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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has reintroduced legislation (2020-H 7330) that would terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault.

Representative O’Brien notes that 28 other states in the country have a similar law on the books.
“Sadly, this is still a tragic issue in our society and that is why I reintroduced this legislation again this session.  Survivors of rape and their children should be free of the fear of being sued by their attacker for child custody,” said Representative O’Brien.  “Rapists operate out of hate and are incapable of providing the love that a child needs, therefore, they should not have any rights pertaining to that child.”

Representative O’Brien’s legislation would apply when the parent has been convicted of sexual assault upon the birthmother and a child results from the sexual assault.  After a fact finding hearing by the Family Court establishes the paternity of the child through DNA testing, the father’s parental rights would be terminated by order of the court.

Termination of the convicted father’s parental rights will include the loss of all parental rights without limitation, including the adoption of the child.  The convicted father will also have no right to any visitation with the child and will have no right to any inheritance from the child conceived as a result of the sexual assault.

“Unfortunately, many of these devious individuals sue for custody, even though they have no chance at winning the case.  These vile perpetrators do this to relive the rape and to further harass their victims.  This bill will put an end to this heinous practice,” added Representative O’Brien.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

1/29/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has reintroduced legislation (2020-H 7330) that would terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault.



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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear a proposal tomorrow for a pilot program to create “harm reduction centers” to help prevent drug overdose deaths, and another bill to prohibit health insurers from charging customers more because of their gender.

The committee meets tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 30, at the rise of the Senate session (sometime after 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

Among the bills on the committee’s calendar are:
  • 2020-S 2128 — Sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), this bill would create a pilot program of supervised facilities for drug users, staffed by health care professionals who could help in cases of overdose and make treatment referrals.
  • 2020-S 2125 —  Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), this bill prohibits insurance companies from varying the premium rates charged for a health coverage plan based on the gender of the individual policy holder, enrollee, subscriber, or member.

1/29/2020SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Jason Knight has introduced legislation aimed at reducing onerous licensing requirements and fees targeting one of Rhode Island’s most ubiquitous small businesses: hair salons.

“Salons are the some of the small businesses that can still thrive on Main Street in just about every town. They are valuable employers and taxpayers and provide necessary services. Our state would benefit from cutting down on the fees and red tape for them, because the state does better when small businesses can survive,” said Representative Knight.

The legislation (2020-H 7112) eliminates a $170 shop licensing fee that barber shops, hair salons and those who rent stations in them must pay annually. The bill would also eliminate some of pretexts by which an applicant can be denied a hairdressing license, to prevent discrimination and denials for illegitimate reasons.

“Hairdressers and salons are subject to an enormous regulatory burden. Everyone working in a salon already has to renew their hairdresser, barber, manicurist or esthetician license every year. Shop licenses are a totally separate, additional license with a $170 fee, and they have to be paid not only by the owner, but also by every person in the shop who is renting a station, and paid again if they change locations,” said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren). “These requirements are onerous. Hair dressers shouldn’t need a special license just to use their hairdressing license inside a shop. Salons are mostly mom-and-pop businesses, and our state shouldn’t be making business so hard for them.”

Representative Knight said he was made aware of the salon owner licensing fee by a salon owner in his district.

Besides eliminating the shop license, the bill eliminates a section of the law that allows a hairdressing license to be denied unless the applicant “is of good moral character.”

“This restriction is outdated and represents antiquated views about who should and should not be allowed to participate in the economy. Today, every Rhode Islander deserves the chance to put their skills to work and the government should not be throwing up arbitrary burdens to their success,” said Representative Knight.

Representative Knight introduced the bill Jan. 15. It is cosponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep, Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence).

1/29/2020RepRep. Jason Knight; #241; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Education is scheduled to meet today to consider several appointments to the Board of Trustees of the University of Rhode Island, which require the advice and consent of the Senate.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The appointments include Charles J. Fogarty, Matthew Lenz, Roby Luna, Michael McNally, Vahid Ownjazayeri, Yahaira Placencia and Armand E. Sabitoni.

The Senate Committee on Education is chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

1/29/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will this Thursday to hear testimony on a variety of legislation.

On Thursday, January 30 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear and/or consider the following pieces of legislation:
  • 2020-S 2083, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), changes the definition of "elder person" for purposes of exploitation of elders from a person 65 years of age or older to a person 60 years of age or older.
  • 2020-S 2087, sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), prohibits the inclusion of noncompete agreements in broadcast industry employment contracts that are entered into after January 1, 2021.
  • 2020-S 2139, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), precludes a parent's disability from serving as the sole basis for the state to institute an investigation of the disabled parent's family.

1/29/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Labor Committee will be meeting today, Wednesday, January 29 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 4:45 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge of the State House to hear and/or consider legislation to address the state’s minimum wage.

The bill (2020-S 2147A), sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), increases the minimum wage gradually up to $15.00 per hour by the year 2024. A proposed amendment to the bill, or Substitute A, would increase the minimum wage by $1, from $10.50 to $11.50, as of October 1, 2020.

1/29/2020SenSen. Frank Ciccone; #77; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — A special Senate commission tasked with studying Rhode Island’s education funding formula has released its findings and recommendations.

Based on testimony received during five public hearings, the Task Force recommends both near-term and long-term solutions. Near-term recommendations are areas where action can be taken in the 2020 legislative session, while long-term recommendations will require additional work by stakeholders before final legislative enactment.

“We owe it to students to act as swiftly as possible,” wrote task force chairman Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) in the reports foreword. “Every year resources are not available is a year they lose academically. Our education system has the power to ensure a better future for not only our students of today, but all Rhode Islanders. A strong education system leads to a stronger economy, improved economic and social prosperity, and, importantly, hope for all in our state.”

The task force’s 15 findings and recommendations range from tax treaties and enrollment changes to ELL and funding adjustments.

Click here to see the full report.

1/28/2020SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Raising Rhode Island Coalition tomorrow will kick off its campaign in support of legislation to be introduced by Sen. Melissa Murray and Rep. Michael A. Morin to increase the benefits paid to children and families in the Rhode Island Works program.

The event will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 3:30 p.m., in the State Library on the second floor of the State House.

In addition to Representative Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) and Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), the event will include Economic Progress Institute Policy Director Linda Katz, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Tonya Harris and a parent with experience in the Rhode Island Works program.

According to the Economic Progress Institute, Rhode Island has not increased the benefit level in Rhode Island Works in nearly 30 years, and the 4,000 families who rely on Rhode Island Works receive an average of $6 per person per day. The legislation aims to lift children and families out of deep poverty and on a path to better opportunities.

1/28/2020RepSen. Melissa A. Murray; Rep. Michael Morin; #263; #207; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The legislation will be narrowed to solely address pending litigation
 
STATE HOUSE – Revised legislation addressing separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing has bene posted for tomorrow. The proposed Substitute A’s scope focuses solely on the issue that is the subject of litigation, which is the requirement that department regulations must be approved by the legislature. House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who sponsored the companion bills in the House and Senate, said they expect to debate outstanding marijuana issues during the remainder of the session.

The companion bills, 2020-H 7013A and 2020-S 2006A, are scheduled for committee votes tomorrow at the Rise of the House and Senate in their respective Judiciary Committees.

Said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) in a joint statement: “For us, this bill was never about the merits of issues around the medical marijuana system in Rhode Island. This legislation was only about separation of powers issues. The fact is that the administration clearly overstepped their authority and attempted to legislate through their regulations. The proposed regulations include provisions that the Governor tried and failed to enact through the Legislature. To then turn around and put those provisions into regulations is an attempt to unconstitutionally skirt the legislative process. However, marijuana issues will be discussed throughout this legislative session. We believe that at this point the best path forward is to enact legislation that addresses the single regulatory approval issue that is the subject of the lawsuit, and we can consider related legislation separately.”

The amended, or “Sub A,” language will be posted on the committees’ agendas today (House Judiciary Committee posting; Senate Judiciary Committee posting). 

The proposal removes a provision in state law that regulations created by the executive branch are subject to the approval of the Legislature. The Governor filed a lawsuit contending that this provision violates separation of powers. Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio believe regulations subsequently proposed by the executive branch constitute a breach of separation of powers in their own right.

1/27/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Revised legislation addressing separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing has bene posted for tomorrow. The proposed Substitute A’s scope focuses solely on the issue that is the subject of litigation, which is the requirement that department regulations must be approved by the legislature. House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who sponsored the companion bills in the House and Senate, said they expect to debate outstanding marijuana issues during the remainder of the session.



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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would require witnesses offering testimony to General Assembly committees to be sworn in.

The bill (2020-H 7298) would require all witnesses who are representatives of a state department or agency appearing in their official capacity or any expert witness who is testifying before the General Assembly or any committee to be sworn before testifying. Anyone testifying falsely would be guilty of perjury before the General Assembly.

“The testimony we receive from experts and agents of state government is very serious,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Lawmakers rely on that testimony and the information we receive to make decisions about bills that will have a profound impact on the people of Rhode Island. It’s not just idle opinion, and it should be taken very seriously.”

Witnesses would be required to declare that they will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation.

Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), who cosponsored the bill, said, “Telling the truth the first time around always helps to better understand the situation and helps to properly resolve it in a timely, professional and respectful manner.  This bill will ensure such truth is presented to the committees, allowing the legislature to make informed decisions on the bills before us.”

The legislation, which is also cosponsored by Representatives Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) and David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
1/27/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3706981/27/2020 2:38 PMSystem Account1/27/2020 2:39 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — A special legislative task force charged with making a comprehensive study of the state’s education funding formula will convene Tuesday to discuss and adopt its final report.

The commission will meet Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

After opening remarks by the task force chairman, Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the commission will discuss a draft of its final report, and finally adopt the official version.

The commission was charged with making a comprehensive study of the funding formula and to report on its findings and recommendations to the Senate.

1/27/2020SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3706971/27/2020 11:56 AMSystem Account1/27/2020 11:56 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate is scheduled to vote on legislation that would ban 3-D printed guns during its session tomorrow.

The Senate is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in its chamber on the second floor of the State House.

The bill (2020-S 2004A), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3-D-printed firearms.

1/27/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85;
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NoYesApproved3706961/27/2020 11:53 AMSystem Account1/27/2020 11:54 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on January 28 after 4:30 pm on legislation introduced by Representative Susan Donovan.  The legislation attempts to protect the environment and wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air.

Balloons not only pose a significant threat to wildlife, they are a nuisance to commercial fishermen and cause dangerous power outages. Most recently on January 12 of this year, a stray mylar balloon caused a power outage that left over 2.500 customers without electricity.

All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as biodegradable end up as litter on our waterways and landscapes. Animals, attracted by their vibrant colors and shapes, mistake them for food causing injury or death to countless sea and land creatures each year. 

According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 737 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during its statewide cleanup in September 2018.  Dead sea creatures continually wash up on our shores, their stomachs filled with plastic debris or bodies tangled in the strings of released balloons.

The bill (2020-H 7261), which is modeled after legislation proposed in New Jersey, would prohibit any intentional release of balloons, except for scientific or meteorological purposes with government permission, hot air balloon launches and indoor releases. Each violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 per offense, although releases of multiple balloons at once would be considered a single offense.

The bill has widespread support from environmental groups across Rhode Island and Fishermen’s Associations.  Norbert Stamps, who supports the legislation, is Vice President of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, Executive Board member of the Commercial Fishermen’s Research Foundation, Board Member of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine and past president of the RI Lobstermen’s Association.

In 2018, the New Shoreham Town Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of balloons on Block Island as a means of addressing this issue. Representative Donovan’s bill would not prohibit balloon sales, only the outdoor release of balloons.

1/27/2020RepRep. Susan R. Donovan; #242; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3706941/27/2020 11:04 AMSystem Account1/27/2020 11:17 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony and potentially vote on legislation relating to plastic bag use.

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the rise of the Senate (about 5 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the Plastic Waste Reduction Act (2020-S 2003), introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), that would reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

1/27/2020SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to vote on three bills and to hear testimony on several other different pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, January 28 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the Judiciary Committee will consider a bill (2020-H 7013), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), which establishes certain limitations on regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation in regard to medical marijuana.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7102A), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), which prohibits the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3D printed firearms.

The last bill (2020-H 7103A) to be considered by the committee, sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), would provide that applications to purchase certain firearms be sent by the seller of the firearm to the police department of the city or town in which the purchaser of the firearms has his or her residence and would provide for the use of electronic mail in the forwarding of the application.

On Wednesday, January 29 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 205 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following pieces of legislation:
  • 2020-H 7086, sponsored by Representative Serpa, enables innocent persons who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime to petition the presiding justice of the superior court for an award of compensation and damages.
  • 2020-H 7148, sponsored by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), creates the Joint Committee of the Repealer to compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations, and executive orders received from citizens, businesses, and government agencies.
  • 2020-H 7210, sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), prohibits any development of land contiguous to the State House unless approved by the General Assembly.
  • 2020-H 7092, sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), allows a person who has been convicted on the basis, in whole or in part, on scientific evidence that has been found or otherwise determined to be discredited by the scientific community, eligible to seek post-conviction relief on that ground.

