessness which are the root causes of gun violence and in these tragic cases, with death resulting.

I call on my colleagues in the General Assembly to reconvene immediately and pass legislation that will mitigate these senseless acts of violence and homicides. Young people are losing hope. They are experiencing immense trauma and sadness. They need help, and now. The kinds of pathological behaviors that we are witnessing are sending a clear message to us that young people need positive outlets, and they need jobs that pays a livable wage. They also need job training and they need skills in conflict resolution.

Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. We need bold legislative actions, and we must commit to bold investments that impact long-term structural changes.

Parents should not be burying their children. Children should not be growing up without their parents. Communities and families are being ripped apart by senseless and preventable tragedy, and it does not have to be this way.

The General Assembly must get back to work and do its job.”
 
8/21/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is questioning the lack of response by Governor Raimondo to her call for reopening the judicial nominating process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 23, Representative Williams publicly urged Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission to reopen the application process for three judicial vacancies in response to the pandemic, which affected Rhode Island’s minority communities particularly harder than most. The application period ended on April 30. 

Representative Williams states that the nominating process began during the panicked first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the deadline also landing right in the middle of the lockdown. This resulted in many qualified and excellent candidates of color for these judicial vacancies to be unable to participate in the process and apply for the openings on the bench.  During this time, the governor, along with the Department of Health, declared that Rhode Island’s minority communities were the population hardest hit during the pandemic, therefore, leaving these candidates to prioritize the health and safety of their families first. 

“During the past few months, there have been numerous extensions and exceptions implemented by the governor for all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, we find it troubling and disappointing, especially during this time of significant racial introspection, that the governor simply once again ignored the call to help diversify our state’s court system. We were not even afforded a response to our question which is highly unacceptable, but sadly, predictable.” 

“The lack of a diverse judicial system that accurately reflects the multicultural demographics of our state has been a long-standing problem that must be rectified. This problem has only been exacerbated with this arbitrary deadline that affects our jurists of color the most. If the governor truly wished to have a fair and diverse judiciary, she would reopen the application process so that qualified applicants, especially those of color, who were predominantly occupied with caring for and supporting their families during the pandemic, may have the opportunity to apply for these judicial positions. Now, more than ever, is the time to fight back against the systematic injustices that have plagued our state for centuries and one aspect of this fight for justice is finally creating a diverse judiciary system. These efforts toward total equality, fairness, transparency, and systematic change for the better will only be possible if the application and nominating process is reopened.” 

“We have all heard the governor preach that ‘we must all rise up together,’ yet, her actions prove that her words mean nothingand once again, her behavior clearly demonstrates a completely opposite message to our community of color and the oppressed within our state. Her actions, whether it is due to her own personal beliefs, or other political interests and factors that are preventing her from making the moral choice of reopening the judicial nominating process, what is clear is that she has abandoned, ignored, and ultimately dismissed, numerous and real qualified applicants, many of those who are of color, and in the process, the governor stands in the way of meaningful, moral, and substantial societal change. Talk is cheap, but ignoring a loud and growing chorus of voices demanding equality is even worse. We expect a response and the reasoning behind the governor’s decision to adhere to the April 30 deadline. That much we deserve, rather than being disregarded in the hopes that our movement will grow silent, which it will not,” concluded Representative Williams. 

8/20/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) introduced a resolution (2020-H 8116) requesting that Governor Raimondo issue an executive order to prevent evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representative Williams introduced the resolution on July 17.

The State Supreme Court issued an order allowing eviction hearings to proceed on June 1 after the courts were reopened to the public following the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Before COVID-19 even hit our shores, housing in Rhode Island, particularly for low-income folks, was abysmal. There is not enough of it and our prices to own and rent have forced too many of our residents out of the market. Now, with the public health and financial effects of COVID-19, hundreds of families are in danger of losing their homes, and some already have, through evictions. These hard-working people had their hours and wages cut at best, and at worst, they have been laid-off or had to close their own business due to COVID-19. This in turn prevents them from paying their mortgages or rent simply because they do not have the money through no fault of their own. We are truly facing a coming wave of evictions that will force hundreds of, if not more, Rhode Islanders onto the streets. We cannot and should not allow this to happen,” said Representative Williams.

“I am aware that several programs have been created to help mitigate these problems, but from what my constituents are telling me, these programs, while well-intentioned, are extremely lacking and onerous with numerous hurdles and obstacles preventing our residents from getting the help that they desperately need.  For instance, in order to qualify for one program, eviction proceedings must already have been started, yet, this is far too little and too late to help most of these people. The only true way to keep our residents from experiencing homelessness during this uncertain and scary time is to issue an executive order imposing a moratorium on evictions until a fair and practical solution is established for all of our residents, and not just the privileged few. Summer is almost done and the cold will be here before we know it. Now is the time to protect our residents, and our landlords who are also suffering financially, and once again I urge the governor to do the moral and right thing and to keep these people in their homes where they belong,” concluded Representative Williams.

8/17/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet virtually Tuesday to hear testimony on a new budget article and amendments requested by Gov. Gina Raimondo. The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 4 p.m.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly a new article relating to tax anticipation notes, a proposed amendment to Article 4 relating to debt management, and a proposed amendment to Article 5 relating to a capital development program.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be streamed live online via Capitol TV at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx

8/17/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE –Rep. Teresa Tanzi today expressed her relief that the federal Fish & Wildlife Service eliminated the Mumford Unit of the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in Narragansett from its proposal to expand hunting in the refuge. All expanded use of firearms in her district have been eliminated from the plan.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that, after an outpouring of public comments and two petitions about its draft hunting and fishing plan in the wildlife refuges in Rhode Island, it would not allow hunting in the Mumford Unit of the Chafee refuge, which is near Narragansett Elementary School and the William O’Neil Bike Path. It also dropped its proposal to build a parking lot off Crest Avenue nearby.

Representative Tanzi was among those who submitted testimony to Fish and Wildlife opposing hunting there.

“It is a great relief that Fish & Wildlife has dropped its plans to allow expanded use of firearms in my district. This area is wildly inappropriate for hunting, which would be occurring during the school year.
The refuge itself and the surrounding area including the school grounds and the bike path are used by many people for recreation. Allowing hunting would have put the public, especially children, in harm’s way,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “While I was extremely concerned that the pandemic-related lack of public information and meetings on this proposal would allow it to slip into approval under the radar, I am grateful to the many concerned local residents and officials who made the effort to submit comments and spread the word about this harmful proposal. Even without real public meetings, we raised our voices loudly and clearly, and they were heard.”

The Fish & Wildlife Service reported that it received 1,641 public comments and two petitions regarding the proposal.

The new version of the plan will allow deer hunting within other parts of the refuge in Narragansett, but it will be limited to archery only, rather than allowing both firearms and archery. Waterfowl hunting and fishing on the Narrow River will continue to be allowed as originally proposed.

IN PHOTO: The Narrow River in the Chafee Preserve (by Rep. Tanzi)
8/6/2020RepRep. Teresa Tanzi; #166; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) recently participated in the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) 37th Annual Conference by moderating a discussion titled “Child Care: Key Ingredient for Economic Growth.”  The panel discussion, which was held virtually, took place on July 21 and can be viewed online at https://naleo.org/virtual2020/.

“As we continue to respond to the challenges of this pandemic, we know that child care has taken center stage as we work to reopen our communities. Frontline workers who cannot find care for their own children cannot in turn provide health care for our families, teach our older children, or work in the grocery stores, pharmacies, and at other essential jobs necessary for our economy to keep ticking.  It is for these reasons that child care truly is a key ingredient for economic growth,” said Senator Cano.

Senator Cano was joined by Dr. Lynette Fraga, who serves as the Executive Director for Child Care Aware of America, and Ms. Lauren Hogan, who serves as the Managing Director of Policy and Professional Advancement at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The discussion highlighted efforts policymakers are undertaking to fund childcare infrastructure, the crucial resources needed by the early care workforce to remain open in a safe manner, and the challenges and opportunities to ensure that all families and children have access to high quality care. 

During the panel discussion, Senator Cano outlined two pieces of legislation she had introduced before the COVID-19 pandemic that relate to child care.  The first bill (2020-S 2462) calls for a study on wage scales for child care workers for the purpose of creating policies so that Rhode Island does not lose child care workers to neighboring states, where wages may be higher.  The second bill (2020-S 2630) urges the state to develop strategies to improve education for early educators, allowing child care centers to develop and retain staff.

“By valuing the workers in this field, we know it will lead to high-quality care for our children.  And in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, high-quality child care has become even more important to not only educate and care for our future generations, but to allow our workers the peace of mind that their children are safe and cared for while we navigate this period of health and economic uncertainty.  I urge everyone with an interest in child care to view this very informative discussion,” concluded Senator Cano.

8/6/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – In observance of Jamaican Independence Day today, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) issued the following message:

“Happy Independence Day to all Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans here in Rhode Island! Happy Independence Day to all the people who enjoy and celebrate our rich heritage and culture. Today marks 58 years since Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain.

“I send my heartiest congratulations to Jamaicans in the homeland and to those in the diaspora. As Jamaicans, we have been through so much, but we are a resilient people and we always pull through. We stand tall and proud amidst the challenges that we face, great or small.

“This year have been a tough year for Jamaicans from dealing with the novel coronavirus to the heartaches and pain inflicted on so many of its citizens by economic burdens and crime. We have been through challenges before, one after the other, but together, we have locked arms and hearts and fought our way through those moments of hardships and despair.

“We have been made stronger by our trials. So, on this day, our 58th birthday, a day set aside to celebrate and to honor who we all are, it is my hope and my prayer that Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans remain united, pushing forward to One Jamaica honoring our motto “Out of Many, one People.”

“There is so much to celebrate about Jamaica: our cuisine is the most sought after in the world; our athletes does not just win races, they Jaminate. Our island home, from the beautiful Blue Mountain Peak to the tranquil blue waters that surround us and give us peace. Our Reggae music is second to none, but none can compare to the warm, loving people of Jamaica. Jamaica is not simply a country, it is an attitude. Let us remain committed to our core values and to our motto.

“Happy Independence Day, Jamaica. Rise above your challenges, go forth and be all that you are!”

8/6/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is urging the Jamestown Town Council to pass a resolution opposing any effort to merge the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT).