1/27/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, January 28 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on a bill that relates to the state’s motion picture production tax credit program.

The bill (2020-H 7247), sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), authorizes the film office director to waive the primary locations within the state requirement for any feature film or television production spending a minimum of $10,000,000 in qualified expenditures.

1/27/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear several bills related to schools, including two on the funding of school field trips.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on legislation (2020-H 7069) introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) that would allow a school district to assess or request a contribution of money from a student or the student's parent or legal guardian to pay, in whole or in part, for the cost of district-sponsored field trips, dances, and clubs.

The committee will also hear testimony on a bill (2020-H 7043) submitted by House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry) that would allow parents to be asked for funding of school sponsored field trips as long as the district provides funding to any student whose family cannot afford the trip.

The committee will also hear testimony on the following bills
  • 2020-H 7048 — This bill, introduced by Rep. John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence), would require the Department of Education to develop and make available for school use a mental health curriculum. Schools would be required to provide four hours of mental health instruction to seventh grade students.
  • 2020-H 7071 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), would direct the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a review and revision of the statewide bullying policy.
  • 2020-H 7111 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), would provide that every superintendent of schools creates an annual report on the progress and status of academic achievement of foster care youth.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

1/27/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) has issued the following statement:

We all must take action to protect our environment. After decades of inaction, we now need dramatic changes we need to in order to secure a future for our children and future generations on our precious planet. I also know that, as human beings, we sometimes have a difficult time addressing large, even existential, problems like the climate crisis.  However, we all must, and we must act at all levels – international, national, regional, state, local and individual.

As individuals, we can change our habits, conserve water and energy, compost, get energy audits for our homes, install solar panels, buy renewable energy, carpool, bike, and more.

On a local level, we can read and work toward fulfilling Providence’s Climate Justice Plan (link here). Other cities and towns, and our state, could also undertake a community-based approach to centering climate policy on addressing community goals and needs relating to environmental justice.

On a state level, we can pass legislation that ensures state action, accountability and transparency in energy and carbon policy. We can regulate PFAS – “forever chemicals” – in our water supply and in food packaging; enact policy that supports individual habits, like a plastic bag ban, or tax credits for solar energy; and pass legislation that enables climate resiliency in our coastal communities and our whole state. We can and must work for local transportation policy that supports train, bus, bike and pedestrian travel. 

National and regional transportation and carbon policy will be crucial to addressing climate change, as will international work to stop the fires destroying the Amazon, to keep companies from buying and cutting it down, and to address the climate change that is keeping the fires burning and causing all sorts of really weird and scary weather (dust storms! hail!) in Australia.
 
In short, we need to take action at all levels. You can count on me to work for our environment in the General Assembly. I also would encourage you to connect with one or more environmental groups in Rhode Island. Here is a short list of some politically active environmental groups in RI: Audubon SocietyClimate Action RIConservation Law FoundationRI Bicycle CoalitionEnvironmental Justice League, Sunrise Movement - ProvidenceEnvironmental Council of Rhode Island (with a more complete member list of dozens of RI environmental groups). 

1/23/2020RepRep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is severely disappointed with the FY 2021 budget proposal (2020-H 7171) that was recently submitted by Governor Raimondo.  In particular, Representative Canario cites the numerous tax and fee increases, several of which were rejected by the General Assembly last session.

“After reviewing this budget proposal, it appears that the word collaboration is not in the governor’s vocabulary.  We are facing over a $200 million deficit and the governor’s proposal to close this gap is filled with disastrous economic policies that the General Assembly rejected only last year, including numerous new taxes and fees, as well as several increases in existing taxes and fees,” said Representative Canario.

“Rhode Islanders are in better shape than they were a decade ago after the Great Recession, but our residents are nowhere near financially stable in their daily lives.  Most Rhode Islanders simply cannot afford to have even more money taken from their pockets and bank accounts.  Our governor likes proposing ideas that get her plenty of national press, but yet, as in years past, she fails to offer meaningful and realistic ways to pay for these initiatives.  This budget proposal is nothing more than a political document and in no way is it a good-faith attempt to fund and manage the State of Rhode Island,” said Representative Canario.

“The proposal for legalized recreational marijuana is simply the most glaring, disappointing, and insulting example of the governor’s disregard for the legislative branch.  After being told many times in public and in private that the General Assembly is not comfortable legalizing marijuana, the governor instead chose to include it in her budget anyway, adding an additional $20 million to the deficit, rather than collaborating with the General Assembly to find real solutions to the budget deficit.  Collaboration is how things get done in government, perhaps one day the governor will realize this and add the word into her vocabulary,” concluded Representative Canario.

1/23/2020RepRep. Dennis Canario; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — A trio of legislators are pressing for action on bills banning weapons that enable mass shootings.

Rep. Justine A. Caldwell, Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Sen. Joshua Miller today reintroduced their bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying such weapons have no legitimate purpose and that they endanger the public by enabling shooters to swiftly commit mass murder.

“We introduce these bills year after year. In the meantime, mass shootings continue to occur in America on an almost daily basis. After particularly large tragedies like Parkland, Las Vegas or Aurora, the public outrage about our lax gun laws swells, and yet here we are, still allowing the legal sale of weapons whose only purpose is to allow shooters to inflict as much damage as possible in a short time. What is it going to take for us to stop condoning the sale of weapons of mass murder?” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), who is sponsoring the bill to ban high-capacity magazines, a bill she has sponsored for years.

A 2018 poll found 60 percent of Rhode Islanders favor a ban on the sale or possession of semi-automatic rifles. A 2016 poll found 75 percent of Rhode Islanders were in favor of limiting magazines to 10 rounds.

“We introduced these bills early in the session because we believe legislation with the support of a large majority of Rhode Islanders and their senators and representatives should be heard early enough to be brought out of committees and voted on,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who is sponsoring the assault rifle ban, as he has for several years. “These are the weapons of choice for mass shooters, not recreational hunters. They have no place in homes, neighborhoods or on the streets. As long as they are legal, our state is inviting people to have their very own weapon of mass murder, putting Rhode Islanders in danger.”

The bills were both recommendations made by the Gun Safety Working Group convened by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo following the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and the Campaign for Gun Violence Prevention Rhode Island, a coalition of advocacy groups dedicated to preventing gun violence, have all called for bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

“Mass shootings do harm above and beyond even the horrendous violence they inflict. They traumatize survivors, like the family in my district who survived the Las Vegas shooting. They damage entire communities, like the people I’ve met from Newtown who may never truly recover from their psychological and emotional wounds. These devices vastly increase the amount of harm a person can do. Last year’s Dayton shooter was taken down by police within 32 seconds of opening fire. Because he used a high-capacity, 100-round drum magazine, he was able to shoot 26 people in those 32 seconds. No civilian needs that capability, and the Second Amendment does not protect our right to fire 100 rounds without reloading, or to shoot 26 people in 32 seconds. These laws pass legal muster and are a moral necessity,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), who is the sponsor of both bills in the House, as she was last year.  

The assault weapon bill would bar the sale and possession of assault weapons. It contains exceptions for law enforcement and military personnel, and would allow current assault weapon owners who pass a background check to keep the weapons they currently own.

Assault guns were banned across the United States from 1994 to 2004, but the federal act expired and was not renewed. Seven states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Hawaii — plus Washington, D.C., currently ban them.

The high-capacity magazine legislation would ban possession, manufacture, import, purchase, sale or transfer of any ammunition-feeding device capable of accepting more than 10 rounds. Currently, Rhode Island law limits hunters to three bullets for duck hunting and five for deer hunting, but there is no limit for the number of bullets in weapons commonly used for mass shootings. Under the bill, those who currently own such devices would have 120 days to remove them from the state or surrender them to a gun dealer or police.

All the bills were submitted today. The high-capacity magazine bill has a total of 42 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate, including primary sponsors Representative Caldwell and Senator Goldin. The assault weapon bill had a total of 34 cosponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate, including Representative Caldwell and Senator Miller.
1/22/2020RepSen. Gayle Goldin; Sen. Joshua Miller; Rep. Justine A. Caldwell; #200; #118; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rep. Justine A. Caldwell, Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Sen. Joshua Miller today reintroduced their bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying such weapons have no legitimate purpose and that they endanger the public by enabling shooters to swiftly commit mass murder.


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STATE HOUSE – A state with a government running $200 million in the red while surrounding states thrive needs to make major changes, Senator Thomas J. Paolino, (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield) said.

“While the state’s economy is showing signs of improvement, the government is running a deficit. What’s wrong with this picture?” Paolino asked.  “Massachusetts currently has a $1 billion surplus.  Our state needs to prioritize financial stability and accountability if we want to compete.”

At $10 billion, Rhode Island’s 2020 budget is larger than that of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  States that have both larger populations and larger land areas, like Oklahoma with 4 million people and an $8 billion budget, are able to operate with less.  Maine’s budget is $8 billion total for two years, and their state has 1.3 million people.

“Rhode Island spends $10,000 for each of the 1 million people who live in the state,” Paolino said. “I question whether the average taxpayer receives $10,000 worth of services.”

The $10.2 billion 2021 spending proposal does little to address these concerns, Paolino said.  “It is more of the same, and the same is not working.  Every person has a budget that they need to balance and maintain, and if they don’t, they find themselves in financial trouble.  When that happens, people have to change their spending to make sure they’re meeting their needs.”

State government agencies must take a hard look at their spending priorities, said Paolino, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  Those agencies should focus on “needs” and not “wants,” he said.  Implementing zero-based budgeting, he said, is a practical way to address those issues.

“We need the agencies that are running deficits to come to the committee and justify their overspending,” Paolino said.  “We need to find ways to run a leaner, more efficient government.  Responsible spending cuts would shift resources from often mismanaged and damaging government programs to more productive activities in the private sector.”  More responsible spending will also help the state prepare for fiscal challenges in the future, he said.  “We need to prepare for tougher times ahead.”

Approving a line-item veto, which would allow the governor to reject individual spending provisions instead of approving or rejecting it as a whole, is another common-sense approach.  Further, creating an Office of the Inspector General would help keep spending in check, Senator Paolino said.

The 2020 deficit is just another example of how the state’s spending problem puts it at the bottom of so many lists, Paolino said.

“Rhode Island is the third-worst state in the country to retire.  We have the 10th highest property tax rate in the country. We have job-killing regulations, which makes it challenging to attract businesses,” Paolino said.  “Without fiscal responsibility, the state will never get ahead.”
1/22/2020SenSen. Thomas J. Paolino; #230; Katie Haughey Cardoza
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STATE HOUSE – Senator Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), said this week a solution is urgently needed to address cuts in state aid to regional school districts.

“I will be working closely with legislators, the town councils and school committee members in our school districts to address these cuts in aid,” Morgan said.  “Regional school districts like Chariho and Exeter-West Greenwich are all facing a cut of almost $900,000 in state aid.  That’s unfair.  And it’s unsustainable.”

The current school funding formula, which calculates the amount of state dollars each district receives, heavily favors urban districts like Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket, the senator said.

“The governor announced she wants all schools in the state to thrive, but she’s cutting close to $900,000 from regional districts to fund city schools, which are broke,” Morgan said. “This is unfair to the students and taxpayers here in the southern end of the state.  This means taking away from our kids to fund inner city schools.”
1/16/2020SenSen. Elaine J.  Morgan; #209; Katie Haughey Cardoza
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) has prefiled legislation that would cap the amount health insurance providers can charge for copays for insulin. The act would limit required co-payments for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100.

“In four years, insulin prices have doubled,” said Representative Solomon. “For many with type 1 diabetes who need multiple doses of the drug every day just to survive, it means financial ruin.”

According to a 2018 survey by UpWell Health in Salt Lake City, half of people with diabetes have temporarily skipped taking insulin because of rising costs.

The pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes lacks the ability to make insulin. Insulin shots are the only way to keep blood glucose levels down in Type 1 diabetes sufferers.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Its complications, including heart disease, stroke, amputations, blindness and kidney disease, are both serious and expensive. 

By 2012 the total cost of diabetes increased to $245 billion, meaning that the disease’s toll on the economy has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007, according to a report from the American Diabetes Association.
12/19/2019RepRep. Joseph J. Solomon; #214; Daniel Trafford
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Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) has prefiled legislation that would cap the amount health insurance providers can charge for copays for insulin. The act would limit required co-payments for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is planning on sponsoring legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session that would seek to impose stiffer penalties on “porch pirates” and others who are convicted of stealing packages from homes.

In particular, Representative O’Brien plans on seizing vehicles used in the theft for those that are convicted of the crime.  His bill will call for the money generated from the seized vehicles to support the RI Veterans Home.

“It is always awful to see the news reports, especially during the holidays, of heartless grinches stealing people’s packages right from their front porches.  This is an intolerable crime and criminals will continue this practice until they are sufficiently stopped by the law with severe penalties,” said Representative O’Brien.