At its meeting today, the Town Council is scheduled to consider a resolution Representative Ruggiero asked it to pass in opposition to a proposal to merge the two state transportation agencies. The Newport City Council has already passed a similar resolution.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has publicly stated she has been exploring the possibility of merging the two agencies, along with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Representative Ruggiero opposes the move, saying it would be unfair to toll-paying island and East Bay residents and likely result in deterioration of the bridges managed by the historically well-run RITBA, the quasi-public agency that operates the Jamestown Verrazzano, Newport Pell, Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, as well as Route 138 through Jamestown. It also operates a handful of smaller bridges and connecting roads, and serves as the tolling agent for the truck toll gantries on Interstate 95.

“For decades the people who live on the islands and in the East Bay have been paying tolls and RITBA has been very responsibly managing its revenues and keeping our bridges and roads safe and well-maintained. Meanwhile, roads and bridges in the rest of the state, maintained by RIDOT, have deteriorated to the point where we have some of the worst bridges in the country. While the state needs to do the hard work on catching up on that maintenance, merging these agencies would mean island and East Bay residents’ tolls would be subsidizing an underfunded statewide transportation system, and the bridges where they are charged would be left to deteriorate just like bridges in the rest of the state,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “There is grave concern that if RIDOT takes over these bridges, it could even constitute a breach of millions of dollars in existing bond covenants.”   

Representative Ruggiero said the uncertainties of the proposal include who would lead such a vast agency. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. could be replaced by the term-limited Raimondo’s successor in two years.

“There are many questions, but one thing is for certain: The people of our area stand only to lose out on any proposal that removes local control and makes our bridges just a handful of the hundreds being managed by a statewide agency,” said Representative Ruggiero.
8/3/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling for the residents of Providence to unite and abolish historic reminders of slavery and oppression that still remain in the state’s capital city.

“In the spirit of cooperation, unity and sensitivity during this time in American history when our society is finally taking a long, hard, and critical look at the prevalence of systemic injustices and racism that have survived in our country for far too long, now is the time to shed the divisive remnants of slavery and subjugation that still exist in the City of Providence.  To some, these examples may just be words, but for too many, especially our residents of color, these painful reminders of darker days are evidence that our society still has much more work to do in order to value and appreciate the diversity that makes Rhode Island so strong.  Symbols of slavery should have no place in our city,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams points to the Nathanael Greene Middle School in Providence and a statue of Nathanael Greene at the State House as examples of troubling monuments to those involved with the slave trade in Rhode Island.  She also cites The Plantations Condominiums and Esek Hopkins Middle School, both in Providence, as lingering illustrations of slavery and persecution that still remain in the city.

Representative Williams also notes the effort made by many historical societies in our state to educate the public about notable Rhode Islanders with connections to slavery.  She believes the John Brown House Museum and the Stephen Hopkins House are excellent examples of engaging, and not erasing, difficult histories by detailing the horrors of slavery involving some of Rhode Island’s most historic families.

“I believe that the overwhelming majority of Providence residents are good and hard-working people who wish nothing more than to get along and live side-by-side in a cohesive, fair and equitable society.  By eliminating these relics of persecution and repression, we will be one step closer to acknowledging and rectifying the centuries of abuse, enslavement, and oppression that Americans of Color have experienced throughout generations,” concluded Representative Williams.

7/30/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson today congratulated Newport officials on being awarded a $500,000 state grant to help address sea-rise related flooding in the Wellington Avenue area.

The grant, awarded by the Department of Environmental Management and funded through green economy bonds previously approved by voters statewide, will be used to eliminate dry-weather flooding associated with sea level rise and minimize wet-weather flooding by up to 80 percent through the installation of tide gates and bar racks in the vicinity of Wellington Avenue. 

“Here in Newport, we experience the damaging effects of rising sea levels on a regular basis. Many of our neighborhoods, attractions and historically significant places are being eroded and damaged as a result. This grant will provide a very welcome, helpful resource to protect the Wellington Avenue neighborhood, which has suffered from increasingly common and serious flooding, and I’m grateful to the state and city officials for working together to secure it,” said Representative Carson. “Flooding has a devastating economic impact on individual property owners, businesses and the public. Each investment we make to improve our resiliency is also an investment in our economic security in the future.”

Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) has been a vocal advocate for efforts to address sea level rise, both through infrastructure resiliency improvements and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In 2016, she led a commission that studied the economic impact of sea rise in Rhode Island, and in 2017, she sponsored a law requiring education on flooding and sea rise for local planning board members and creating a unified statewide application process for solar panel permitting.

Funding for the grant comes from both the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond ($270,000) and 2014 state bond funding for flood mitigation ($230,000). The governor has proposed asking voters to approve a $69 million beach, clean water and green bond in November, which would include funding for additional resiliency projects like the one for Wellington Avenue.

“Rhode Islanders have been very supportive of bonds that protect our environment, our green spaces, and help us adapt to our changing climate. I’d like to urge voters to support the green bond again this November, because that funding is an important resource for projects like the one that will help Wellington Avenue,” she said.  
7/29/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on Human Services will be meeting tomorrow, July 30 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on several department budgets and a proposed budget amendment from the governor.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alex Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

The subcommittee will be hearing testimony on the budgets for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
Testimony will also be heard on a proposed budget amendment to Article 14 which relates to medical assistance.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/29/2020RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710117/29/2020 10:19 AMSystem Account7/29/2020 10:19 AMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The first meeting of a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is scheduled Wednesday.

The meeting is scheduled Wednesday, July 22, at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The meeting will include the appointment of a chairperson and an overview by the National Council of State Legislatures on state statutes pertaining to LEOBOR and recent trends regarding community-police relations. No public testimony will be taken at this meeting. The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Greg Paré at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

The task force, created by legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate June 18, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who will serve on the task force. “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The 13-member task force includes:
·         Senator Metts
·         Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
·         Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
·         Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
·         State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
·         Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
·         Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
·         NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
·         Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
·         Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
·         Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
·         Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
·         Rev. Chontell N. Washington
 
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.

7/21/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The first meeting of a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is scheduled Wednesday.


NoYesApproved3710067/21/2020 12:59 PMSystem Account7/29/2020 9:45 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,738
  
STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting tomorrow, July 29 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on three budget amendments submitted by the governor and two bills that relate to the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

The committee will hear testimony on a budget amendment creating a new budget article regarding tax anticipation notes.  They will also hear testimony on an amendment to Article 4 relating to the Debt Management Act and an amendment to Article 5 which concerns the Capital Development Program.

The committee will also hear testimony on two pieces of legislation sponsored by Speaker Mattiello.  The first piece of legislation (2020-H 8119) would submit to the electors a proposition to amend the constitution by increasing funding of the budget reserve account, also known as the "Rainy Day Fund", and limiting state spending.  The second bill (2020-H 8120) would increase funding of the budget reserve account, also known as the "Rainy Day Fund," and would limit state spending.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/28/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710107/28/2020 11:59 AMSystem Account7/28/2020 11:59 AMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,737
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is strongly supporting legislation (2020-H 7298), sponsored by Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), which would require state department heads and representatives to be sworn in under oath prior to testifying in front of General Assembly committees.  Representative O’Brien is a cosponsor of the legislation.

Representative O’Brien believes the legislation is necessary after Community College of Rhode Island President Meghan Hughes’ recent testimony before the House Finance Subcommittee on Education on July 9.

“If you want to get your budget approved, you must be forthcoming with information, especially information requested by the House Finance Committee. We all have a duty to our taxpayers to be transparent with how public dollars are spent. It’s particularly disconcerting when the head of a public college is not entirely truthful in her testimony to the committee,” said Representative O’Brien.
Representative O’Brien and other members of the House Finance Subcommittee on Education recently wrote to President Hughes after discovering information that contradicted her testimony to the subcommittee.

In particular, he is highlighting three new hires, with each position paying over $100,000 a year, and the purchase of a new vehicle for President Hughes, none of which were mentioned by the CCRI president during her testimony before the subcommittee.  Representative O’Brien also points out that the new hires are out-of-state residents who are working remotely using CCRI technology.  The positions referenced are Human Resources Assistant Director, Dean of Arts, and Director of Guided Pathways.

“During this public health and fiscal crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely disappointing that a state official would mislead committee members when we are trying to not only solve a historic budget deficit, but also forge a budgetary path forward that is fair, equitable and beneficial to every single Rhode Island resident.  The recent testimony provided by President Hughes, and her omissions and misleading responses to questions posed by the subcommittee, are more than enough reason to enact this legislation.  If our department heads are not being truthful during the legislative process, they should be held accountable for their actions, which this bill will ensure,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

7/22/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710097/22/2020 2:33 PMSystem Account7/22/2020 2:34 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,736
  
STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on General Government will be meeting tomorrow, July 23 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on two FY 2021 department budgets and a budget amendment proposed by the governor.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

The subcommittee will be reviewing the FY 2021 budgets for the Department of Revenue and the Department of Business Regulation.  The subcommittee will also hear testimony on a proposed budget amendment by the governor that relates to insurance.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No in-person public testimony will be taken nor will the meeting be open to the public.

Public testimony can be given in two ways.  Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HFIN.aspx.

Written testimony is encouraged and should be submitted to cobrien@rilegislature.gov.

For those who would prefer the option to provide verbal testimony please send an email to cobrien@rilegislature.gov with the following information:
 
  • Bill # (or specific topic) you are testifying on
  • For/Against
  • Your Name and Phone number (to be reached for your testimony)
  • Affiliation: (if any)
*Deadline to request verbal testimony is Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 11 am.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/22/2020RepRep. Michael Morin; #207; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710087/22/2020 11:18 AMSystem Account7/22/2020 11:18 AMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,735
  
STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Parentage Act sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata was signed into law today, repealing archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replacing it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

The legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa, 2020-S 2136Baa) repeals previous state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

Until now, Rhode Island’s parentage laws had not been updated in over 40 years.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect and be responsible for their children. These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society. The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born. This bill is specifically about one thing - equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “The Judiciary Committee heard heart-wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor. Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods.”

Governor Raimondo signed the bill standing by the sponsors and advocates in a ceremony outside the State House today.

“Love is love — it’s as simple as that,” said Governor Raimondo. “No parent should have to jump through hoops to receive legal recognition because of their sexual orientation or the circumstances of their child's birth. The Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act enshrines into law our belief in the validity of all paths to parenthood.”

The bill provides for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage and presumptions. It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

“The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality and LGBTQ Action RI.
 
 
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For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our website at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.

7/21/2020SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #226; #151; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Rhode Island Parentage Act sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata has been signed into law , repealing archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replacing it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.
YesYesApproved3710077/21/2020 4:24 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,722
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa / 2020-S 2136Baa) which would repeal archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

Rhode Island’s parentage laws have not been updated in over 40 years.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect, and be responsible for their children.  These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society.    The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born.  This bill is specifically about one thing - equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

“The Judiciary Committee heard heart wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor.  Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

“We are thrilled with today’s vote to support justice and equality for children and families in Rhode Island,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with RIPE and LGBTQ Action RI. “The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible.”

The RI Parentage Act repeals current state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

The bill provides for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions.  It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

7/16/2020SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #226; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa / 2020-S 2136Baa) which would repeal archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction was passed by the General Assembly tonight.
NoYesApproved3709947/16/2020 6:40 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,718
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today announced the appointment of a special legislative task force that will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The task force, created by legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate June 18, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who will serve on the task force. “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The 13-member task force will include:
  • Senator Metts
  • Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
  • Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
  • Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
  • State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
  • Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
  • Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
  • NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
  • Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
  • Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
  • Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
  • Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
  • Rev. Chontell N. Washington
  •  
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural

The task force is expected to hold its first meeting in the coming weeks. The resolution creating it sets its reporting date as Feb. 9, 2021.

6/29/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate today announced the appointment of a special legislative task force that will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.



NoYesApproved3709907/15/2020 2:51 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 1:00 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,733
  
STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Wednesday for hearings on the 2021 state budget bill and several other pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, July 21, at 4 p.m., the committee will hear articles in state budget bill (2020-H 7171), including Article 2, Sections 2-5, concerning various restricted-receipt accounts; and Article 3 -- Sections 1-4, 6 ,8 and 10, concerning several licenses, state fee collection and the line-item veto. The committee will also hear a bill (2020-H 7531) sponsored by committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) concerning electronic tax filing and remittance for larger businesses, as well as two bills concerning tourism.

On Wednesday, July 22, at 4 p.m. , the committee will hear the proposed budgets for the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections.  

Both hearings will be in Room 35. The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.
7/20/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710057/20/2020 12:22 PMSystem Account7/20/2020 12:22 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,732
  
STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Thursday to hear testimony on proposed budget articles related to education and health care reform.

The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 21, at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 10 relating to education, a new article on the approval of a lease for Northern Rhode Island and Woonsocket Education Center, and a new article on the approval of a lease for URI at 25 West Independence Way on the Kingston campus.

The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, July 23, at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 20 related to health care reform, and a new article on telemedicine.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearings will be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Greg Paré at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

7/20/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3710047/20/2020 11:17 AMSystem Account7/20/2020 11:17 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
15,731
  
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) recently introduced resolutions (2020-S 2922 / 2020-H 8109) celebrating the 210th anniversary of Colombian Independence Day on July 20.

“Colombia’s history, culture, and contributions to our state are immense and as a proud Colombian-American, I take great pride in not only celebrating Colombian’s Independence Day, but also, the strong ties Colombia shares with Rhode Island and its residents.  Colombian Independence Day is a joyous celebration every year and it’s an honor to recognize this important day for so many.  I’d also like to thank Rhode Island’s Colombian-American community for the numerous contributions they make to our state.  This resolution is for all of you,” said Senator Cano.

“Like the American Revolutionary War, Colombians fought valiantly to gain their independence from a foreign ruler.  This history inspires every Colombian and Colombian-American on a daily basis and it is through these similarities that both Colombia and the United States have forged such a strong bond.  Joining together with my Colombian-American colleagues in the legislature to commemorate this special day is always one of my favorite times of the year and I look forward to July 20 to celebrate this special 210th anniversary of Colombian independence,” said Representative Alzate.

Four members of the Rhode Island General Assembly hail from Colombian descent. Senator Cano, Representative Alzate, Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), and Rep. Joshua J. Giaraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) joined together on July 8 at the State House to hold a Colombian Independence Day celebration.  The legislators were joined by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and several prominent Colombian-Americans in Rhode Island where they spoke about the rich culture and history of Colombia and its extensive ties to the United States and Rhode Island.

In photo, from left: Rep. Carlos E. Tobon, Rep. Karen Alzate, Sen. Sandra Cano, and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo at a Colombian Independence Day Celebration held on July 8 at the State House 
7/17/2020RepSen. Sandra Cano; Rep. Karen Alzate; Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; #245; #255; #269; #221; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710037/17/2020 11:11 AMSystem Account7/17/2020 11:12 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,730
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Justine Caldwell cosponsored several of the bills passed by the House of Representatives yesterday concerning parental rights and preventing gun violence.

Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) is a cosponsor of the Julie Lynn Cardinal Act (2020-H 7103Baa), which will require gun sellers to forward firearm applications to the police department of the city or town where the buyer resides for a background check, or the State Police if the purchaser resides outside Rhode Island or in the town of Exeter, which lacks a municipal police department.

The bill, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), passed both chambers and is now headed for the governor’s office. It is named for the victim who perished in a shooting in Westerly last year where a resident purchased a gun from a firearms dealer in Richmond. Although Richmond Police conducted background checks, they were not aware that the buyer had a history with Westerly Police, including threats to buy a gun to kill himself and his estranged wife, which led to a stay at Butler Hospital. In addition to killing Cardinal, who was the manager of the affordable housing complex where the gunman lived, the shooter wounded another manager and a resident before fatally shooting himself.

“This tragic event in our state exposed a serious weakness in our background check requirements, and the catastrophic results that can occur when a person with a history of violent threats is able to purchase firearms. This is a step in the right direction toward protecting Rhode Islanders from gun violence,” said Representative Caldwell.

Representative Caldwell also cosponsored legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa) to repeal archaic and inequitable state laws regarding parentage and replace them with a uniform act that provides procedures for establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction. That bill, primarily sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), also passed the General Assembly yesterday and is headed to the governor.

The legislation will assist families of many kinds in gaining legal recognition.

“The Parentage Act remedies an archaic law that puts people through emotional and financial burdens during what should be the happiest times of their lives — starting their families. I got my start in politics working on LGBTQ+ issues, and there is always more progress to be made. This bill truly will help families and is an important step in Rhode Island becoming a more equitable state,” said Representative Caldwell.

Additionally, Representative Caldwell cosponsored legislation (2020-H 7330) introduced by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) to terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault. Twenty-eight other states in the country have similar laws. That legislation passed the House yesterday and will be forwarded to the Senate.

7/17/2020RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710027/17/2020 10:45 AMSystem Account7/17/2020 10:45 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,729
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin to protect the health care of Rhode Islanders by setting standards for nursing home care.

The Senate gave its approval to the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act (2020-S 2519), which is meant to address an ongoing crisis in nursing home staffing that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care and long endorsed by experts including the American Nurses Association, the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. The bill has been backed by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, a coalition of advocates for patient care.

Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in the number of the average hours of care nursing home residents receive, according to recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Rhode Island is the only New England state with no minimum staffing requirements in our nursing homes.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages leads to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. The pandemic, of course, has exponentially increased the demands of the job, and exacerbated patients’ needs. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for caregivers to recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce. Short staffing drives high turnover in nursing homes. Not only does high turnover create undue stress and burnout for remaining staff, it diverts valuable resources to recruit, orient and train new employees and increases reliance on overtime and agency staff.  Low wages are a significant driver of the staffing crisis. The median wage for a CNA in Rhode Island is less than $15, and $1/hour lower than the median wage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The legislation will also invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex health care needs.

The bill will be forwarded to the House, where Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-H 7624).
7/16/2020SenSen. Maryellen Goodwin; #104; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710017/16/2020 8:10 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 8:10 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,728
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin requiring full insurance coverage of colorectal cancer screenings.

The legislation (2020-S 2317A) would require health insurers to cover preventive colorectal cancer screening for all colorectal cancer examinations and laboratory tests in accordance with American Cancer Society Guidelines. This coverage must be provided without cost-sharing and includes an initial screening and a follow-up colonoscopy if the results of the screening are abnormal.

American Cancer Society Guidelines recommend that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in the United States. In 2020, 430 Rhode Islanders will receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Screening may lower the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer by as much as half.

“I can personally attest to how critically important it is that everyone is able to get recommended colorectal cancer screening. Cancer screening is routine preventive care that catches cancer early and saves lives as well as reducing health care costs down the road. Copays, cost-sharing and insurers that don’t cover pre-screening only discourage people from getting the care they need to protect themselves. This legislation will save lives by increasing access to these life-saving screenings,” said Senator Goodwin, who is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer herself.

The bill now goes to the House, where Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-H 7396).
7/16/2020SenSen. Maryellen Goodwin; #104; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710007/16/2020 7:58 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:58 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,726
  
Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Scott A. Slater, said the legislation is intended to reform a system that has perpetuated poverty by preventing people with a criminal history — even for relatively minor crimes that occurred decades ago —from getting jobs that can truly support themselves and their families.

“This is common-sense reform of a system that isn’t serving the public the way it should. It’s not protecting anyone to deny someone a license to work in a job because of a criminal record for an offense that has no bearing on that job. This is a system that helps perpetuate poverty in the community, making it so that once a person messes up, they face roadblocks that keep them down for the rest of their lives. People who have turned their lives around and want to work and support themselves and their families should have every available opportunity to do that, without senseless barriers,” said Representative Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence).

The legislation (2020-S 2824A, 2020-H 7947A) develops a standardized process by which only convictions directly related to the duties of the licensed occupation can be considered in the application for a professional license; provides guidance on how those records should be considered when an application is being reviewed; and creates a more transparent decision-making and notification process.

“There needs to be a more-nuanced, less-punitive approach to licensing. If the purpose of prison system is really supposed to be rehabilitation, someone who’s been there shouldn’t face a lifetime of discrimination in their efforts to find meaningful employment and become a contributing member of our society. Most people who go to prison are already facing numerous challenges like systemic poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and a lack of educational opportunities. The licensing system shouldn’t be another,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), a deacon in the Congdon Street Baptist Church who regularly participates in prison ministry. “When we talk about systematic oppression, this is a piece of that system. We’re dismantling that piece in Rhode Island with this bill. I’m extremely proud and grateful for the change of heart reflected in our justice policy initiatives. From a mindset of punishment in the 1980s, we are changing course to reconciliation, restoration and giving people a second chance.”

For Rhode Islanders who have been involved in the criminal justice system, occupational licensing restrictions pose a serious barrier to meaningful employment. Many of the entry-level jobs in some of the state’s fastest growing sectors require occupational licenses. Over 70 percent of the occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “lower-income” require a license. Even some professions for which Rhode Islanders can receive training and certification while incarcerated are closed to people returning home because of how licensing agencies explicitly use criminal records to exclude otherwise qualified candidates.