“As a member of the House Finance Committee, I have had a front-row seat to the financial problems arising in the Veterans Home.  Our veterans deserve much better and I feel that this would be an innovative way to support our aging heroes and veterans.  If someone risks losing their car to steal others’ packages, I think it’s appropriate for the money that is generated to be appropriated to the Veterans Home,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

He plans on introducing the bill once the legislative session starts in January.

12/19/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is planning on sponsoring legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session that would seek to impose stiffer penalties on “porch pirates” and others who are convicted of stealing packages from homes.


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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would create a prescription drug affordability board to protect Rhode Islanders from the high costs of prescription drug products.

Under the proposed legislation (2020-H 7121) the board would be tasked with investigating and comprehensively evaluating drug prices for Rhode Islanders and possible ways to reduce them to make them more affordable.

“With prescription drug prices at an all-time high, state government has to come up with innovative ways to rein in drug spending,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. “This board will identify when a drug’s cost could create affordability issues either for patients or Rhode Island’s health care system.  Armed with this information, the board will identify drugs that may present affordability challenges.”

The board would consist of five members, along with alternate members, one appointed by the governor, one by the president of the Senate, one by the speaker of the House, one by the attorney general and one appointed jointly by the speaker and Senate president who would chair the board.

In addition to the board, the bill will also create a Prescription Drug Stakeholder Council, which will offer stakeholder input to guide the Board’s decision-making. The council would comprise members from various backgrounds and associations, including representatives of drug corporations, health insurance providers, healthcare advocacy groups, researchers, labor unions, doctors, nurses, dentists, hospitals, pharmacists, biotechnology companies and other stakeholders.

“The board would work in consultation with the stakeholder council to study and report on the pharmaceutical distribution and payment system,” explained Representative McNamara. “Based on that information, the board would determine whether to conduct a cost review of the drugs and determine whether it creates affordability challenges for patients and other stakeholders.”

The board would be required to report annually on the legality, obstacles, and benefits of setting upper payment limits on prescription drug products in the state; and would make recommendations for legislation necessary to make prescription drugs more affordable in Rhode Island.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick, has been referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
1/23/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – On the 47th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to choose an abortion, Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar today announced legislation that will lift the ban on abortion coverage for state employee health plans and ensure that abortion care is covered by Medicaid.

“Abortion is basic health care and should be covered by your health insurance no matter how much money you make or where you work. Right now, we have an unfair, discriminatory system in place here in Rhode Island. State employees and Medicaid patients deserve the same coverage as everyone else, but the law prohibits their insurance from providing it. These policies result in people and their families being denied access to health care, and in this case, those impacted are disproportionately poorer Rhode Islanders. We believe that every person has the right to make their own reproductive health decisions, but these Rhode Islanders cannot do that when their insurance is expressly prohibited from covering their choice,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

The bill would add Rhode Island to the ranks of 16 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, whose Medicaid programs cover abortion.

“The General Assembly passed the Reproductive Privacy Act last year, which was a great success. The RPA eliminated many of the unconstitutional laws enacted in Rhode Island after Roe v. Wade to restrict reproductive rights. The ban on Medicaid programs and state employees’ insurance policies covering abortion is just one more vestige of the time when legislatures used every tool they had to deny people their right to choose. All Rhode Islanders deserve bodily autonomy, including the poor and those who are employed by the state. This ban is a backdoor means of denying reproductive rights, and it should be eliminated,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence).

The legislation is aimed at eliminating sections of law that expressly prohibit state employees’ and Medicaid recipients’ insurance from covering for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the mother would be endangered, as required by federal law. In compliance with the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services, it adds language that specifies that no federal funds shall be used to pay for them, except as authorized under federal law. The law would take effect upon passage.

The legislation is part of a campaign coordinated by The Womxn Project, and is supported by the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, the ACLU of Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, COYOTE RI, the National Council for Jewish Women, the National Association of Social Workers, RI Chapter, the United State of Women (Rhode Island), CaneIwalk, Rhode Island National Organization of Women (NOW), the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Collective  and Swing Left Rhode Island. 

“We worked so hard as a movement and in coalition to make sure that in Rhode Island our right to abortion is protected, no matter what happens at the federal level. As we commemorate Roe and see the endless attacks on this right, we believe we have to draw the line and fight back. It is time to get rid of harmful policies that take away coverage for abortion. When people can’t afford care because they are denied benefits, that takes away their right to make their own decision. We won’t stand by and let this happen. We will continue to organize and make change together,” said Jordan Hevenor, co-director of the Womxn Project. 
1/22/2020SenRep. Liana M. Cassar; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #267; #264; Meredyth R. Whitty
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On the 47th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to choose an abortion, Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar today announced legislation that will lift the ban on abortion coverage for state employee health plans and ensure that abortion care is covered by Medicaid.
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly opens its 2020 session Tuesday, Jan. 7. The House of Representatives and the Senate will convene in their respective chambers at 4 p.m. to begin the work of the new legislative year.

Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) will gavel their chambers to order.

As with all General Assembly sessions, the media and public are invited to attend.

The opening day House session will be broadcast live by 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. The Senate session will air immediately afterward. Both sessions will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Both legislative bodies will meet in chambers that have been renovated to bring them up to safety codes, improve sound and technology and restore paint colors and other details to the way they were originally designed when the building was constructed at the dawn of the 20th century.

“The State House is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Rhode Island, and it was created to be a lasting monument to the achievements of our state. We are very proud to be honoring that concept with this careful, thoughtful renovation, which brings it back to its original splendor, while incorporating the safety, technology and accessibility features that modern public buildings demand,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “We are very much looking forward to our return to chambers that better serve the public and our members and more closely resemble the magnificence of their original designs.”
 
Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “This project represents long-overdue updates and preservation that will make the chambers more functional while also improving their beauty and historical accuracy. We are very grateful for the cooperation and hard work of the collaborating agencies, particularly the historical preservation groups. This is one of the most exciting and rewarding renovation projects we’ve embarked upon at the State House. When it was built, our State House was considered a masterpiece that served as the inspiration for many other states’ capitols. It’s our duty and also a pleasure to maintain its beauty and preserve its historical integrity so that every generation will be able to experience the same sense of awe and majesty that Rhode Islanders have enjoyed in our State House since 1904.”

The project was a collaborative effort between the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) and the State House Restoration Society (SHRS).

The project included replacing the chambers’ worn carpets and drapes, which were last replaced in 2002 and 1988, respectively. Legislators’ desks were restored for the first time in decades, and their chairs were replaced with functional, historically appropriate new models. The public galleries, leaking and broken skylights and rostrums were repaired, and the chambers were painted with colors selected by the State House Restoration Society to be as close as possible to the original shades found under layers of paint. In the House, the new paint helps make the 10 original mural-like tapestries depicting an elaborate floral scene look more vivid. In the Senate, gold lettering has been added to the state seals of the 13 original U.S. states, making them more visible near the ceiling at the front of the chamber.

The more extensive improvements made in the off-session are less visible, although some will be audible. Both chambers’ sound systems have been improved with new speakers and microphones. A new hearing loop system, which transmits sound electronically to t-coil hearing aids and all cochlear implants, has been installed in both chambers, making Rhode Island one of the first state capitols in the country to have both of its legislative chambers and its public galleries equipped with permanent large area hearing loops, according to David Abell, a volunteer hearing loop advocate with the Rhode Island State Office of the Hearing Loss Association of America, who supported the project. Hearing loops were installed in other rooms of the State House in 2016, but could not be installed in the chambers without removing the carpeting, which was replaced as part of this project.

The renovation also included considerable improvements to technology, including added layers of safety for the voting systems and a full update of both chambers’ antiquated electrical systems — which have had only piecemeal repairs and updates since the building opened nearly 120 years ago. The updates will at last bring the wiring up to code and improve the safety of the public, the members and the building.

JCLS and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, which is responsible for the building, managed the project together. All elements of the project were publicly bid and the contracts were awarded to three companies, all in Rhode Island: Vision 3 Architects and E.F. O’Donnell & Sons Co., Inc., both of Providence; and Drapery House of North Providence.
1/2/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly opens its 2020 session Tuesday, Jan. 7. The House of Representatives and the Senate will convene in their respective chambers at 4 p.m. to begin the work of the new legislative year. Both legislative bodies will meet in chambers that have been renovated to bring them up to safety codes, improve sound and technology and restore paint colors and other details to the way they were originally designed when the building was constructed at the dawn of the 20th century.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Shelby Maldonado of Central Falls resigned today, effective immediately, from the House District 56 seat she has held in the House of Representatives since January 2015.

She is relocating to New York City to accept a position as the Hispanic Outreach Director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  A second-year student at Roger Williams University School of Law, she intends to transfer to a New York law school. 

Her resignation creates a special election to be scheduled by the Secretary of State’s office.

“I have enjoyed representing the city of Central Falls, a community where I have lived my entire life and the people have given me so many opportunities,” said Representative Maldonado, a Democrat. “I thank my House colleagues for taking in Central Falls as part of their agenda and enabling me to be an effective legislator on behalf of the community.  From our previous difficult times in receivership, the city is moving forward in a very positive direction.” 

Representative Maldonado, 32, graduated from Central Falls High School and received her degree from the University of Rhode Island, majoring in political science and communication studies, in 2009.  She served in the Peace Corps in Africa following her graduation, and her political career began as a member of the Central Falls City Council in 2014.

She will be leaving her current position as the director of communications for the United Association of Local 51 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union.

“I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with her in the House of Representatives,” said Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.  “She is a wonderful person and a great advocate for her community and the state. It is no surprise that someone of her talent has obtained such an exciting career opportunity. I wish her much success and we will miss her.”

Representative Maldonado was named a Deputy Majority Leader in January 2019. She is the second vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Municipal Government and she is a member of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Special Legislation.

During the 2018 session, she sponsored a law that will continue the status quo relating to drivers’ licenses to approved recipients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She also chaired a special commission to study the Minimum Housing Act, which made several recommendations to the General Assembly on how to help cities and towns meet the requirements found in the main law and rethinking what it means to meet the requirements of minimum housing.

She also introduced two workers’ right bills that were signed into law. The first, in 2017, created workers' cooperatives which are owned and democratically governed by their members. In 2015, she championed civil rights legislation for women, sponsoring a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against, and failing to provide reasonable accommodations for, employees due to pregnancy or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

12/16/2019RepRep. Shelby Maldonado; #220; Larry Berman
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Rep. Shelby Maldonado of Central Falls resigned today, effective immediately, from the House District 56 seat she has held in the House of Representatives since January 2015.


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STATE HOUSE – In an effort to advance high-speed internet connectivity across Rhode Island, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has introduced legislation calling for the creation of state entities to take charge of spreading broadband access.

Legislation she has introduced calls for the appointment of a statewide broadband coordinator as well as the creation of a Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council.

Rhode Island has a fiber-optic broadband network, Beacon 2.0, completed in August, 2013, that connects many state institutions including URI, RIC and the State Data Center, 39 school districts, 16 library facilities and the state’s three largest hospital consortia with a fiber optic backbone. But when the federal grant that helped fund its construction was exhausted, Rhode Island ceased having a state entity in charge of expanding access to fiber optic technology. Representative Ruggiero’s legislation seeks to ensure the state aggressively seeks opportunities and funding for expansion.

“High-speed internet is an absolute necessity to our economy here in Rhode Island. Our economy is rooted in information — technology, innovation, education — and we need to have the bandwidth to support it statewide. That’s how we will retain and attract business. Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that do Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that has not committed any resources to monitoring trends, accessing federal funds, broadband policy and improving connectivity.  My bill ensures that this important policy work is being done in Rhode Island,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).

The House resolution (2020-H 7096) requests that the governor designate a statewide broadband coordinator dedicated to the oversight of broadband accessibility and internet connectivity for the 21st century and who would be responsible for accessing federal dollars for economic development, broadband policy and coordinating any future funding efforts.

It also calls for the Department of Administration and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to establish the 10-member Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council to assist the broadband coordinator. The council would be made up of volunteer stakeholders from Commerce, the League of Cities and Towns, Infrastructure Bank, Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network (OSHEAN), Connect Greater Newport and internet service providers.   

The legislation is cosponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry) and Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).
1/21/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rhode Island House Republican Representative Jack W. Lyle, Jr. has been selected as the 2020 Rhode Island State Lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL). This position recognizes the leadership of Lyle within the Caucus for promoting innovative and effective environmental policy in Rhode Island.
 
“I am honored by this national appointment and look forward to working with my colleagues in government in promoting sound environmental policies for the State of Rhode Island,” said Lyle.
 
Lyle has served in the Rhode Island General Assembly for 12 years, five terms as State Senator and one term as State Representative.  Lyle represents constituents in District 46 which spans Lincoln and Pawtucket. During his tenure he initially served on the Joint Committee on the Environment and currently serves on the House Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources.  Since first being elected to the Senate in 1980, he has been an advocate for a host of issues including a bottle bill, a ban on single-use plastic bags and plastic straws. He has championed additional funding and resources for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and advocates for measures offered by Save the Bay, the Blackstone Valley Watershed Commission, and the Conservation Law Foundation. He consistently supports initiatives designed to encourage development of alternate energy sources in an effort to help eliminate our carbon footprint.
 