The legislation prohibits state agencies that review occupational license applications from denying them based solely or partly on a prior conviction of a crime that is not substantially related to the occupation for which the license is sought. If an applicant does have a prior conviction that relates to the occupation, the legislation requires that the licensing authority consider numerous factors: public safety, the interests of encouraging employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, whether the crime relates to the applicant’s ability to responsibly participate in the occupation, the time that has elapsed since the conviction and the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, as well as evidence the applicant can provide to demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the job.

The legislation has the support of a coalition of more than 30 community-based organizations, including Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the Economic Progress Institute and Amos House.
7/16/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Scott Slater; #91; #155; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

The General Assembly approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.


YesYesApproved3709987/16/2020 7:09 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:50 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,724
  
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. David A. Bennett to strengthen the Hospital Conversions Act by requiring a review of each proposed hospital conversion to ensure that it complies with antitrust laws.

The measure will help protect the public and the integrity of Rhode Island’s health care system as large hospital networks increasingly move to acquire hospitals and smaller networks.

“Like many industries, hospitals have experienced a great deal of consolidation in the last several decades. Antitrust laws are meant to protect the public from situations where a single entity has too much control in a segment or region. Compliance with those laws is an important piece of the puzzle that the state should be considering whenever the conversion of a hospital is proposed,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence). “This bill will provide a meaningful review of antitrust issues, which ultimately protects patients and the critical health care industry as a whole.”

Said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), “What this boils down to is protecting the quality of health care in Rhode Island. We want to make sure that we don’t allow a situation where one corporation controls the majority of our state’s hospitals and slashes the resources available to patients here. This will help ensure that patients can access the facilities they need when they need them.”

The legislation (2020-S 2572, 2020-H 7652), which was introduced on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, would allow compliance with the state’s antitrust laws to be considered as a criterion in the Attorney General’s review of proposed hospital conversions. As such, the cost of conducting that review could be passed on to the transacting parties, rather than absorbed by the Attorney General’s office and ultimately taxpayers.

“Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring a safe, accessible and affordable health care system for all Rhode Islanders is a critically important function of the Attorney General’s Office. This bill will help ensure that hospital conversions are vetted for antitrust issues as hospital consolidations have significant implications for both affordability and access. I am grateful to the Senate President, Representative Bennett and the General Assembly for advancing this important legislation,” said Attorney General Neronha.
7/16/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. David Bennett; #85; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3709967/16/2020 6:55 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:48 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,723
  
STATE HOUSE – Rhode Island voters will be asked in November whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, under legislation approved by the General Assembly today.

The joint resolution (2020-S 2902aa2020-H 8077) putting the question on the ballot is sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams, who said it’s neither necessary nor any longer acceptable for the state to cling to an outdated reference that conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely encouraged, condoned and accepted.

“The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes, castrations and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us. Not unlike the debate over the Confederate flag, retaining the term does nothing to memorialize history but conjures an unnecessary and painful reminder of our racist past, and the injustice and racism that persists to this day,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), whose own family can be traced back to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA. “Rhode Island built its economy on being a leader in the slave trade in colonial times. This old, festering wound still needs healing. We aren’t proud of that history, and we must stop glorifying a word that is inescapably associated with that terrible past.”

While a similar question failed at the ballot in 2010, the sponsors say they believe the public is much more educated and sensitive about the hurtful connotation of the word now.

“When you have more than 10,000 Rhode Islanders showing up in a pandemic for a march calling for an end to police brutality and to affirm that Black Lives Matter, we can take this ugly, painful word out of the name of our beautiful state,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). “We have genuine work ahead of us to bring about true equality and justice for all. We are collectively taking this step as an inclusive symbol to demonstrate that we are all Rhode Islanders. Period.”

Both the General Assembly and the governor announced last month that they would remove the phrase from official legislative and executive-branch documents in recognition of its painful connotation.

The ballot question would make the change official in the state’s constitution if approved by a simple majority of voters statewide in November’s election.

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dis. 22, Warwick), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence).

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist 2, Providence), President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). 
7/16/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Anastasia Williams; #91; #10; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rhode Island voters will be asked in November whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, under legislation approved by the General Assembly today.


YesYesApproved3709957/16/2020 6:45 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:46 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,725
  
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly approved a measure today to make it easier to participate in mobile sports gaming in Rhode Island.

The bill (2020-S 2919, 2020-H 8097), which now heads to the governor’s desk, will allow people to register online to use Rhode Island’s mobile app for sports wagering, rather than having to sign up in person at Twin River in Lincoln or Tiverton. The in-person signup was required to boost security when the state launched the app last year, but mobile sports wagering executives say it has hindered signups, particularly at a time when many are wary about visiting public places.

 “This is one responsible move we can make to help counter some of the revenue losses the state has experienced during the pandemic. Gaming and the lottery are our state’s third-largest source of revenue, and anything we can safely do to make up for some of the lost revenue helps to support public services,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), who sponsored the Senate bill.

Said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), who sponsored the bill in the House, “Making it more convenient to use our mobile sports wagering app provides an entertainment option that you can participate in from the safety and comfort of your own home. There is sufficient security as well as safeguards in the program to ensure that users are placing their bets from within Rhode Island and complying with our state’s laws, so we can eliminate in-person signups without compromising anything. Hopefully this added convenience will help people enjoy the experience at a time when entertainment options are very limited, and help raise revenue for Rhode Island,”

While online sports betting ground to a halt as virtually all professional sports stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, several professional leagues have announced plans to resume play later this summer.
7/16/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3709977/16/2020 7:03 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:43 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,727
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Evan P. Shanley and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 8102A / 2020-S 2598A) which amends the state’s emergency mail ballot procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

The legislation adds an additional option for securing a mail ballot by permitting emergency mail ballot applications to be processed at local boards of canvassers in person on electronic poll pads, which will allow the voter to then cast their ballot and place the ballot themselves into a state-approved voting machine at the local board of canvassers.  Voters will have up to 20 days before the election to vote in this manner.

 “The pandemic has upended our daily lives in every conceivable way, and this includes how we conduct our elections.  This bill will protect the voters and poll workers from possible exposure to COVID-19 while also ensuring that every voter has the ability to cast their vote in the upcoming elections,” said Representative Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).

“This bill is necessary to protect people from COVID-19 while also making sure our upcoming elections are transparent, secure, and most importantly, accessible to anyone who wishes to vote.  This option will keep people safe and guarantee that no one has to forego voting out of fear of the pandemic,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Currently, when applying for an emergency mail ballot, voters must fill out a notarized application, fill out a mail ballot and place it in a sealed envelope where it is left in a pile until the end of the day when the local board of canvassers hand delivers the ballots to the Board of Elections.  The process is time intensive for both voters and election employees and several local boards of canvassers have expressed concern that they will be unable to meet the demand for emergency mail ballots due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This new option for securing an emergency mail ballot will save voters and employees much-needed time, increase the efficiency of the process, and promote voter confidence by having the voter physically cast their own ballots.

Voters will need a valid proof of identity in order to utilize this voting option.  The traditional process of securing a mail ballot is still in effect as well and the RI Board of Elections has voiced their support for the passage of the legislation.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

7/16/2020SenRep. Evan P. Shanley; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #236; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Evan P. Shanley and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 8102A / 2020-S 2598A) which amends the state’s emergency mail ballot procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was passed by the General Assembly.



NoYesApproved3709997/16/2020 7:32 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:41 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. 

The legislation (2020-S 2824A), sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), develops a standardized process by which only convictions directly related to the duties of the licensed occupation can be considered in the application for a professional license; provides guidance on how those records should be considered when an application is being reviewed; and creates a more transparent decision-making and notification process.

Senator Metts said the legislation is intended to reform a system that has perpetuated poverty by preventing people with a criminal history — even for relatively minor crimes that occurred decades ago —from getting jobs that can truly support themselves and their families.

“There needs to be a more-nuanced, less-punitive approach to licensing. If the purpose of prison system is really supposed to be rehabilitation, someone who’s been there shouldn’t face a lifetime of discrimination in their efforts to find meaningful employment and become a contributing member of our society. Once they’ve served their time and been released, they shouldn’t be denied a license to work in a field that has nothing to do with their previous offense,” said Senator Metts, a deacon in the Congdon Street Baptist Church who regularly participates in prison ministry. “Most people who go to prison are already facing numerous challenges like systemic poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and a lack of educational opportunities. The licensing system shouldn’t be another.”

The bill now goes to the House, which is expected to approve identical legislation (2020-H 7947A) sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) Thursday.  

“This legislation will go a long way to opening doors that have been not only shut, but locked for so many people. When we talk about systematic oppression, this is a piece of that system. We’re dismantling that piece in Rhode Island with this bill,” said Senator Metts. “I’m extremely proud and grateful for the change of heart reflected in our justice policy initiatives. From a mindset of punishment in the 1980s, we are changing course to reconciliation, restoration and giving people a second chance.”

For Rhode Islanders who have been involved in the criminal justice system, occupational licensing restrictions pose a serious barrier to meaningful employment. Many of the entry-level jobs in some of the state’s fastest growing sectors require occupational licenses. Over 70 percent of the occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “lower-income” require a license. Even some professions for which Rhode Islanders can receive training and certification while incarcerated are closed to people returning home because of how licensing agencies explicitly use criminal records to exclude otherwise qualified candidates.

The legislation prohibits state agencies that review occupational license applications from denying them based solely or partly on a prior conviction of a crime that is not substantially related to the occupation for which the license is sought. If an applicant does have a prior conviction that relates to the occupation, the legislation requires that the licensing authority consider numerous factors: public safety, the interests of encouraging employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, whether the crime relates to the applicant’s ability to responsibly participate in the occupation, the time that has elapsed since the conviction and the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, as well as evidence the applicant can provide to demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the job.

The legislation has the support of a coalition of more than 30 community-based organizations, including Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the Economic Progress Institute and Amos House.
7/13/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

The Senate has approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction.

 


NoYesApproved3709897/13/2020 4:42 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:52 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,714
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate and the House are returning to session next week.

The Senate has scheduled session Monday, July 13, at 4 p.m., when it will consider the appointments of David Spinella as chief hearing officer in the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Administrative Adjudication, Louis DeSimone to the Board of Elections and Rebeka Mazzone to the Industrial Recreational Building Authority. It will also consider several bills, including:
  • 2020-S 2824A — Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
  • 2020-S 2547 and 2020-S 2504 — Both sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and both concerning Block Island, the first bill would allow for safe airport runway length and continued maintenance, and the second would amend the maximum peak load of allowable capacity for the net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District.
  • 2020-H 7103Baa2020-S 2154Aaa — Sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), this legislation would provide that applications to purchase certain firearms be sent by the seller of the firearm to the Rhode Island State Police and the police department of the city or town in which the purchaser resides.
 
Both the House and the Senate plan to hold session Thursday, July 16. The Senate start time will be determined. The House plans to meet at 3 p.m. Its calendar will be posted in advance, and is expected to include, among other bills:
  • 2020-H 8077, 2020-S 2902aa — Sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Senator Metts, this bill would put a question on November’s ballot asking voters whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name.
  • 2020-H 7541A/2020-S 2136B — Sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this legislation updates the state’s laws establishing parentage so they include all types of parents, including  LGBTQ parents.
  • 2020-H 7947 — Sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
  • 2020-H 7103Baa2020-S 2154Aaa – The legislation concerning local police review of firearms purchases, following expected Senate passage Monday.
 
Several committee hearings have been scheduled next week:
Monday, July 13
  • The Senate Education Committee  meets at 3 p.m. in Room 313 to consider legislation (2020-H 7069B) sponsored by House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) to allow school committees to budget funding for field trips. The Senate has approved companion legislation (2020-S 2327A) sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).
  • The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meets at 3 p.m. in Room 313 to consider two bills, both sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). The first (2020-S 2317A) would prohibit cost-sharing for insured persons 45 or older for covered colorectal screening examinations, laboratory tests and colonoscopies. The other (2020-S 2519) would mandate minimum staffing levels and standards for quality care in nursing homes.
 
Tuesday, July 14
  • The Senate Finance Committee  meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearings on several bills, including two sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). The first (2020-S 2337) would enable the Lottery Division to enter into a contract extension with IGT Global Solutions Corporation and contract extensions with Twin River and affiliates of Twin River. The second (2020-S 2919) would make it easier to sign up for online sports wagering and allow a system that verifies a player’s location at the time that they wager.
  • The House Finance Committee meets at 5 p.m. in Room 35 for hearings on the companion bills to President Ruggerio’s above (2020-H 7523A, 2020-H 8097, respectively), sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).
  • The House Municipal Government Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge for consideration of several bills concerning individual municipalities.
  • The House Judiciary Committee meets at 5 p.m. for consideration of a bill (2020-H 8102) sponsored by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) to permit emergency mail ballot applications to be processed at the voter’s board of canvassers in person on electronic poll pads, allowing the voter to then cast his or her ballot and place the ballot in the state-approved voting machine.
 
Wednesday, July 15
 
The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions and hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman in the House at lberman@rilegislature.gov and Greg Paré in the Senate at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

7/10/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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The Senate and the House are returning to session, with the Senate meeting Monday and both chambers meeting Thursday.



NoYesApproved3709867/10/2020 4:02 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:52 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,696
  
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams announced today that the General Assembly would be removing “and Providence Plantations” from official General Assembly documents. The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Governor Raimondo announcing ‘RIse Together’ actions for a more equitable and resilient Rhode Island, including the removal of references to “Plantations” from executive branch documents.

The legislators each have sponsored in their respective chambers legislation (2020-S 2902aa, 2020-H 8077) to ask the voters in November whether to change the state’s official name to simply “The State of Rhode Island.” The House leadership has announced that they plan to consider the name change resolution, and the Senate has passed it.

Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who traces his lineage on his mother’s side to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, said, “The word ‘plantations’ conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders. Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation’s racist past. ‘Plantations’ brings to mind the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans, slave sales that tore families apart, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us.”

Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) said, “The removal of this word with hateful connotations for Rhode Island’s community of color from our official state name will go a long way toward the healing process that is necessary to overcome 400 years of racial inequality, oppression and injustice.  I applaud the governor and the General Assembly for taking actions today as steps in this important process to strike a word that is associated with dehumanization and enslavement.”
 
At the Assembly, the “Plantations” language can be found on Senate and House citations, some letterhead, and even in resolutions passed by the chambers.

In a joint statement, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello said: “We both support placing on the ballot this November the decision whether to remove the word ‘and Providence Plantations’ from the state’s name.  In the meantime, we know this is an important issue to a lot of people, so the General Assembly will be removing the reference to ‘Plantations’ from Assembly documents.”
 
 

6/22/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #91; #10; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams announced today that the General Assembly would be removing “and Providence Plantations” from official General Assembly documents. The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Governor Raimondo announcing ‘RIse Together’ actions for a more equitable and resilient Rhode Island, including the removal of references to “Plantations” from executive branch documents.


NoYesApproved3709686/22/2020 2:51 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:51 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,721
  
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today approved legislation to require gun dealers to notify the police in a gun buyer’s hometown in addition to the police department of the town where the gun was purchased.     

The Julie Lynn Cardinal Act (2020-H 7103Baa, 2020-S 2154Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly), would require gun sellers to forward firearm applications to the police department of the city or town where the buyer resides, or the State Police if the purchaser resides outside Rhode Island or in the town of Exeter, which lacks a municipal police department.

The bill is named for the victim who perished in a shooting in Westerly last year where a resident purchased a gun from a firearms dealer in Richmond. Although Richmond Police conducted background checks, they were not aware that the buyer had a history with Westerly Police, including threats to buy a gun to kill himself and his estranged wife, which led to a stay at Butler Hospital. In addition to killing Cardinal, who was the manager of the affordable housing complex where the gunman lived, the shooter wounded another manager and a resident before fatally shooting himself.

“This is a simple matter of improving communication between law enforcement agencies,” said Representative McKiernan. “Local police departments are much more likely to have information regarding the mental health of a potential gun buyer. If there are concerns for the safety of the purchaser or others, then the police in the gun buyer’s community can take steps to keep the other agencies notified and potentially avert another tragedy.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.
7/16/2020SenRep. Daniel P. McKiernan; Sen. Dennis Algiere; #212; #84; Daniel Trafford
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The General Assembly has approved legislation to require gun dealers to notify the police in a gun buyer’s hometown in addition to the police department of the town where the gun was purchased.     
YesYesApproved3709937/16/2020 6:28 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:28 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,720
  
STATE HOUSE – The House today approved a measure that would send mail ballot applications to every Rhode Island voter ahead of both the September primaries and the November election.

The bill, sponsored by House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), is intended as a way to help Rhode Islanders exercise their fundamental right to vote without compromising their health and safety this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sending mail ballot applications to all qualified voters promotes full voter participation in a very important election occurring in the middle of a global pandemic. We should be encouraging as many voters as possible to vote by mail in order to protect public health while ensuring that voters may safely and securely choose their next president as well as their state and local officials,” said Representative Blazejewski. “A great many poll workers and voters are senior citizens, or may be immunocompromised or have underlying heath conditions, and they are all at an elevated risk from COVID-19. The more people who cast their vote by mail, the less exposure the people of Rhode Island face.”

The legislation (2020-H 7200A) would apply only to this year’s Sept. 8 primaries and the general election on Nov. 3, not future elections. It would temporarily waive provisions requiring voters to have a reason to need to vote by mail instead of in person, as well as notary or witness requirements.

The bill would also require that local boards of canvassers operate drop boxes where voters can drop off their ballot until 8 p.m. on the days of the elections. It additionally allows the Secretary of State’s office to process ballots centrally, sending back to local boards of canvassers for review those ballots that it deems insufficient.

Massachusetts has announced similar plans for its primaries and general election. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Common Cause and other advocacy groups have all called for the state to take steps to encourage voting by mail this year because of the pandemic.

“In keeping with the bedrock principles of our democracy, Rhode Islanders should not have to choose between their health and safety, on the one hand, and exercising their right to vote, on the other.  Mail ballots are a safe, secure form of voting that has been employed around the nation for well over a century. Encouraging people to use them will strengthen our elections by boosting participation and giving a voice to many who might otherwise stay away from the polling place out of very justified health concerns,” said Representative Blazejewski.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol) and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). It will be forwarded to the Senate. 
7/16/2020RepRep. Christopher Blazejewski; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3709927/16/2020 5:00 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:28 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives passed a resolution (2020-H 8106), sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, creating a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations on the status and requirements for Rhode Island’s nursing homes. 

“Rhode Island’s nursing homes are facing tremendous challenges.  COVID-19 has placed their residents and workers in potential danger, Medicaid reimbursement has been dramatically reduced, and it is difficult to hire and retain the necessary amount of staffers to deliver the care that patients deserve.  This is a complex issue that needs to be studied and addressed so that the nursing homes, their patients, and their staff are properly supported and fully operational,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

The 15 member study commission will examine the methods and means for providing paramount quality care; reimbursement methodology; staffing levels; workforce development and, specifically, employee recruitment and retention efforts and results; patient acuity levels for different types of care given; and the financial condition of Rhode Island’s nursing homes.

The commission will consist of three members of the House of Representatives; the President of the Rhode Island Healthcare Association; the SEIU State Council Director; the Director of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health; the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training; the Executive Director for the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care; the President of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island; the President of Lifespan; a member of the public; an administrator of a not-for-profit nursing home; an administrator of a for-profit nursing home; and a registered nurse who is licensed and employed in a nursing home.

The commission will report its findings and recommendations no later than April 15, 2021.

7/16/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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The House of Representatives passed a resolution (2020-H 8106), sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, creating a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations on the status and requirements for Rhode Island’s nursing homes. 




NoYesApproved3709917/16/2020 4:00 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 4:01 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed two bills pertaining to Block Island that were introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown).

The first (2020-S 2547aa) would amend the airport zoning law to add the terms “approach” and “approach zones” to mean airport land and airspace as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This bill will allow for safe runway length and continued maintenance to accommodate flights,” said Senator Sosnowski. “This will keep our airports safe and operating at peak efficiency. This is particularly important for the people of New Shoreham, since the Westerly Airport is a lifeline to Block Island, between emergency airlifts and transports to Block Island residents, prescription deliveries and tourism.”

The second (2020-S 2504) would amend the maximum peak load of allowable capacity for the net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District to not exceed a maximum. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.

“Currently state law restricts net metering for private solar and wind installations at three percent of a utility’s peak output,” said Senator Sosnowski. “The Block Island Utility District Board of Commissioners have been developing a new policy for further installations. In order for that to happen, we need to lift the cap on net metering beyond the allowed three percent.”

Both bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

7/13/2020SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore, Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, is calling on the RI Commerce Corporation to work with Rhode Island’s small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to expedite access to much needed capital through the Small Business Development Fund, which the General Assembly included in the FY2020 state budget.

“COVID-19 has decimated our small businesses and those that are still in operation are struggling to remain open.  The backbone of our state’s economy needs help and it is imperative that RI Commerce tap into the Small Business Development Fund so that more of our small businesses are not forced to close their doors for good.  Speaker Mattiello and the House Small Business Committee look forward to working with Governor Raimondo to help assist our small businesses by getting them additional stabilization resources during this unprecedented time.” said Representative Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

7/13/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House and the Senate expect to reconvene to consider several bills the week of July 13. Committee hearings are being scheduled in both chambers next week.