As an NCEL State Lead, Lyle will serve as the main point of contact in the state, coordinating in-state engagements and recruiting his colleagues to join NCEL.
 
“State leads are a crucial element of a thriving network like NCEL,” said Jeff Mauk, Executive Director of NCEL. “The Caucus is led by legislators, so the State Leads provide an active conduit of engagement and information sharing with environmental state legislators across the country."
 
Created by and for state legislators, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes over 1,000 environmentally-committed state legislators from all 50 states and both parties. NCEL provides venues and opportunities for lawmakers to share ideas and collaborate on environmental issues.

1/22/2020RepRep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear a presentation on the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) learning initiative.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 23, at 3 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will hear a presentation on the initiative by Grace Suh, vice president of education and corporate responsibility for IBM North America. Hemang Dave, chief innovation officer for IBM North America, will present the innovations that are coming to Rhode Island.

The P-TECH initiative, codeveloped by IBM, is a new approach to education that blends high school, community college and workplace skills in one. These innovative public schools span grades 9 to 14. Within six-years, students graduate with their high school diplomas and no-cost associate degrees in a STEM discipline, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step into well paying, high potential jobs.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).
1/21/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – At an event marking the 47th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision tomorrow, Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar will announce legislation concerning abortion access for state employees and Medicaid enrollees.

The legislators plan to announce the legislation at an event called “Closing the gaps in access to abortion,” organized by The Womxn Project tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. in the State House rotunda.

1/21/2020SenRep. Liana M. Cassar; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #267; #264; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – A legislative commission to study potential reform of Rhode Island’s vicious dog laws will meet tomorrow for a report from representatives of animal rescue agencies who serve on the panel.

The meeting is scheduled Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The meeting will include an overview of sub-group meetings from Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals President Joe Warzycha and Potter League for Animals Executive Director Brad Shear.

The commission, led by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), is conducting a comprehensive review and is to make recommendations regarding the regulation of vicious dogs and any administrative hearings pertaining to them.

1/21/2020SenSen. Dawn Euer; #244; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting Wednesday, January 22 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House to hear three pieces of legislation relating to firearms.

The first bill (2020-H 7101), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), establishes a statewide public safety computer aided dispatch records management system.

The second bill (2020-H 7102), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), prohibits the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3D printed firearms.

The third bill (2020-H 7103A), sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), provides that applications to purchase firearms be sent by the seller to the police department of the city or town where the purchaser lives. 

1/21/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting today, Tuesday, January 21 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House to hear and/or consider two pieces of legislation that relate to 3D printed firearms and the state’s medical marijuana program.

The first bill (2020-S 2004), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), prohibits the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3D printed firearms.  The committee will be looking at a proposed substitute (2020-S 2004A) of the legislation.

The second bill (2020-S 2006), sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), establishes certain limitations on regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation in regard to medical marijuana.

1/21/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would create a nine-member permanent joint military and veterans’ affairs oversight commission.

The bill (2020-H 7175) would establish the commission for the purpose of overseeing operations of Rhode Island Office of Veterans’ Affairs and fiscal oversight of military affairs and defense.

“The issues facing veterans are many,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson, a retired naval officer. “Homelessness, medical issues, poverty and unemployment continue to plague those who served their country gallantly and honorably. We have a duty and obligation to ensure that veterans receive proper medical care, prompt and courteous service at the Veterans Home and that veterans have an opportunity to thrive in Rhode Island. This commission, which would include veterans among its membership, would go a long way toward doing just that.”

The panel would include four members from the House of Representatives, three from the Senate and two veterans to be appointed by the governor. The commission would oversee all operations of the Rhode Island Office of Veterans’ Affairs, exercise fiscal oversight of the air and army national guard, and oversee matters related to veteran services to include operation of  the veterans’ cemetery and Rhode Island veterans’ home.

The panel would coordinate and consult with the United States Veterans Administration.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) and Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
1/21/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, January 21 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House to hear testimony on legislation (2020-H 7013), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), which addresses separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing statutes and regulations.

The new legislation amends the law passed last year to allow the licensing of six new compassion centers and increase the licensing fee to $500,000 each, removing a provision that required the Assembly to approve resulting regulations developed by the executive branch.

It adds four provisions clarifying intended regulatory limits. Under the legislation, regulators would not be allowed to:
  • limit centers based on geographical zones;
  • prevent any center from growing its own supply of medical marijuana or limit by regulation the number of plants, seedlings or marijuana it may have;
  • require a market demand for new compassion centers to cultivate;
  • lower the limit on the number of patients that licensed primary caregivers are allowed to assist.

1/17/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Gina M. Raimondo's budget proposal: 

“At first glance, there are many areas of the budget that we can work together on to improve our state. The budget proposal invests in many Senate priorities, including education, housing, health care, and the minimum wage.

“I am disappointed that revenue from the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana was included in the budget proposal. Seeing as the marijuana proposal is unlikely to pass, we effectively have a proposed budget that is out of balance to the tune of $21.8 million. The Senate Finance Committee will be reviewing the details of all aspects of the budget in the coming months.”
1/17/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE — President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio has introduced legislation to require appointments to the offices of Elementary & Secondary Education Commissioner and Postsecondary Education Commissioner to be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, just as other high-level state government appointments are. 
 
The legislation would also require that the Governor resubmit the appointments of the Secretaries of the Office of Health and Human Services and Commerce upon the Governor’s second term, as is required with department directors.
 
“Senate advice and consent is a critical oversight function that helps provide accountability and ensure the best candidates are filling critical positions in government. Yet, with regard to these very important education, health and economic development positions, the law is deficient,” said President Ruggerio (D – Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “The education commissioners and health and commerce secretaries are among the highest level positions in state government. They shape policies that impact all Rhode Islanders. They should be subject to the same oversight and accountability measures as every other department head.”
 
President Ruggerio noted that the legislation is not motivated by any particular individual in, or being considered for, one of these positions. Rather, it is a matter of good public policy because of the important nature of the positions.
 
Additionally, the legislation would clarify that any appointment to these offices in an “acting” or “interim” capacity must also be submitted to the Senate for approval within 10 days, even if a search for a permanent director is ongoing, as is required for other departments.
 
The bill, 2020-S-2005, is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D – Dist. 29, Warwick), Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D – Dist. 1, Providence), Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo (D – Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley, Jr. (D – Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
1/17/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello issued the following statement today regarding Gov. Gina M. Raimondo's budget proposal, received by the House of Representatives today: 

“Yet again, the Governor has presented us a budget lacking many details. I am very concerned about her proposal to generate revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana when she was advised this would not be an acceptable policy to the General Assembly. Over $20 million has been estimated, which is risky and short-sighted at best.
 
“Additionally, I am very concerned with the number of pervasive debt proposals which require a full vetting by the House Finance Committee.  We are disappointed at many of her suggestions, including the raising of taxes and fees, which had been previously rejected by the General Assembly.
 
“It’s no secret that I’m interested in maintaining the current law regarding the car tax phase-out. This is the second year in a row that the Governor has tried to tinker with the car tax. We must keep our promise we made to our constituents and taxpayers. Lastly, other local aid reductions are very troubling and will have grave consequences for some of our cities and towns.”      

1/16/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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Good evening, I’m Blake Filippi, the Leader of the Republican Caucus in your House of Representatives.
 
Please join me for 10 minutes as we address some of the import issues we face in Rhode Island.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Civil rights challenge of our time is access to a quality education.
[pause]
 
Rhode Island has a two-classed education system: if you live in the right zip code or have the means to send your family to private school, they will most likely get a good education and have limitless potential.
 
If you don’t live in the right zip code, and can’t afford private school, your family faces an uncertain future, lacking social mobility.
 
Martin Luther King understood that legal equality isn’t enough – there must also be economic opportunity: he said “What does it profit someone to sit at an integrated lunch counter if they don’t have enough money to buy a hamburger.”
 
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Our primary civic duty must be to fix our education system, and it must take precedence over any other government programs – and any other interest groups.
 
Our children must come first.
 
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We have watched the necessary state takeover of the Providence School system, with an estimated turn-around time of 5 to 10 years – and there are many other failing schools now eligible for intervention .
 
But a state takeover isn’t the cure all
 
The state took over the Central Falls school department over 25 years ago, and it is still one of the worst performing school systems in the state.
 
Indeed, our Governor and Secretary of State, who live in Providence, send their children to private schools -- as does our State Commission of Education.
 
In fact, fewer than half of the school-aged children of elected officials from Providence attend traditional public schools.
 
And we cannot fault them for this – I would do the same!
 
But we can fault them if they oppose these same choices for parents in failing schools who do not have the resources to send their kids elsewhere.
 
We cannot expect these parents to wait 5 to 10 years for a state intervention with an uncertain outcome.
 
Frederick Douglas observed that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
 
Let us come together now to build strong children, and in turn, a strong future for Rhode Island.
 
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Here’s how Republicans will do that: just that: we will empower families in failing schools to send their children to performing schools, within, or outside, their existing district. 
 
If another school has space, it will have the option to receive these students, and the money will follow the child.
 
Republicans trust families most to do what is best for their children, rather than being stuck in a failing school . . . with no alternatives.
 
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Republicans will also submit legislation to create focused “Language Academies” to address the English as second language crisis we face. Many school districts are inundated with children that cannot speak English – driving up the cost and downgrading the quality of education for all children.
 
State Language academies will focus on English proficiency. Once proficient, students will matriculate back to their sending school district, where they can then begin their careers as lifelong learners.
 
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We will mitigate the costs for these proposals, such as transportation costs, with a new tax on universities and colleges related to their endowments.
 
Right now, Rhode Island universities and colleges largely do not pay property taxes.
 
Brown University sits on over $1 Billion Dollars of real estate in Providence, with an over $4 Billion Dollar investment portfolio . . . yet it is largely exempt from property taxes that would help to fund the Providence School system.
 
This is intolerable, not just for Providence residents, but for everyone in Rhode Island that funds the annual $324 Million in state aid to Providence and its schools.
 
It’s time for our local universities and colleges with substantial endowments to share in the cost of educating the next generation of higher education learners.
 
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Our college graduates also face a college loan crisis brought on by overpriced tuitions and government-sponsored student loans.
 
While we cannot fix this problem on the state level, we can mitigate its impacts on our citizens.
 
Here’s how: Republicans have long been opposed to the State’s robust corporate welfare programs -- handouts of taxpayer money to various special interests.
 
We give $20 million per year to the Hollywood movie industry!
 
Our position is this: while we oppose corporate welfare, if our leaders see fit to appropriate it in our yearly budgets, our children and neighbors struggling to pay off college loans get the first bite at those monies -- with a $1000 per year tax credit on their student loan payments.
 
Whatever is left over would then be available for the corporate special interests that sought the money in the first place. 
 
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We also need to make sure the next generation of Rhode Islanders can find meaningful pursuits -- right here at home.
 
One of our biggest exports is our children – and it is heartbreaking when Rhode Islanders must move away to find a job.
 
It’s no coincidence that Boston is booming, while our tallest building stands empty.
 
This is the result of our hostile business climate. Many times, it does not make sense to invest in Rhode Island unless you can obtain handouts of taxpayer funded corporate welfare.
 
It not only morally wrong to hand out our money to businesses, it further scares away other investment that does not want to compete against those getting public money.
 
We must enact intelligent tax policies and regulatory reform that everyone can advantage of -- that will nurture local and out of state investment, and create the ground-up businesses development our state needs.
 
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We also must act decisively to stem the tide of our seniors leaving for other states that do not tax their retirement income or life’s work when they die.
 
When seniors depart, they take with them their wealth, spending, business contacts, and mentorship for the next generations. They’re not going to Florida solely for the weather.
 
Seniors largely leave because it is in their financial interest to do so. Just today Wallet Hub rated Rhode Island the 4th least affordable state to retire in:
 
And we cannot blame seniors for leaving and doing what is best for their families - but we can enact pro-retiree policies to keep them here – similar to many other states – like not taxing retirement income and providing greater estate tax exemptions.
 
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The outflow of our educated youth, businesses and seniors has created serious budgetary constraints in our state – yet our budget continues to balloon – now at 10 Billion dollars – that’s $10,000 for every man, woman and child, not even including your local taxes.
 
Even with our $10 billion budget, we are failing to adequately provide for core government functions, like taking care of children in DCYF custody, honoring our veterans, and maintaining public infrastructure.
 
The simple fact is that we fail to efficiently operate and monitor government spending.
 
Perhaps most concerning is that Rhode Island faces a $200 Million deficit – we’re taking in $200M less than we need to fund our $10 Billion dollar budget.
 
Meanwhile, Massachusetts has a $1 Billion surplus.
 
We are facing this deficit during one of the greatest economic expansions our country has experienced – we should be having surpluses right now, like Massachusetts.
 
We must get our fiscal house in order, because we a setting up government expenditures that will not be able to survive an economic downturn – and there will be immense pain from drastic cuts in the event of a recession.
 
Republicans have long called for:
            - A line item veto to empower the governor to eliminate portions of the legislatively enacted budget,
            - An independent office of inspector general to root out waste,
            - And zero based-budgeting that requires every department to annually justify its expenditures – like your family does.
 
These smart initiatives are great start to stem the dramatic annual increases we see in our state budget, protect us from recession, and keep more money in your wallet.
 
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People want live here, if they can afford it. One reason is our environment – that is a social and economic treasure, which must be protected.
 
Yet, we’ve taken our eyes off important local environmental issues that we have the ability measurably impact, like:
            - Protecting our eroding shorelines;
            - Repairing dams that are hazards to entire communities;
            - Managing our forests that are primed for fires similar to the 1942 disaster;
            - Adequately funding the Department of Environmental Management and our parks -- which we have been gutted in recent years;
            -And ensuring our water quality – like cleaning the lead out of the pipes in our urban centers which is poisoning our children, and dealing with the industrial hazardous chemical PFAS – which has been found in our water supplies from Cumberland to Charlestown
 
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While we do have a beautiful environment, we must be able to enjoy it, and that includes being able to exercise our constitutional right to access our shoreline in this Ocean State. 
 
There is a lack of clarity where private property ends and the public shoreline begins – all over this state – and this has led to unnecessary conflict.
 
Republicans will submit smart proposals that protect our citizens’ constitutional right to access their shoreline, while respecting private property.
 
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Now that it is 2020 and an election year is upon us, we must act to protect the sanctity of our elections.
 
Right now, we allow Senate and House leadership to draw up our Senate and House legislative districts – benefiting those in power at the expense of our right to choose our representatives.
 
It’s called gerrymandering, and it is done to the extreme here.
 
We fully support Common Cause’s initiative for a citizen’s commission to draw legislative districts, not legislators, which will vindicate our most fundamental right to vote in this Republic.
 
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Our citizens also face significant privacy challenges in this modern era.
 
Privacy is a cornerstone of a free society.
 
However, right now, government agents do not need a warrant to access your internet search history.
 
Republicans have, and will continue, to advance legislation to protect your digital privacy, including what you read on the internet, from prying government eyes absent a warrant signed by a judge.
 
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Tonight, we’ve laid forth specific policy initiatives to solve some of the most pressing issues we face.
 
Perhaps more important is how we together accomplish these goals, and others, in the months and years ahead. 
 
Many times we Rhode Islanders believe there is little hope and that our voices don’t matter - that our path is written by others in rooms we can’t access. 
I’m here to tell you that there is nothing further from the truth -- and that people get the government they demand in this country. 
 
 
The Rhode Island we know has an incredible revolutionary heritage. One of liberty, justice, free enterprise, and citizen activism. 
 
The Rhode Island we know can have future of incredible opportunity, where every child can get a great education and have a bright future, where families and businesses can thrive, and where retirees can call home in financial security.
 
This can be our future --- if we demand it.
 
The choice is yours Rhode Island. This is your home and there is no place like it. If you too believe there is a better way, join us, demand it, fight for it, and we all share in a bright future.
 
Thank you, Rhode Island, and goodnight.
 

1/14/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; #218; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — Following through on plans announced on the opening day of session, House leaders and members have introduced legislation designed to protect the public from people who are not law-abiding citizens and who possess guns illegally.     

The package of bills, which was introduced on Tuesday, would amend background check laws, ban 3D printed guns and ghost guns, and implement a statewide computer records management system.

“While I strongly support Second Amendment rights, we need to get guns out of the hands of those with mental illness, as well as those who don’t follow the laws,” said Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), reiterating remarks he made on the opening day of session. “This package of bills does a good job of balancing gun rights with our obligation to keep the public safe from those who are mentally ill and those who choose not to abide by the law.  These bills will work in conjunction with the Red Flag Law we enacted in 2018.”

The first bill (2020-H 7101), sponsored by Speaker Mattiello, would implement a statewide public safety computer aided dispatch records management system to integrate all of Rhode Island’s police departments, including the State Police. It will allow easy communication and the sharing of information among each of the state’s law enforcement agencies.  The bill has the support of the State Police and the Rhode Island Chiefs of Police Association.

The second bill (2020-H 7102) is an update of legislation filed by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick). It would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings, including 3D printed firearms.

“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,” said Representative Serpa.

The third bill (2020-H 7103A), introduced by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), would require gun sellers to forward firearm applications to the police department of the city or town where the buyer resides, or to the State Police if the buyer is a resident of Exeter, since the town has no local police department.

The bill comes in the wake of an incident last month where a resident of Westerly purchased a gun from a firearms dealer in Richmond and used it to kill the manager of an affordable housing complex.

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.

“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.”

All three bills have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

1/15/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Patricia Serpa; Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan; #120; #121; #212; Daniel Trafford
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Following through on plans announced on the opening day of session, House leaders and members have introduced legislation designed to protect the public from people who are not law-abiding citizens and who possess guns illegally.     

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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Dawn Euer is encouraging her constituents to attend a local event she helped arrange with Attorney General Peter R. Neronha to assist those who may qualify to have criminal records expunged.

The Expungement Open House, scheduled Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community College of Rhode Island Newport Campus, 1 John H. Chafee Blvd., will offer participants the opportunity to start the process of having their criminal record legally expunged.

The event will be a one-stop shop to help attendees evaluate their eligibility for expungement, fill out the expungement forms, and identify where to file those forms. Notary services will be available at no charge. The event is free and open to the public.

“So many Rhode Islanders unnecessarily serve lifelong punishments after completing their sentences for offenses that occurred long ago. No one benefits from those people being denied jobs, housing and opportunities for the rest of their lives. Expungement is a legal remedy that allows people who’ve served their time and rehabilitated to take their rightful place as contributing members of our society,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). “It’s my hope that everyone in the Aquidneck Island area who wonders whether they might be eligible to have their record expunged will come to this free open house to learn more and start the process. If you qualify for expungement, it can open doors that lead to a better life for you and your family.”

Senator Euer said she is grateful to Attorney General Neronha for his active support in helping Rhode Islanders learn about and take advantage of expungement. The Office of the Attorney General held its first Expungement Open House in Providence on Dec. 3, attracting more than 60 participants.
1/15/2020SenSen. Dawn Euer; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission will be holding its annual celebration of the life, and death, of the great civil rights leader on Monday, January 20, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, 475 Cranston Street, Providence

The official holiday commemoration, to which the public is invited, will include remarks by commission members, state and religious leaders, several musical presentations, and a number of awards will be presented.   

State Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), who chairs the MLK State Holiday Commission that annually organizes and hosts the celebration, will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

Rev. Carl H. Balark Jr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, will deliver the invocation.

Gov. Gina Raimondo will bring official greetings from the state.  Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse will also deliver remarks.  There will also be musical presentations by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir and RPM Voices of Rhode Island.

The annual MLK Day celebration is one of several major events conducted under the auspices of the State Holiday Commission, which was formed by the General Assembly to commemorate the day and also to promote educational efforts throughout the year.

MLK Commission members include Representative Hull, Chairman; former Rep. Maxine B. Shavers, Vice Chair; Jo Eva Gaines, Treasurer; Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence); Senator Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence); Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence); Randall Rosenbaum; Reverend Balark; Rose De Castillo; Onna Moniz John; Ella Balark; Doris de los Santos; Ann Clanton; Dr. Marion Orr; Michael Browner Jr.; Dr. Rev. Donnie Anderson; Micholas Credle, and Dr. Nicole Lyons.

1/15/2020RepRep. Raymond Hull; #157; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — A joint session of the General Assembly will receive Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s State of the State Address at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, in the House chamber in the State House.     

The Senate and House of Representatives will each hold their regular floor session at 5 p.m. that day. Senators will then join representatives in the House chamber for the governor’s address at 7 p.m.

In addition to the members of the General Assembly, also expected to be present to hear the governor’s remarks will be the state’s other general officers, members of the judiciary, heads of various state departments and agencies, municipal officials and other guests.

The address will be broadcast live by Capitol TV, seen on Channel 15 for Cox Communications and Full Channel, Channel 1013 for Cox HD, and Channel 34 for Verizon. It will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/captv.

1/13/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would allow school districts to raise the money necessary to fund certain extracurricular activities, including field trips and dances.

The legislation (2020-H 7069) would allow a school district to request a contribution of money from a student or the student’s parent or legal guardian to pay, in whole or in part, for the cost of district sponsored field trips, dances, clubs, and other district sponsored or based programs of extracurricular activities, provided that the district would pay the costs to meet any deficit.

“Field trips are an important part of learning, enriching the curriculum, strengthening observation skills by immersing children into sensory activities,” said Representative McNamara, a former educator who chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. “The current policy of the Department of Education regarding the way these activities can be funded has caused many school districts to do away with field trips entirely. That’s just unacceptable, because they are vital in increasing a child’s knowledge of specific subjects, even generating the interest, enthusiasm and passion for subjects that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.”

Last year, many school districts canceled field trips in the wake of a Rhode Island Department of Education policy that was established in April by the former commissioner, Dr. Ken Wagner. The policy stated that school departments may not charge students to participate in public school field trips. Since it was interpreted that no fund raising could be done for these trips either, the policy effectively eliminated the field trips in many places.

The legislation proposed by Representative McNamara with the support of House leadership would codify the ability of school districts to request money, establish a minimum goal for fundraising and to receive contributions or gifts of money as a prerequisite to determining whether the district would participate in the activity.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), and John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), has been referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
1/13/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is once again questioning Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) President Dr. Meghan Hughes over her refusal to arm the campus police at CCRI’s campuses.  CCRI recently provided a report to Representative O’Brien regarding the feasibility of arming their police force which ultimately cited cost, approximately $200,000 in one-time costs, as a reason not to arm the CCRI police officers.

The report was a result of a House resolution (2019-H 5138A), sponsored by Representative O’Brien, that passed the House last legislative session.

“If the cost of arming CCRI campus police is the main concern to President Hughes, I would like to know how much taxpayer money has been spent paying for off-campus law enforcement during her tenure.  Also, how much is the safety and well-being of everyone who steps foot on a CCRI campus worth to President Hughes?  It’s simple common-sense that having well-trained and armed campus police force quickly responding to mass shooting threats is better than having to wait, causing precious seconds and minutes to go by, for outside help to come to the rescue.  Total safety of the students, faculty, and staff is my only concern, not a one-time cost that is currently being spent on hiring outside law enforcement to help on campus,” said Representative O’Brien.

In response to the report received last week, Representative O’Brien has reintroduced legislation (2020-H 7034) which mandates the arming of campus police officers at the state’s public colleges.  Currently, the University of Rhode Island is the only public institute of higher education that has armed its campus police officers.  URI instituted this policy in 2015.

“As I asked President Hughes last year, if there is no need for armed campus police at CCRI, why did she feel it necessary to hire armed security, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, to protect her during an incident that lasted a significant amount of time?  If there is a need for armed off-campus police officers, whether during security incidents or events held on campus, CCRI campus police should be handling these situations.  The amount of money spent on hiring outside armed law enforcement would be better served arming and training CCRI campus police, saving taxpayers the annual cost of hiring outside armed help and more importantly, providing the quickest and closest safety net for our students, faculty, and staff,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

Last April, at a House Finance Subcommittee on Education meeting, Representative O’Brien questioned CCRI President Dr. Meghan Hughes about why at times armed police details were being hired to patrol the campuses of CCRI.  He also asked if there was no need for the campus police to be armed why were armed police details being hired from neighboring communities.  Representative O’Brien also pointed out that the hiring of outside police details costs the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

1/13/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Bill addresses separation of powers issues, clarifying regulators’ authority
 
STATE HOUSE – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio plan to file legislation today to address separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing statutes and regulations.

The legislation, which both legislative leaders plan to file this afternoon, addresses the lawsuit filed by the executive branch this summer over its contention that language contained in the budget bill passed by legislators in June to expand the number of compassion centers violated separation of powers doctrine by giving legislators the power to veto related regulations created by the executive branch.

It also addresses legislative leaders’ assertion that the regulations that were subsequently proposed by the executive branch in fact constitute a separate breach of separation of powers by overstepping the authority granted to regulators under the law.

“The legislation introduced today fulfills the General Assembly’s pledge to repeal language contained in FY 2020 budget which required legislators to approve rules and regulations relating to the expansion of compassion center licenses. The General Assembly has done what it promised to do,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “However, the fact remains that the Department of Business Regulations’ proposed regulations, which must comply with the legislation, represent a blatant overreach by the executive branch. Our bill clarifies the regulatory powers granted to the executive branch regarding the expansion of compassion center licenses.”