The House is expected to reconvene for session on Thursday, July 16, and hearings will be held by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 7; the House Labor Committee on Wednesday, July 8; and the House Municipal Government Committee on Thursday, July 9. More details will be announced when agendas are posted for the committee hearings. A floor calendar will be posted ahead of the session.

Additionally, the House Finance Committee will resume its deliberations on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and related legislation on Wednesday, July 8, at 4 p.m. in Room 35. The Finance Committee will hold budget hearings over the next several weeks in anticipation of budget consideration in August. Legislators are still awaiting guidance from Congress on the level of federal support to states for budget relief. 

The Senate is also expected to post committee hearings next week, in anticipation of returning to session sometime during the week of July 13. The Senate Finance Committee has posted hearings on 2021 budget articles Tuesday, July 7, and Thursday, July 9, both at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. More hearings will be posted in the coming days.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions and hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman in the House at lberman@rilegislature.gov and Greg Paré in the Senate at gpare@rilegislature.gov.
7/2/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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The House and the Senate expect to reconvene to consider several bills the week of July 13. Committee hearings are being scheduled in both chambers next week.


NoYesApproved3709797/2/2020 4:14 PMSystem Account7/10/2020 4:03 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet twice this week to hear testimony on fishing license reform and a contract extension with IGT.

The committee is scheduled to meet jointly with the Senate Fisheries Task Force Tuesday, March 10, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 7, Sections 3-9, relating to commercial fishing license reform.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7247A) introduced by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) that would authorize motion picture tax credits for a production that does not have its primary location within the state, provided a minimum of $10 million in state certified production costs are incurred and paid within a 12-month period.

The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, March 12, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313.

The panel will hear testimony on legislation (2020-S 2337) introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that would enable the state Lottery Division of the Department of Revenue to enter into a contract extension with IGT Global Solutions Corporation and contract extensions with Twin River and affiliates of Twin River.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). The Fisheries Task Force is chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

3/9/2020SenSen. William Conley; Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #202; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – AARP have awarded their Capitol Caregiver Awards to several members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who were instrumental in passing legislation concerning caregivers during the 2019 legislative session. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were postponed from March 31 to July 8 and the presentation was held as a virtual event.

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) were recognized for supporting legislation (2019-0031A / 2019-H 5909A) that establishes the Supported Decision-Making Act, which is a less restrictive alternative to guardianship for utilization of the probate courts.

Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) were honored for sponsoring the Family Caregiver Support Act (2019-S 0294 / 2019-H 5867) which requires annual reports to track the number of caregiver assessments given as part of the assessments conducted for Medicaid long term services and supports the creation of a family caregiver support association by the division of elderly affairs.

Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and Representative Casimiro received the award for sponsoring legislation (2019-S 0438 / 2019-H 5385) that increased respite care funding from $140,000 to $325,000 in the state budget.

Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) were presented with the award for their sponsorship of legislation (2019-S 0845A / 2019-H 6114A) which requires that all persons seeking appointment as a limited guardian or guardian of adults be required to undergo a criminal background check.

7/9/2020RepSen. Michael McCaffrey; Sen. Maryellen Goodwin; Sen. Adam Satchell; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Sen. Walter Felag; Rep. Julie A. Casimiro; Rep. Robert Craven; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #106; #104; #201; #208; #112; #237; #189; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3709857/9/2020 3:34 PMSystem Account7/9/2020 3:34 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The sponsors of legislation to protect access to birth control in Rhode Island railed against today’s Supreme Court decision allowing some employers to claim a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing coverage.

The Supreme Court today issued a 7-2 decision siding with the Trump administration, saying the administration acted within its authority when it changed an Affordable Care Act rule to allow companies and organizations to cite a religious or moral objection to refuse to cover birth control in their health care plans, without providing any alternative means for coverage.

Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian said today’s decision puts women’s health at risk, and opens the door for many employers right here in Rhode Island to interfere with their female employees’ reproductive health. The decision adds urgency to the need to enact their legislation protecting birth control access at the state level, they said.

“A woman’s right to reproductive freedom is personal. It’s unfathomable that, in 2020, our country is saying it’s OK for her boss at work, or her husband or partner’s boss, to make that decision for her. The federal government has shown that it has no interest in protecting the rights of women, so states must take their own action to prevent an enormous step backwards in reproductive health and freedom, and in maintaining the progress we’ve made in preventing unintended pregnancies,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).

Said Representative Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), “All women deserve access to safe, effective birth control to protect their health, their choices and their futures. Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support women’s reproductive freedom. On their behalf, we urge our leaders and colleagues in the General Assembly to take swift action to pass our legislation to enact the protection at the state level so women in our communities can continue to stay in control of their health care decisions.”  

Senator Euer and Representative Kazarian are the sponsors of legislation (2020-S 2390/2020-H 7987) to enact the birth control coverage protections originally included in the federal ACA at the state level, including restrictions on cost-sharing by patients, requiring plans to cover all FDA-approved contraception drugs, products and sterilization procedures.
7/8/2020RepSen. Dawn Euer; Rep. Katherine Kazarian; #244; #194; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would make treatment for rare diseases more accessible and affordable.

The legislation (2020-H 8078) would create the Rhode Island Rare Disease Medication Accessibility, Affordability and Reinsurance Act, which would provide for establishment of the rare disease medication reinsurance program to be funded by insurer contributions.

“Patients with rare fatal or debilitating diseases have been given new hope because of technological advances in medical research,” said Representative McNamara, “But the cost of those treatments can be exceedingly high, and the rareness of the conditions can compound those costs, leading to financial trouble for individuals, employers and insurers. Sometimes these organizations have no choice but to drop coverage of these expensive treatments all together. This bill would facilitate coverage and fair financing by allocating the costs for those medications as broadly as possible.”

The program would be administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services based on recommendations from a 15-member advisory council. The bill would authorize the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to administer a fund to pay for a portion of the coverage by collecting funds from payers as broadly as possible, based on estimated costs, and distributing the funds to any insurer, plan, or program that paid for a patient to be treated with one of the identified drugs. The bill would not create any new financial liability for the state.
 
Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare, is a longtime advocate of patients’ rights. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed his bill (2020-H 7266) that would allow chronically ill patients to obtain experimental drugs that have not yet been federally approved but which may be in the final stages of FDA testing.
7/8/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3709837/8/2020 1:25 PMSystem Account7/8/2020 1:25 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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State House, ProvidenceRhode Island House and Senate Republicans unanimously stand with Lt. Governor Dan McKee and RI small business coalitions across the state, calling on Governor Raimondo to immediately allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds to help save Rhode Island’s struggling small and micro business enterprises. An online petition has launched, urging the State to allocate at least 10% of the $125B Cares Act funding for small business grants.
 
“This money isn’t a slush fund for the Governor to give no-bid contracts to her financial supporters and friends,” said Minority Whip Michael Chippendale, referring to the recently discovered $2M no-bid Boston consultant fee procured by Governor Raimondo. “The funding was created for RI Small and Micro Businesses that are struggling greatly under this current crisis.”

A clause within the act specifically outlines how states can allocate these funds to help small businesses affected by the pandemic. States like New Hampshire, Alaska, Wisconsin, Mississippi and others have already leveraged this clause, some allocating up to $400M in funds for their small business community. 

“We must save our mom and pop businesses. They are the backbone of our local economy in providing jobs and tax revenues,” said State Representative and small business owner, George Nardone. “Many Rhode Island family livelihoods are at stake.”

“It is time to make our small business community a priority,” said Senator Jessica de la Cruz. “Communities all across our state are suffering due to the loss in revenues generated from the abrupt cut off of commerce.”

Dozens of long-standing Rhode Island businesses have already closed their doors due to the financial strains the COVID restrictions placed on small and micro business operations.

“It is unconscionable that the Governor would hold back these designated relief funds from small business owners who desperately need the help now,” said House Republican Leader Blake Filippi. “We promise to do everything in our power to get this funding out to our small business community – with the goal of giving a much needed boost to our economy.”
 
“The stress of being ignored by our Government leaders, first by only allowing box stores to maintain their businesses during the pandemic shutdown, and now, the burden of trying to stay afloat during partial openings, is beyond belief for any business owner,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi, a former owner of multiple small businesses in the State of Rhode Island. “Small and micro businesses employ over 200,000 Rhode Islanders – we are in big trouble if these businesses are not sustained. We are proud to join the Lt. Governor’s effort to recognize this need in our struggling economy.”
 
“Through no fault of their own, small business owners have been thrust into massive amounts of debt during the pandemic closures,” said Senator Thomas Paolino.  “We owe them a bit of relief for their sacrifices to keep us all safe.”
 
“We need to join other states in prioritizing resources to reenergize our local economy,” said Representative Jack Lyle, Jr. “Let’s for once put RI at the top of a national list and be recognized as a leader, by helping out small businesses with assistance grants to pay the mounting bills greatly impacted by COVID, such as mortgages, maintaining inventory, and taxes.”
 
“The financial debt will continue to mount, despite the partial openings,” said Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere. “The slow-to-build customer flow is going to persist in impacting our small businesses in the months ahead.”
 
“The remedy is simple,” said Representative Justin Price. “It is time for the Governor to stop withholding this important lifeline for our small businesses and use these funds for their intended purposes.  The fact that we have waited this long to start a RI small business grant relief program is unfathomable.”
 
Members of the RI House and Senate Republican Caucuses have long been the voice of the small and micro business community at the State House.  In 2019, the House and Senate Republican Caucuses fought for the statutory reduction in the state sales tax from 7% to 6.5%; introduced legislation exempting virtual currency from taxation; and championed small business assistance with the raised federal tax, which passed into statute.  The House and Senate GOP also successfully rallied against proposed new taxes and fees for funeral homes, hotels, hunting or shooting ranges, interior design businesses and commercial building services; and exempted natural hair braiders from a requirement for licensure. During the abbreviated 2020 session, House and Senate Republicans championed a reduction in the corporate sales tax from $400 to $250; supported the Real Jobs RI Program; introduced the “Freedom to Travel and Work Act,” which creates a regulatory framework to accept out-of-state professional business licenses to work in Rhode Island; and actively campaigned against the proposal to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would have raised the gas tax, making the cost of doing business in RI more expensive.
 
 
 
To join House and Senate Republicans in signing the petition, please visit https://www.change.org/p/office-of-governor-gina-raimondo-governor-raimondo-allocate-federal-covid-19-relief-funds-to-save-ri-small-businesses-now
 
 

7/7/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Sen. Dennis Algiere; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Sen. Jessica de la Cruz; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Sen. Thomas J. Paolino; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; Rep. Justin Price; #218; #84; #169; #251; #262; #238; #230; #253; #219; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on Education will be meeting tomorrow, July 9 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on FY 2021 education related budget articles.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

The committee will hear testimony on the following budget items:
 The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No in-person public testimony will be taken nor will the meeting be open to the public.  Public testimony will be accepted in two different ways. 

Written testimony is encouraged and should be submitted to cobrien@rilegislature.gov.

For those who would prefer the option to provide verbal testimony please send an email to cobrien@rilegislature.gov with the following information:
 
  • Bill # (or specific topic) you are testifying on
  • For/Against
  • Your Name and Phone number (to be reached for your testimony)
  • Affiliation: (if any)
  • *Deadline to request verbal testimony is Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 11a.m.
Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HFIN.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the hearing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

7/8/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – In advance of reconvening the week of July 13, both chambers of the General Assembly have scheduled hearings next week.

For further details, please click on the links below.

Tuesday, July 7
  • The House Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 35 to consider authorization of municipal bonds for Cranston, Newport, Warwick and Burrillville.
  • The Senate Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearing on elements of the 2021 state budget bill.
  • The House Judiciary Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge to consider several bills, including:
    • 2020-H 8077 — Sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), this bill would put a question on November’s ballot asking voters whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name.
    • 2020-H 7541A/2020-S 2136B — Sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this legislation updates the state’s laws establishing parentage so they include all types of parents, including  LGBTQ parents.
    • 2020-H 7947 — Sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
    • 2020-H 7896 — Sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), this bill would require that electors that cast emergency ballots in the 12 day period prior to any election day sign an electronic pollbook giving a reason why they cannot get to the polls and vote be cast immediately into a voting machine.
 Wednesday, July 8

  • The House Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 35 for hearings on elements of the 2021 state budget bill and legislation (2020-H 7624) sponsored by Representative Slater to establish minimum staffing standards for quality care at nursing homes.
  • The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 313 to consider the confirmation of David Spinella as Chief Hearing Officer in the Division of Administrative Adjudication in the Department of Environmental Management and a bill (2020-S 2504) sponsored by committee Chairwoman Susan V. Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) amending the maximum allowable capacity for net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District and Pascoag Utility District.
  • The Senate Labor Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the annual bill to update workers’ compensation (2020-S 2915), sponsored by Labor Committee Chairman Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence).
  • The House Labor Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge for a hearing on the annual bill to update workers’ compensation (2020-H 8085), sponsored by Labor Committee Chairwoman Williams.
 
Thursday, July 9


  • The Senate Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearings on elements of the 2021 state budget bill, the confirmation of Rebeka Mazzone to the Industrial Recreational Building Authority, and hearings on several municipal bond authorizations for Cranston.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 313 to consider the confirmation of  Louis DeSimone Jr. to the Board of Elections and several bills, including:
    • 2020-S 2824 — Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
    • 2020-S 2598 — Sponsored by committee Chairwoman Lynch Prata, this bill would require that electors that cast emergency ballots in the 12 day period prior to any election day sign an electronic pollbook giving a reason why they cannot get to the polls and vote be cast immediately into a voting machine.
  • The House Municipal Government meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge for hearings on municipal bond authorizations for Pawtucket, South Kingstown, Tiverton and Cranston.
 
The House is expected to reconvene for session on Thursday, July 16, and the Senate expects to reconvene sometime the same week.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions and hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman in the House at lberman@rilegislature.gov and Greg Paré in the Senate at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

7/3/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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NoYesApproved3709807/3/2020 3:16 PMSystem Account7/3/2020 3:16 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) introduced a House resolution (2020-H 8027) honoring United States Army First Lieutenant Robert T. Waugh, a Rhode Island native and the recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service during World War II. 

“First Lieutenant Waugh was born in Cumberland and he received our nation’s highest military honor due to his heroic and incredible actions during World War II.  It is only fitting that his home state recognize his courageous actions that resulted in a great turning point for the Allies during the war.  First Lieutenant Waugh and all of Rhode Island’s military service members deserve all of our thanks and gratitude for their dedication and sacrifices in order to keep us safe and free,” said Representative Marszalkowski.

At a battle at the Gustav Line, a heavily fortified German defensive line in Italy that was defended by fifteen German Divisions, First Lieutenant Waugh destroyed six bunkers, two pillboxes, and was personally responsible for numerous enemy fatalities and the capture of 25 others. He was credited for inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue fighting on under dire conditions, and played a vital role in the ultimate breaking of the Gustav Line. 

For his heroic service to our nation in Italy during World War II, First Lieutenant Waugh received the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor “For his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy.”

Tragically, on May 19, 1944, Second Lieutenant Robert T. Waugh perished in service to our nation when he was hit by shrapnel. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and is buried in Italy. On the 15th Anniversary of the Gustav Line battles and the creation of this cemetery, President Bill Clinton visited First Lieutenant Robert Waugh’s gravesite.

6/30/2020RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), Speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives, and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) have announced that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, working in conjunction with National Grid will be completing the resurfacing of a portion of Potter Hill Road in Westerly.

In the last two years, National Grid has been replacing the gas lines in the road, which resulted in piecemeal asphalt patches on the road surface. While National Grid is required to resurface half the road from the center line to the curb, the lawmakers worked with them and RIDOT to pursue a more cost-effective manner of resurfacing the road.

“Senator Algiere and I worked together with DOT to get an agreement to resurface the road from the Hopkinton town line in Potter Hill to Nichols Lane before funding ran out,” said Representative Kennedy. “Since then, we have been working with DOT to identify additional funding to complete the resurfacing project from Nichols Lane to the Intersection of High and Canal streets.”

“The new funding has been approved by DOT and the remaining repaving will take place in July,” said Senator Algiere. “Whenever there are infrastructure projects, it’s important to coordinate the plans so all the different parties — the state, the town, and utility companies — are all on the same page. Having the whole road resurfaced at once instead of in a piecemeal fashion is much better economically and aesthetically.”
6/29/2020SenRep. Brian Kennedy; Sen. Dennis Algiere; #13; #84; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3709776/29/2020 2:46 PMSystem Account6/29/2020 2:46 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – A special legislative task force will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate today.

The task force is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The resolution (2020-S 2867) calls for the task force to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies.

The 13-member task force is to  include three senators, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (who plans to serve in person rather than send a designee), the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police or a designee, a police chief of a Rhode Island law enforcement agency, the executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or a designee, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Providence Branch or a designee, the President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO or a designee, the executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University or a designee, one of whom shall be the executive director of the Providence External Review Authority or a designee and two members of the public.

“I’m encouraged by the many calls I have received seeking a seat on the commission, and people’s willingness to testify and participate,” said Senator Metts.

Senator Metts said bringing the proper balance of voices is his goal. He is determined that, with many stakeholders at the table, the task force can take an honest look at the system and its effects and propose improvements.

The resolution sets a reporting date for the task force of Feb. 9, 2021.
6/18/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
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A special legislative task force will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate.


NoYesApproved3709616/18/2020 8:11 PMSystem Account6/29/2020 1:04 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,703
  
STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law a 2020 supplemental budget bill, passed by legislators last week, that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill (2020-H 7170Aaa), which passed the House 60-13 and the Senate 31-7 on June 18, makes use of additional federal funding provided to the state to help it weather the pandemic, as well as taking $120 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to make up for revenue losses approaching $300 million. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in new unemployment claims, most of which is covered by federal funds.

“The COVID crisis devastated our economy and the lost revenues placed tremendous stress on the current year budget, forcing us to make many tough choices in order to balance our books by June 30.  Despite these difficult times, however, we reconfirmed our commitment to education, ensuring local schools have nearly $10 million more in resources than they were expecting. Once we receive further guidance on additional federal assistance to all states, we will work to enact a responsible budget for the next fiscal year with the appropriate investments in education aid, municipal assistance and programs to strengthen our economy,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). 

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “This supplemental budget memorializes the spending of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funds, as well as the state’s response to help Rhode Islanders weather this pandemic. We are eagerly awaiting decisions from Congress on our federal assistance for the next fiscal year, and are optimistic that it will enable Rhode Island to maintain the progress we have made on taxation and continue investing in fundamentals like education, roads and bridges and a strong safety net while we work on fully reopening, rebuilding and strengthening our economy.”

The bill distributes $50 million of the state’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to school districts, weighted toward those with high concentrations of low-income students. This funding is in addition to $41.7 million already earmarked by Congress for schools in the CARES Act funding, which the budget assumes will replace part of the state’s obligations to local school districts.

To address the budget shortfall, the bill shifts about $35 million in personnel costs to the federal CARES Act funding for state employees whose duties shifted to pandemic response. Similarly, state higher education institutions will receive $29.5 million of CARES Act funding, allowing the state to reduce its support by $15 million.

The bill reallocated unspent funds from some agencies, including $17.8 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, $300,000 in unspent funds from Department of Environmental Management bond issues, $500,000 from forfeited assets collected by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and $15 million from the Rebuild RI tax credit program.

Part of the state’s budget gap is attributable to a billing and compliance issues at the Eleanor Slater
Hospital. From August until February, the hospital was not in compliance with federal Medicaid rules, and that other patients could not be billed through Medicaid or Medicare as expected, resulting in $50.1 million in revenue losses that had to be accounted for in the supplemental budget. Unresolved prior billing issues account for another $14.6 million. The state could face an additional $12.2 million in costs if the Executive Office of Health and Human Services does not meet a June 30 deadline to address the billing issue.

Overall, the supplemental budget increases the state budget from $9.97 billion to $11.79 billion, largely as a result of the expenditure of federal funding, most of which has already occurred.

The supplemental budget addresses the current fiscal year. Typically, lawmakers address current-year budget gaps in the budget bill for the next fiscal year, but the state is awaiting federal action on additional relief for states. Lawmakers are expected to return to the State House this summer to address the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 after the federal funding level is known.
6/24/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The governor has signed into law a 2020 supplemental budget bill, passed by legislators last week, that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
YesYesApproved3709756/25/2020 9:58 AMSystem Account6/25/2020 10:02 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,690
  
STATE HOUSE  — The Senate voted unanimously today in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to ask voters in November whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.

Because the name change requires a constitutional change, it must be approved by the voters to take effect.