Said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “The proposed regulations would implement limits on compassion centers, some of which were initially proposed by the administration in legislation last year, were thoroughly vetted by the Assembly, and were rejected on their merits. We didn’t punt those decisions to regulators; we decided, after due consideration, they did not create the kind of fair and appropriate system Rhode Islanders deserve. The attempt to implement these limits via regulations represents an end-run around the legislature — a separation of powers violation even as the administration had filed a lawsuit accusing the Assembly of the same thing. Our bill will put an end to all of it, making it clear where legislators have set the parameters, and letting the regulators regulate within them.”

The new legislation amends the law passed last year to allow the licensing of six new compassion centers and increase the licensing fee to $500,000 each, removing a provision that required the Assembly to approve resulting regulations developed by the executive branch.

It adds four provisions clarifying intended regulatory limits. Under the legislation, regulators would not be allowed to:
  • limit centers based on geographical zones;
  • prevent any center from growing its own supply of medical marijuana or limit by regulation the number of plants, seedlings or marijuana it may have;
  • require a market demand for new compassion centers to cultivate;
  • lower the limit on the number of patients that licensed primary caregivers are allowed to assist.
The legislative leaders said the bill is not intended to open up a debate on the merits of those specific limits, because they were already specifically discussed at length during legislative hearings. The legislation is aimed more broadly at addressing the separation-of-powers issues that have arisen in the course of implementing last year’s law.

The bill, which was developed with the consultation of Lauren E. Jones, the attorney representing the General Assembly in the lawsuit filed in Superior Court by the administration, will be given consideration by legislators early in the session, Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio said.
 

1/8/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill addresses separation of powers issues, clarifying regulators’ authority

House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio plan to file legislation today to address separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing statutes and regulations.


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Legislation, approved by Senate last year, would outlaw guns like the one believed to have been used in Pawtucket New Year’s Day murder

STATE HOUSE — As investigators grapple with what may be Rhode Island’s first murder committed with a 3-D printed gun, Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne has reintroduced legislation to outlaw such weapons. Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, who filed a similar bill last year to ban such weapons, is preparing to submit identical legislation in the House.

The legislation (2020-S 2004, 2020-H 7085)) would prohibit the possession, manufacturing or selling of 3-D printed firearms, “ghost guns” and other untraceable or undetectable firearms in Rhode Island.

“Our laws require serial numbers, background checks and age restrictions for gun ownership to provide accountability and some level of safety. 3-D guns, ghost guns and undetectable plastic guns are all meant to dodge these safeguards, at tremendous risk to public safety. These guns are designed for criminal activity. 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).

“These homemade, undetectable guns are easily made by anyone with even a little bit of technical ability,” 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 would make it unlawful in Rhode Island for any person to manufacture, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, possess, or have 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.

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

Investigators believe such a gun was used in the New Year’s Day murder of Cheryl Smith in her Pawtucket home. Suspects Jack Doherty, 23, of Albany, N.Y., and Shaylyn Moran, 18, of Pawtucket, allegedly used a handgun that appears to be made from 3-D printed parts. A Facebook account apparently used by Doherty includes several posts made prior to the murder showing the gun as it was being created.

The director of the Rhode Island State Crime Lab has said the weapon is the first 3-D gun it has been tasked with investigating, and that it will pose challenges, since plastic weapons may not leave marks on bullets the way metal guns do. Plastic weapons are also known to frequently explode when fired, so the staff at the crime lab may be unable to conduct test firing on the weapon.

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

The bill, which passed the Senate last year, is cosponsored in the Senate by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).

1/9/2020RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislation, approved by Senate last year, would outlaw guns like the one believed to have been used in Pawtucket New Year’s Day murder

As investigators grapple with what may be Rhode Island’s first murder committed with a 3-D printed gun, Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne has reintroduced legislation to outlaw such weapons. Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, who filed a similar bill last year to ban such weapons, is preparing to submit identical legislation in the House.


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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed two resolutions honoring neurologist Dr. Stephen Salloway along with 60 volunteers who participated in the clinical trial of a new Alzheimer’s drug at Butler Hospital. The resolutions (2020-H 7064, 2020-H 7068) were introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

There are an estimated 23,000 Rhode Islanders age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease — about 17.4 percent of that population, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the rate of Alzheimer’s is expected to increase. In just six years, the number is expected to increase to 27,000. In the United States, nearly one in every three seniors who die has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

During his tenure as the director of the Memory and Aging Program at Rhode Island’s Butler Hospital, Dr. Salloway has made numerous advancements in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, including most recently trials for an investigative drug called Aducanumab, which is on an FDA fast track to becoming the first new drug approved in 16 years that actually targets the disease.

“Rhode Island should be proud and grateful for the work Dr. Salloway has done in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “Because of his work and the 60 volunteers at Butler Hospital who agreed to take part in the clinical trials, we now have a drug that has been shown to effect a slower decline in the memory of patients and better preservation of day-to-day functions.”
1/10/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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Legislation would raise minimum wage to $11.10 by January 2021 and RI would join 20 other states with automatic CPI increases

STATE HOUSE – State Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich) will be reintroducing legislation that ties any future increase in the hourly minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index of the Northeast Region.  Senator Raptakis has introduced similar legislation for the last several years.

 “This proposal will provide wage raises that are needed by individuals earning minimum wage while ensuring that businesses are not overburdened with a dramatic increase that would cause financial hardship for our small businesses,” said Senator Raptakis.

The bill would also raise the state’s minimum wage to $11.10 per hour by January 2021, giving a 60 cent boost from $10.50 per hour.  The wage increase is what the state’s minimum wage would be if it were tied to the CPI as Senator Raptakis has proposed in the past since 2007, which has passed the Senate previously.  According to the bill, starting in 2022, the minimum wage would be tied to the CPI, which is released by the US Department of Labor, giving employees and employers nine months to prepare for the minimum wage increase based on 2021’s CPI, which is released in March.

“The state’s minimum wage, and in turn people’s ability to provide for themselves and their families, should not be treated as a political football every year by competing interests.  By tying the minimum wage to the CPI, everyone will have a predictable model to prepare and plan for future wage increases,” said Senator Raptakis.

Senator Raptakis believes the only responsible way to prepare employees and business owners for minimum wage increases is by linking the raise to certain economic data points such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Northeast region.  The CPI is determined by the United States Department of Labor Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Today there are over 20 states that already use the CPI, or other economic indexes and data points, to determine state minimum wage increases.

“I have never and I am not now arguing about the fairness of our state’s current minimum wage.  From 2007 to 2012, the state’s minimum wage was stagnant at $7.40, which is completely unacceptable.  If my legislation had been enacted in 2007, the minimum wage in 2012 would have been $9.58 rather than stuck at $7.40 per hour,” said Senator Raptakis. “We all know what the economy is like and how difficult it is for everyone to get by. The people doing minimum wage jobs — jobs that absolutely need to be done to keep many businesses going — need to earn a fair wage.”

“That being said, we must raise our minimum wage through careful analysis of our economic data.  Calculating the state’s minimum wage using federal economic data is the fairest way to ensure our workers and our small businesses are being treated equitably,” added Senator Raptakis.  “We should not be raising our minimum wage to mirror and compete with Connecticut and Massachusetts because their economies are quite different than Rhode Island’s.  We must take into account our business climate before we set what the minimum wage should be.”

1/9/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has introduced the Plastic Waste Reduction Act.

The legislation (2020-S 2003) is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.

“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” said President Ruggerio. “Several Rhode Island jurisdictions, including 14 local communities have already enacted similar policies to promote and encourage the use of recyclable bags, and I think it’s appropriate to be consistent throughout the state.”

Plastics that enter the marine environment break down through wave action and sunlight into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life, putting Rhode Island’s fishing industries and aquatic ecosystems at risks. The legislation also acknowledges that plastic bags and thin plastic films are the predominant contaminant of recycling loads in Rhode Island, and that single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale.

“It’s time to ban plastic bags in Rhode Island once and for all,” said Amy Moses, Vice President and Rhode Island Director of Conservation Law Foundation. “Plastics pollute at every stage of their lives — from extracting and refining fossil fuels to contaminating our recycling and choking wildlife. The Senate President’s bill is a solid compromise and it will keep Rhode Island’s lands and waters free from this toxic litter.”

Under the legislation, retail sales establishments would be prohibited from making available any single-use plastic checkout bag or any paper checkout bag that is not a recyclable paper bag or a paper carryout bag at restaurants.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), has been referred to the Environment and Agriculture Committee.
1/9/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Special Legislative Commission to Study and Evaluate the Impact of “Project Sustainability” in the State of Rhode Island will be meeting on Tuesday, January 14 at 2:30 pm in the Senate Lounge of the State House.  The commission is chaired by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport).

Project Sustainability, which was enacted in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals’ (BHDDH) FY2012 budget, is the fee-for-service reimbursement and payment system for Medicaid supported adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The commission will review findings and discuss recommendations based upon their work.

The 19-member commission consists of Senator DiPalma as chairman, two consumer advocates, several representatives from BHDDH and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, other patient advocates, and representatives from different service providers.

Public comment will be taken at the meeting.

1/10/2020SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would change the way out-of-network health care professionals are paid after rendering services to patients who didn’t have the opportunity to select such health care services from in-network professionals.

“Surprise medical billing occurs when a patient seeks treatment at an in-network facility, only to discover later on that they have received treatment from out-of-network medical professionals who are not employees of the facility,” said Representative Shanley. “Sometimes hospitals, emergency rooms and clinics are staffed by care providers who are employed by an independent company that contracts with the facility.”

Since some insurance plans offer little to no out-of-network coverage, patients can get hit with all sorts of surprise bills that are considerably higher than what they were led to believe they would be charged.

The bill (2020-H 7042) would provide a method for the reimbursement to out-of-network professionals who provide unanticipated care and would provide guidelines for what payment those professionals may seek or accept from a patient for unanticipated out-of-network care.

The legislation aims to make surprise billing a rare event, by clearly defining unanticipated and anticipated out-of-network care and by allowing patients to get written cost estimates before undergoing surgery or non-emergency, facility-based procedures. The bill further says that no health insurance carrier may require prior authorization for rendering emergency services to an insured patient. The legislation also prevents balance billing, which is when patients are billed for the amount in excess of what a doctor might get paid in a negotiated settlement. Under the provisions of this legislation, no health insurance carrier would be able to impose a coinsurance, copayment, deductible or other out-of-pocket expense that is greater than those that would be imposed if such services were rendered by an in-network health care provider.

The bill also contains a provision for the nonprofit American Arbitration Association to resolve disputes between the out-of-network provider and the insurance carrier through binding arbitration, and it prevents the health care professional from billing a patient while the claim is being negotiated or arbitrated.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.
1/9/2020RepRep. Evan P. Shanley; #236; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Joined by the other members of the Warwick delegation in the House of Representatives, Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would increase the amount of money that the city of Warwick receives from the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.

The bill (2020-H 7057) would increase the amount of compensation to be paid from the state to the city of Warwick for municipal services provided by the city to the T.F. Green Airport to not less than $1,400,000 in any fiscal year, starting July 1, 2020.

“This bill makes for a fair contribution since the city’s property tax base and moderate housing inventory has been severely reduced by the incremental expansion of T.F. Green Airport over the years,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “That expansion has put a greater strain on municipal services from Warwick, and this legislation would provide a more reasonable contribution.”

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the city of Warwick for municipal services out of the parking revenue generated at T.F. Green Airport from the parking surcharge.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by the other members of the Warwick delegation, including Representatives Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Evan Patrick Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
1/9/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would exempt certain health care products from the state’s sales tax.

The legislation (2020-H 7053) would exempt home health care products from taxation, including walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, stair lifts, or any product that assists an individual in remaining living in their own home, as opposed to a nursing facility.

“As Rhode Island’s population ages, it’s important for us to do what we can to ease the burden of those who have shouldered the burden all their lives,” said Representative McNamara. “When people with disabilities stay active and independent, they don’t utilize health care services to the degree that they would in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Modifying homes reduces falls and related hospital and rehabilitation expenses.”

Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, has been a long-time advocate for programs that keep the elderly and disabled in their homes by empowering them through home modification.

Last session, he introduced legislation that was included in the state budget to provide funding for the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant Act. The grant allows eligible homeowners and renters to retrofit their residence to nationally recognized accessibility standards and receive 50 percent of the total sum spent, up to $5,000, to retrofit their existing residence.

The program is aimed at helping Rhode Island’s aging population stay safely in their homes longer rather than over burdening the state’s nursing homes, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year in Medicaid costs.  With the state’s aging population rising each year, there is a distinct need for housing that is safe and adapted to the needs of the elderly. 

One of the keys for an individual with a disability to remain in their community is the ability to get into and out of their own home and navigate safely within that home, with or without assistance. Renovating a residence by removing barriers allows the individual to stay safely and independently within their home, and out of long-term care facilities.

The bill, which is cosponsored by Representatives James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick), Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), and Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

1/9/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) will be reintroducing legislation mandating the arming of campus police officers at the state’s public colleges after reviewing reports from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the Community College of Rhode Island on the broader issues of campus policing regarding arming campus police. 