Senator Metts, along with Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), led the drive to change the state’s name a decade ago as well. In 2009, he sponsored the Senate version of the resolution that placed a similar question on the 2010 General Election ballot. The question was defeated by the voters, but Senator Metts believes the time has come to ask the public again.

 “A decade has passed since the public was asked this question. Attitudes may have changed substantially, even in the past few years — and even in the past few weeks,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation.”

He continued, “The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us. Not unlike the debate over the Confederate flag, retaining the term does nothing to memorialize history but conjures an unnecessary and painful reminder of our racist past.”

The senator noted that his own church, Congdon Street Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, was demolished by its white neighbors on Meeting Street in Providence before it was rebuilt in its current location. His own maternal lineage can be traced back to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, according his great, great aunt, Bertha Hawkins-Cooper, who lived to be 106 years old.

“Making this change would pay some respect to our ancestors who were forced into slavery, and would stop serving as a constant reminder to present-day Rhode Islanders of our painful past,” he said.

The joint resolution (2020-S 2902aa) now goes to the House of Representatives, which also must approve in order for the question to be placed on the ballot. Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) introduced companion legislation (2020-H 8077) in that chamber today.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist 2, Providence), President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D–Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D–Dist. 1, Providence). 
 

6/18/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
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The Senate voted unanimously today in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to ask voters in November whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.
NoYesApproved3709626/18/2020 8:17 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 10:00 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,681
  
Supplemental budget, limited other bills to be voted on
 
The House and Senate are planning to hold session Wednesday and Thursday to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year as well as a limited number of other bills. 

The FY20 supplemental budget bill would address the approximately $235 million shortfall in the current-year budget that must be addressed before the end of the fiscal year June 30. The bill addresses only the budget shortfall, no new policy initiatives. The House and Senate Finance committees have held several hearings in recent weeks assessing the shortfall and potential solutions.

The House Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday to consider amendments to the supplemental budget bill (2020-H 7170), which was introduced in January. The amendments, which will be posted on the General Assembly website by Monday at 3 p.m., are to address updated budget conditions.

The House will meet Wednesday to address a limited number of other bills, and again Thursday to consider the supplemental budget bill.

The Senate has scheduled session Wednesday for consideration of appointments as well as limited other bills, and Thursday for consideration of the amended supplemental budget bill, which is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

The General Assembly is expected to return to session at a later date to address the FY21 budget. Proceedings on that bill have been delayed to account for information on federal funding related to COVID-19, expected to be known in July.

 
The schedule for the week will be:
MONDAY, JUNE 15:
  • The House Municipal Government Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in the House Lounge to consider bills. Testimony may be submitted to dhuntley@rilegislature.gov.
  • The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge for a discussion about the COVID-19 public health crisis with Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The agenda will include a resolution sponsored by Senator Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) to establish a Senate task force examining the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. Additionally, the committee will hear a pair of bills submitted on behalf of Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office related to the Hospital Conversion Act and civil investigative demands in instances of violations of civil rights, as well as routine bills related to solemnization of marriage. Testimony may be submitted to at slegislation@rilegislature.gov.
 
TUESDAY, JUNE 16
  • The House Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in Room 35 to consider the amended supplemental budget bill. Testimony may be submitted to cobrien@rilegislature.gov.
  • The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 4 p.m.in the Senate Lounge to review revisions to the supplemental budget proposal. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee will hear and/or consider legislation requested by the League of Cities & Towns pertaining to local budget operations during a state of emergency, as well as local bills and a treasury appointment. Testimony may be submitted to slegislation@rilegislature.gov.
                                                                                                                             
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17
  • The House will meet at 3 p.m. to consider bills that have been approved by the House Finance, Judiciary and Municipal Government committees.  The floor calendar will be posted on Monday. 
  • The Senate will meet at 4 p.m. to consider appointments and matters passed by the Senate committees over the past several weeks.
 
THURSDAY, JUNE 18
 
  • The House will meet at 3 p.m. to consider the supplemental budget, assuming approval by the Finance Committee on Tuesday. The House will stand ready to receive matters from the Senate.  
  •  The Senate will meet at 5 p.m. to consider the revised supplemental budget proposal and additional business from the House.
The sessions and hearing will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Due to COVID-19, the State House remains closed to the public, so only legislators, staff, members of the news media and visitors on official business are permitted into the building.

Plexiglass enclosures are being installed to shield the front and sides of each legislator’s desk. While members are not being required to wear masks while in their desk enclosures, they are being required to wear them elsewhere in the building and are being asked to practice safe social distancing. They are also being encouraged to watch the proceedings in offices throughout the building during longer debates and to return to the chamber to vote or speak. Enhanced sanitization of work areas is being performed.

6/12/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Supplemental budget, limited other bills to be voted on
 
The House and Senate are planning to hold session Wednesday and Thursday to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year as well as a limited number of other bills. 


NoYesApproved3709526/12/2020 4:26 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 9:59 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,692
  
STATE HOUSE – With votes in both chambers today, legislators approved a supplemental budget that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will now go to the governor’s desk.

The bill (2020-H 7170Aaa), which passed the House 60-13 and the Senate 31-7, makes use of additional federal funding provided to the state to help it weather the pandemic, as well as taking $120 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to make up for revenue losses approaching $300 million. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in new unemployment claims, most of which is covered by federal funds.

“The COVID crisis devastated our economy and the lost revenues placed tremendous stress on the current year budget, forcing us to make many tough choices in order to balance our books by June 30.  Despite these difficult times, however, we reconfirmed our commitment to education, ensuring local schools have nearly $10 million more in resources than they were expecting. Once we receive further guidance on additional federal assistance to all states, we will work to enact a responsible budget for the next fiscal year with the appropriate investments in education aid, municipal assistance and programs to strengthen our economy,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). 

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “This supplemental budget memorializes the spending of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funds, as well as the state’s response to help Rhode Islanders weather this pandemic. We are eagerly awaiting decisions from Congress on our federal assistance for the next fiscal year, and are optimistic that it will enable Rhode Island to maintain the progress we have made on taxation and continue investing in fundamentals like education, roads and bridges and a strong safety net while we work on fully reopening, rebuilding and strengthening our economy.”

The bill distributes $50 million of the state’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to school districts, weighted toward those with high concentrations of low-income students. This funding is in addition to $41.7 million already earmarked by Congress for schools in the CARES Act funding, which the budget assumes will replace part of the state’s obligations to local school districts.

To address the budget shortfall, the bill shifts about $35 million in personnel costs to the federal CARES Act funding for state employees whose duties shifted to pandemic response. Similarly, state higher education institutions will receive $29.5 million of CARES Act funding, allowing the state to reduce its support by $15 million.

The bill reallocated unspent funds from some agencies, including $17.8 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, $300,000 in unspent funds from Department of Environmental Management bond issues, $500,000 from forfeited assets collected by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and $15 million from the Rebuild RI tax credit program.

Part of the state’s budget gap is attributable to a billing and compliance issues at the Eleanor Slater Hospital. From August until February, the hospital was not in compliance with federal Medicaid rules, and that other patients could not be billed through Medicaid or Medicare as expected, resulting in $50.1 million in revenue losses that had to be accounted for in the supplemental budget. Unresolved prior billing issues account for another $14.6 million. The state could face an additional $12.2 million in costs if the Executive Office of Health and Human Services does not meet a June 30 deadline to address the billing issue.

Overall, the supplemental budget increases the state budget from $9.97 billion to $11.79 billion, largely as a result of the expenditure of federal funding, most of which has already occurred.

The supplemental budget passed today addresses the current fiscal year. Typically, lawmakers address current-year budget gaps in the budget bill for the next fiscal year, but the state is awaiting federal action on additional relief for states. Lawmakers are expected to return to the State House this summer to address the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 after the federal funding level is known.

Legislators amended the bill today to extend the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program for another year through June 2021, and enable the Department of State to move the state archives from its current location in leased space on Westminster Street in Providence to more accessible, larger and more usable leased space on Broad Street.

6/18/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
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With votes in both chambers today, legislators approved a supplemental budget that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will now go to the governor’s desk.


NoYesApproved3709646/18/2020 9:06 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 9:59 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,702
  
STATE HOUSE – The decision to remove “and Plantations” from all official state documents should be left to the voters, Senator Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), said today – and not be done by executive order.

“I support putting this question to the voters on November’s ballot,” Morgan said. “But to do this by executive order gives the impression that the governor does not trust Rhode Islanders to decide for themselves.”
Just as important, Morgan said, is the cost the state is facing by discarding all official stationery, citations, paychecks and more that have “and Plantations” on them.

“We are facing a historic deficit,” Morgan said. “I would like to see a fiscal note that explains just how much making this change immediately is costing Rhode Island taxpayers. Why are we throwing all these resources away when we can simply replace it with the name change once the supply is exhausted and we reorder?” "Wasting resources with a looming deficit is irresponsible." Morgan said.
6/23/2020SenSen. Elaine J.  Morgan; #209; Katie Haughey Cardoza
15
NoApproved
NoYesApproved3709746/23/2020 4:25 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,686
  
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns.

The legislation, which now heads to the governor’s desk, is meant to help eliminate weapons that skirt protect public safety protections. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has publicly indicated her intent to sign it into law.

“Ghost guns, 3-D printed guns and undetectable plastic guns can easily facilitate criminal activity because they totally bypass the safeguards that protect the public. Our state laws should be very clear that possessing, creating or selling them is a criminal act, and we should be doing everything we can to keep these dangerous weapons from proliferating here,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

Said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), “While I am a strong proponent of people’s right to bear arms, these devices simply lack the safety, reliability and accountability of conventional firearms and have become a menace to society.”

The legislation (2020-S 2004B, 2020-H 7102Aaa) prohibits anyone from manufacturing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing, possessing, or having under his or her control any firearm that is made from plastic, fiberglass or through a 3-D printing process; or a ghost gun — one that lacks a serial number under the requirements of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968; or one that would be undetectable by a metal detector after removal of all parts other than a major component, or whose major component would not generate an accurate image if subjected to the type of screening equipment used at airports and public buildings.

The bill sets a punishment for violations at up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, and is enforceable 30 days after it becomes law.

The legislation is supported by Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, the State Police, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and Rhode Island Moms Demand Action.

Regardless of lawsuits, federal decisions and restraining orders preventing their original authors from posting them online, blueprints for 3-D printed firearms remain available over the Internet, allowing those with access to a 3-D printer to create an untraceable plastic gun.

Banning 3-D printed guns was one of the recommendations made in 2018 by the Rhode Island Working Group for Gun Safety, a 43-member task force that was assembled following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

6/17/2020RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns.
NoYesApproved3709586/17/2020 6:29 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 4:09 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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