Currently, the University of Rhode Island is the only public institute of higher education that has armed its campus police officers.  URI instituted this policy in 2015.  Representative O’Brien has also noted that Brown University in Providence, a private institution, also has campus police officers that carry firearms.

“This bill is about nothing more than the safety and protection of the students, faculty, and staff at our public colleges.  I know this is a difficult topic for some to discuss, but in a world of active shooters and terrible tragedies determined by seconds and minutes, it is completely irresponsible for us to fail our students and staff by having to rely on off-campus law enforcement if the worst case scenario should happen on our public campuses,” said Representative O’Brien.

The reports were a result of a House resolution (2019-H 5138A), sponsored by Representative O’Brien, that passed the House this past legislative session.  The original version of Representative O’Brien’s legislation (2019-H 5138) mandated the training and arming of public campus police officers and would include campus police officers under the state’s “Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.”

In their reports, both CCRI and RIC acknowledged a cost of approximately $200,000 each to train and arm their campus police officers, but, both institutions are reluctant to arm their campus police officers.  URI stated that arming their police force was the correct policy to enact in light of safety concerns and procedures.

“I would suggest that both the presidents of RIC and CCRI request the proper funding to enact this proposal when the state budget is crafted.  As a member of the House Finance Committee, I will be advocating for this funding to be included in the state budget.  We live in a dangerous world that is not getting any more safe, so a one-time cost of $400,000 is a worth-while expenditure to ensure the safety and well-being of anyone who steps on a public campus,” said Representative O’Brien.

“Although it is utterly disturbing to acknowledge, active shooter situations are not going away in our society, and most often, targets of these vile crimes are schools.  It is because of this that I believe police officers at both RIC and CCRI should be allowed to carry firearms in order to protect students, faculty, staff and the public,” said Representative O’Brien.  “This is not a political or philosophical argument, but a realization of the troubling times our country currently faces.  Total safety of the campuses is my only concern,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

1/8/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The State of Rhode Island’s Budget Reserve and Cash Stabilization or “Rainy Day” fund was fully funded in compliance with the General Laws and had a balance of $203.9 million at June 30, 2019, while $96.9 million was available in the RI Capital Plan Fund for future capital projects.

General Fund revenues and other sources exceeded expenditures and transfers by $8.5 million for fiscal 2019. The Office of the Auditor General has completed its annual audit of the State of Rhode Island’s financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, which included these fiscal 2019 operating results.

The Independent Auditor’s Report, prepared by Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle and included in the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), is unmodified, indicating that the financial statements present fairly the financial position and changes in financial position of the State of Rhode Island in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The annual audit of the state’s financial statements is required by the state’s General Laws. The Independent Auditor’s Report is directed to the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives and the Joint Committee on Legislative Services – those vested with official oversight of the annual audit.

The CAFR is prepared by the state’s Office of Accounts and Control - Department of Administration and includes financial information on the funds and accounts of the state for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, including quasi-public entities considered to be component units for financial reporting purposes (e.g., URI, RIC, CCRI, RI Resource Recovery, and RI Commerce Corporation). It also includes comprehensive government-wide financial statements, which are intended to present the changes in the state’s net position inclusive of the state’s capital assets and other long-term assets, liabilities, and deferred inflows and outflows.

Fund balance of the state’s General Fund totaled $371 million at June 30, 2019, of which $25.5 million has been appropriated in support of the fiscal 2020 budget and $5.0 million is available for future appropriation. Remaining fund balance amounts are generally restricted for specific purposes. The primary sources of General Fund revenue and other sources were taxes (44%) and federal grants (39%).

Transfers from the Rhode Island Lottery totaled $397.3 million, an increase of $32.3 million compared to fiscal 2018. General Fund expenditures totaled $7.2 billion, of which the human services and education categories totaled $4.0 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively.  Federal grant revenue, within the General Fund, totaled $2.8 billion, an increase of $82.1 million over fiscal 2018.

For fiscal 2019, government-wide net position (deficit) of the primary government increased by $102.4 million thereby reducing the net deficit to ($265.5) million at June 30, 2019.  This amount includes governmental and business-type activities (Lottery, Convention Center, and Employment Security) but excludes discretely presented component units. 

Capital assets of the primary government, net of accumulated depreciation, totaled $4.6 billion at June 30, 2019 - $2.3 billion were infrastructure assets.

Long-term liabilities, including bonds payable and net pension and OPEB (retiree healthcare) liabilities of the primary government, totaled $7.5 billion.

Net pension liabilities included in the 2019 financial statements (governmental activities) totaled $3.6 billion at the June 30, 2018 measurement date. This amount is the combined liability for six defined benefit plans covering state employees and the state’s proportionate share of the net pension liability for teachers — $1.4 billion.

Five defined benefit plans (covering state employees) are managed as trusts by the Employees’ Retirement System of RI (ERSRI) - the pension liability is net of plan fiduciary net position accumulated for future benefits (fair value at the June 30, 2018 measurement date). An additional plan covering certain judges is managed as a pay-as-you-go plan — no amounts have been accumulated for future benefits — annual benefit payments are appropriated each year. The net pension liability included in the financial statements is the accounting measure of pension liabilities which differs from measurements used to determine the actuarially determined annual contributions to each plan.

Plan fiduciary net position as a percentage of the total pension liability for the plans managed by ERSRI at the June 30, 2018, measurement date follows:

ERS – State employees           52.5%
ERS – Teachers                       54.3%
SPRBT - State Police              83.6%
SPRFT – State Police              8.9%
JRBT – Judges                        92.8%
RIJRFT – Judges                    4.2%  

Fiscal 2019 State employer contributions to the defined benefit pension plans totaled $300.6 million, including $102.2 million as the state’s share for teachers.

Assets of the defined contribution plan, part of the hybrid pension benefit structure, totaled $1 billion at June 30, 2019.

The net OPEB liability included in the 2019 financial statements totaled $500.6 million at the June 30, 2018 measurement date. Six defined benefit Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) plans provide healthcare benefits to retired state employees including certain electing teachers and Board of Education employees. State employer contributions to the OPEB plans totaled $50.3 million.

Plan fiduciary net position as a percentage of the total OPEB liability at the June 30, 2018, measurement date follows:

State employees                      26.3%
Teachers                                 95.6%
State Police                            53.2%
Judicial                              341.0%
Legislators                   190.9%
Board of Education                38.6% 
 
The fiscal 2019 CAFR includes the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting awarded for the 2018 CAFR. This award reflects the state’s continued commitment to ensuring audited financial information, which meets generally accepted accounting principles and the required elements of a comprehensive governmental financial report, is available on a timely basis.

Other communications resulting from the annual audit will include findings and recommendations related to the state’s controls over financial reporting and the Single Audit Report, which focuses on the state’s compliance with requirements related to federal assistance expenditures. The Single Audit Report is required by federal law and is provided to federal funding agencies as a condition of continued federal assistance.

The State’s CAFR is available on the website of the Office of Accounts and Control, Department of Administration. A link to the report is provided below:
http://controller.admin.ri.gov/documents/Financial%20Reports//121_Comprehensive%20Annual%20Financial%20Report_06-30-2019.pdf

The Auditor General’s website includes a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report – Highlights document that summarizes key State financial operating results for fiscal 2019. A link to the CAFR — highlights is provided below:
http://www.oag.ri.gov/reports/CAFR_RI_2019_Summary.pdf
 

1/7/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Dennis E. Hoyle, CPA
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NoYesApproved3706491/7/2020 12:58 PMSystem Account1/7/2020 12:58 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Mario Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 1, as the 2019-20 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Mendez was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with a program of activities that included the re-election of Rep. Nicholas Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) as the Speaker of the House. Elected Speaker in March 2014, Mattiello began his second full two-year term today with an address to the House members and other assembled officials and guests.

Representative Mendez is a lifelong resident of District 13 and a product of Providence public schools. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and currently resides in Johnston.
1/1/2019RepRep. Mario F. Mendez; #247; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law several pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.

The bills were all sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), who led the Senate’s Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation this year. In the House, the bills were sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, Rep. Joseph McNamara and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa.

“Alzheimer’s disease profoundly reshapes families, often for years. Its effects slowly rob people of the abilities they have had their whole lives. Providing the care that their loved ones need can be an enormous challenge for families. We must ensure that we are carefully and effectively using every available resource we have to ensure that every person affected by Alzheimer’s has the support and care they need,” said Senator Coyne, whose father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The first bill (2019-S 0223, 2019-H 5178), sponsored in the House by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, establishes a program within the Department of Health dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease, and create a 13-member advisory council that would provide policy recommendations, evaluate state-funded efforts for care and research and provide guidance to state officials on advancements in treatment, prevention and diagnosis. The bill is based on legislation signed into law last year in Massachusetts.

The bill requires the Department of Health to assess all state programs related to Alzheimer’s, and maintain and annually update the state’s plan for Alzheimer’s disease. It also requires the Department of Health to establish an Alzheimer’s disease assessment protocol specifically focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments, and appropriate resource information for effective medical screening, investigation and service planning. The bill requires caseworkers working with the Department of Elderly Affairs to be familiar with those protocols. Additionally, it requires a one-time, hour-long training on diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with cognitive impairments for all physicians and nurses licensed in the state.

“This legislation will create a more cohesive approach to our state’s efforts to serve people with Alzheimer’s disease, which will ensure that our resources are used to their fullest effect. It will help Rhode Island make sure that our efforts are well coordinated and that we are doing everything we can to assist families touched by this devastating disease,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Adoption of the bill enables Rhode Island to qualify for federal funding that is available to help states with their efforts to support those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The second bill (2019-S 0302A, 2019-H 5141), sponsored in the House by Representative McNamara, now allows the spouses or partners of patients residing in Alzheimer’s or dementia special care unit or program to live with them, even if they do not meet the requirements as patients themselves.

“A person who needs care for Alzheimer’s should not be separated from his or her spouse on top of it. Allowing couples to remain living together will help them maintain their relationship, their connection and their personal dignity,” said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), who is chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

Additionally, the governor signed legislation sponsored in the House by Representative Serpa that now requires a nationwide criminal background check for anyone seeking guardianship or limited guardianship of another adult, even temporarily.

“While most guardians are selflessly dedicated to helping those in their care, guardianship creates significant opportunities to take advantage or abuse extremely vulnerable people. No person who has an abusive or violent past should be given that level of control over an elderly or disabled person and their affairs. This bill will protect senior citizens and disabled people,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Under the bill (2019-S 0845A, 2019-H 6114), anyone who is found to have been convicted or plead nolo contendere to charges for a variety of crimes, including violent crimes or crimes involving abuse or neglect of elders, would be disqualified from serving as a guardian.
7/25/2019RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #187; #41; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The governor has signed into law several pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.


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Panels are to ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo will increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.

Under the legislation (2019-H 5538, 2019-S 0818), which was passed by the General Assembly in June and took effect immediately upon being signed by the governor July 15, school districts must also adopt policies for assessment and intervention, including procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation.

The legislation was a recommendation of the School Safety Committee, a panel led by the State Police to develop statewide policy for school safety. Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) met with the State Police over the course of last summer to discuss legislative efforts that could help prevent violence in schools such as the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year.

“So many times after a tragedy, members of the school community say there were so many warning signs from the eventual perpetrator of the violence. Then people are puzzled about how those signs could possibly be missed, to such devastating effect,” said Speaker Mattiello. “Many times, it’s because of segmented administrative structures that don’t result in anyone in charge recognizing multiple warning signs from a single person. There have to be people at every school — people who are part of that school’s fabric, who know the students, the staff, the parents and the structures — whose job it is to collect that information and decide what to do with it. Everyone at that school needs to know who to tell if they see concerning behavior, so they can help keep schools safe, and connect troubled individuals to help so they don’t become the next perpetrator of violence at school.”

Under the new law, every district school committee is required to adopt a written policy for the establishment of threat assessment teams, and for assessment and intervention with individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students. The policies, which must be consistent with a model policy the statewide School Safety Committee has recommended, shall include procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation or treatment when appropriate.

Each district superintendent must establish for each school a threat assessment team with expertise in guidance, counseling, school administration, mental health and law enforcement. The team will be in charge of implementing the district safety policy. It will also provide guidance to students, faculty, and staff in recognizing threatening or aberrant behavior that may represent a threat to the community, school, or the individual, and ensure that everyone at the school knows who to tell if they recognize such behavior. If there is reason to believe someone in the school poses a threat of violence to others or himself or herself, the team would immediately pass information on for action: to the superintendent or other designated administrator, and to the school building administrator, who would be in charge of contacting parents or guardians in the case of a student. Members of the team are prohibited from disclosing any information regarding any individual collected through the course of the team’s work, except for the purpose of addressing the threat.

The superintendent must also establish a district committee with similar expertise to oversee the school-level teams.

The bill is modeled after a Virginia law. Similar models have been adopted in Maryland, Florida and other states since the Parkland massacre.

“This effort will help prevent violence before it happens, and it will also serve as a means to connect people who are experiencing trouble with the help they need. Having dedicated groups within each school who know the students, the faculty, the staff and the parents will help identify concerns early as a means of both prevention and intervention. Their work can keep schools safe and allow the focus to stay on learning,” said Chairwoman Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

The House bill was cosponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Mario Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence), Rep. Joe Serodio (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) and Rep. Thomas Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
7/25/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Hanna Gallo; #120; #88; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Panels are to ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
A new law sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo will increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.


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Legislation frees practitioners from inapplicable, burdensome hairdressing license standards

STATE HOUSE – Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and ceremonially signed into law by the governor today at Salon 361 in Providence.

The legislation (2019-H 5677A, 2019-S 0260A), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams and Sen. Ana B. Quezada, is the result of a four-year effort to recognize natural hair braiding as a safe, natural, cultural practice, distinct from hairdressing and barbering, which requires licensing due to their use of chemicals and sharp instruments.

“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women and men. Hair braiding skills and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and do not require formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice. This bill rights a wrong and allows entrepreneurs — including a lot of women from low-income neighborhoods — to make a living,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).  “Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity. The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what was occurring with natural hair braiders. Finally lifting this senseless requirement is a triumph for our community, not only freeing braiders from onerous regulations but also bringing about a bit of sorely needed cultural sensitivity.”

The new law, which took effect immediately, defines natural hair braiding as “a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand or with mechanical devices.” The law allows braiders to use natural or synthetic hair extensions, decorative beads and other hair accessories; to perform minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding hair; and to use topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding as well as clips, combs, crochet hooks, curlers, curling irons, hairpins, rollers, scissors, blunt-tipped needles, thread, and hair binders. They may also make wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers and hair extensions.

Under the new law, natural hair braiders may not apply dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color of the hair or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair; or use chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds or fusion bonds.

Proponents for the legislation have argued that requiring natural hair braiders to meet the licensing requirements for hairdressers forces them to either pay thousands of dollars and undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, or go into the “underground economy” to avoid being shut down.

“Passing this bill is vindication for braiders who have never claimed to be hairdressers and shouldn’t have been held to the same licensing standards. It also lets braiders practice their art much more freely, finally opening the door for a cottage industry to thrive in Rhode Island. In that way, it’s an economic development and jobs bill, too,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

Enactment of the law means Rhode Island joins 27 other states that do not require licensing of natural hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice, which has advocated for the deregulation of natural hair braiders across the nation.

Governor Gina Raimondo ceremonially signed legislation today to exempt natural hair braiders from burdensome licensing requirements.  From left are Senators Dawn Euer and Ana Quezada, Senate sponsors; Rep. Anastasia Williams, House sponsor; Governor Raimondo; Jocelyn Docouto, advocate; and Natalie Jones, owner of Salon 361 in Providence where the ceremony was held.


8/2/2019SenRep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #10; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and ceremonially signed into law by the governor today at Salon 361 in Providence.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was ceremonially signed into law by the governor today in the State Room of the State House. 

More specifically, the legislation extends the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims to 35 years.  Currently, the statute of limitations is seven years in Rhode Island.

“It is unfortunate that this bill is needed in our society because it signals that not only are our children being sexually victimized, but even more sadly, many of these victims will never have their day in court to face their abusers and demand accountability for the vicious childhood assaults that have haunted their lives – often times for decades.  It is for this reason that we need to significantly extend the statute of limitations on civil actions relating to sexual abuse.” said Representative McEntee.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a scourge on our society, nationally and here in Rhode Island. Today, passage of this legislation significantly moves the needle forward for these brave victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Today, Rhode Island has opened the courthouse doors by significantly extending the statute of limitations. Access to justice is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, and today we have provided that for countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bravo,” said Senator Nesselbush.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years. The legislation would also extend to 35 years the statute of limitations for entities, individuals or organizations which caused or contributed to childhood sexual abuse through negligent supervision, conduct, concealment or other factors that enabled the abuse to occur.  The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities are also included under this provision of the legislation.

The 35 year statute begins at the age of 18 for the victims.

The bill also includes a “seven year discovery rule” which enables victims of sex abuse to file suit against perpetrators and non-perpetrators up to seven years from the time a victim discovered or remembered abuse had taken place, such as through therapy as an adult.

Representative McEntee introduced this bill due to her own personal family connection to childhood sexual abuse.  Last session and this session, Representative McEntee has accompanied her older sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, to testify in favor of the legislation.  Representative McEntee has referred to the legislation as “Annie’s Bill” due to her sister’s advocacy for the bill. 

Dr. Webb recounted her own experiences being a young survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the family parish priest.  Representative McEntee’s sister, now a psychologist specializing in counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, detailed how often it takes years, if not decades, for victims of childhood sexual assault to not only come to terms with their abuse, but also to find the strength to come forward, to name their abuser, and seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against their innocence and youth.

Dr. Webb also explained that because of the complex and often long healing process in regards to these crimes, many abusers are not only never charged criminally, but they also are shielded by statutes of limitations from having to answer for their crimes in a civil manner.

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse deserve justice and by passing this legislation, these brave people who have the courage to confront their victimizers will have a chance at justice for the crimes committed against them as children,” concluded Representative McEntee and Senator Nesselbush.

From the left: Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, sponsor, Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Dr. Anne Hagan Webb, advocate and sister of Representative McEntee, and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, sponsor, at a ceremonial bill signing of the legislation held in the State Room of the State House.


8/5/2019SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Donna Nesselbush; #226; #179; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was ceremonially signed into law by the governor today in the State Room of the State House. 



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STATE HOUSE – Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today delivered a joint letter to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo requesting additional information in advance of public hearings on the proposed 20-year contract extension for International Game Technologies (IGT).

“We are committed to properly vetting this legislation by way of public hearings to determine the appropriateness of forgoing the normal bid process for a contract of this length, scope and magnitude,” they wrote.

The Speaker and Senate President stated that “the General Assembly and the public need an opportunity to review the information and details prior to any legislative hearings being scheduled,” and requested documents be submitted to them by Aug. 30 “so that a well-informed public vetting process can get underway.”

Among some of the documents requested are: a proposed contract or the terms of the agreement in principle as negotiated between the Governor’s office and IGT; detailed information about the 1,000 jobs required in the current contract; underlying data used in a report on the economic impact of the 1,100 jobs and capital investments to be required with the contract extension, along with any consultant, legal or other reports relied upon during the Governor’s negotiations with IGT. 

8/13/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today delivered a joint letter to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo requesting additional information in advance of public hearings on the proposed 20-year contract extension for International Game Technologies (IGT).
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STATE HOUSE, Providence –  The Senate Finance Committee will host a series of public hearings starting later this month to review the proposed contract extension for IGT Global Solutions Corporation.

Earlier this year, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio introduced Senate Bill 1031 at the request of the Governor to extend IGT Global Solutions Corporation’s lottery contract with the State of Rhode Island.
 
The vetting process for Senate Bill 1031 will include at least five public hearings held at the State House. The first hearing will include an overview of state procurement processes and a review of the current lottery system provider contract. Subsequent hearings will include an analysis of the terms proposed in Senate Bill 1031 and alternative proposals; inquiry into the negotiation and development of proposed contract terms; analysis of economic impact studies on the proposal; and, an overview of best practices and the current landscape related to gaming industry technology provider services. The series will conclude with a hearing dedicated to receiving public testimony. The website www.SenateLotteryContractHearings.com has been created as a way for the public to provide the committee with additional input and make materials available to the public.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will hold its first hearing on Senate Bill 1031. Witnesses invited to testify at the hearing will include representatives from the state’s Division of Purchases, Department of Administration, Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery, and IGT Global Solutions.

Subsequent hearings are scheduled for the following dates:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, at 5 p.m.

9/3/2019SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Sen. William Conley; #85; #202; Greg Pare
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The Senate Finance Committee will host a series of public hearings starting later this month to review the proposed contract extension for IGT Global Solutions Corporation. 


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STATE HOUSE — Four education reform bills passed by the General Assembly have been ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo today at Cranston High School West.

The first law (2019-S 0863B, 2019-H 5008B), introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, requires the Commissioner of Education to develop statewide academic standards and curriculum frameworks for the core subjects of mathematics, English language arts, and science and technology.

“This law ensures that our academic standards set forth the skills, competencies, and knowledge expected of each student. The curriculum will align with those standards, and the frameworks would provide strategies to help meet the diverse needs of our students, closing any gaps that exist,” said Senator Gallo.

This act also requires the commissioner to identify at least five examples of high-quality curriculum and materials for each of the core subjects, after which local education agencies would be required to select and implement one for each of the core subjects.

Once they select a high-quality curriculum and materials, the Department of Education will identify an assistance partner from within the department to provide any and all support regarding access to, implementation of, and professional development for the curriculum and materials.

 “The goal is to give parents a clear map of what their children will be learning, and have it be consistent statewide,” said Representative McNamara. “It’s tremendously important that we bring these three tiers — standards, curriculum and testing — into alignment.”

The second law (2019-S 0869A, 2019-H 6085Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) and Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a fast-track program to certify new principals. Applicants to the program must have at least 10 years of experience as an “effective” or “highly effective” teacher, a recommendation from the superintendent where they have taught, a record of leadership and a master’s degree.

A third law (2019-S 0865A, 2019-H 6084A) provides for greater school-based management at the school level, expands the duties of principals and school improvement teams, and establishes a new chapter on education accountability which provides for evaluations, assessments, and education review reports on the performance of both school districts and individual schools.

 “This law increases the authority and power of those who know their schools best – the principals, teachers and community members who are fully aware of the their school’s needs and how to best meet these needs,” said Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), the House sponsor of the bill. “I have spoken with numerous school professionals in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and they tell me such a change would make a significant difference in their ability to properly cultivate the educational environment in order to best serve our children.”

“This legislation will create a greater collaboration among state, district and school officials to develop and implement plans,” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “This bill is really a culture change for our schools. It’s reform that will focus on the success of individuals by giving greater authority to those who are actually doing the educating at a school and district level.”

The fourth law (2019-H 5887B, 2019-S 1036) sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) and Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett) requires licensed elementary level teachers to be proficient in scientific reading instruction.

Scientific reading instruction is the teaching of how sounds relate to letters and words during reading instruction.  It is based upon research regarding how the brain works while learning spoken and written language with an emphasis on phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, orthographic awareness, and comprehension strategies.

The speakers were joined at the ceremony by Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and Cranston Superintendent of Schools Jeannine Nota-Masse.

9/4/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. Gregg Amore; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; Rep. William O'Brien; Sen. Hanna Gallo; Sen. Ryan Pearson; Sen. Harold Metts; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #41; #195; #222; #193; #88; #203; #91; #264; Daniel Trafford
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Four education reform bills passed by the General Assembly have been ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo today at Cranston High School West.
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STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island was ceremonially signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo today.

“By several measures, student loan debt has increased greatly in the last 10 years,” said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “It has surpassed the amount households owe on auto loans, home equity loans and credit cards. This legislation will help to address the crisis by establishing oversight of the student loan process and prohibiting predatory practices.”

Said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), “The heavy burden of student debt is challenging enough for the majority of college graduates. Incompetent, inefficient or even deceitful loan servicers should not be allowed to exacerbate their struggles. Student loan servicers must be held accountable to ensure that they are providing honest, reliable information and services to their borrowers.”

The legislation (2019-S 0737A, 2019-H 5936A), titled the Student Loan Bill of Rights and backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, sets standards for student loan servicing, both prohibiting predatory behavior and providing best practices for protecting consumers’ rights. It requires that student loan servicers register with the state and allows state regulators to examine servicers’ business practices. Additionally, the legislation allows the Attorney General and Department of Business Regulation to penalize servicers who violate borrower rights and to seek restitution on behalf of borrowers in Rhode Island.

Borrowers in Rhode Island report being double-charged or incorrectly marked as delinquent in payment, with loan servicers taking months, or ever years, to correct mistakes. Additionally, many student loan borrowers eligible for the national “Public Service Loan Forgiveness” program have received incorrect and contradictory information from their loan servicers, leading to improper denials of loan forgiveness.

“We’ve worked hard to reduce the cost of college for Rhode Islanders. We also need to ensure that those who graduate with debt are treated fairly by lenders,” said Governor Raimondo.  “The Student Loan Bill of Rights safeguards students by creating clear, strict, and transparent regulations for loan agencies, and it ensures that loan agencies are held accountable for their actions.”

More than 133,000 Rhode Islanders, including 16,000 senior citizens, have a combined $4.5 billion in student loan debt. Over $470 million of Rhode Islanders’ student loan debt is delinquent.

“There is a growing student debt crisis in the country and in Rhode Island. There are borrowers who do everything right and still fall victim to predatory and deceptive practices by the corporations that service their loans,” said Treasurer Magaziner. “Today, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed our common-sense legislation that will hold servicers accountable and provide an important resource for Rhode Islanders who are paying off student loans.”

Said Attorney General Neronha, “If and when borrowers have issues with their loans or loan servicers, this legislation provides them with a place to go to address those issues. While our primary focus will be on helping Rhode Islanders get the information they need to solve their student loan problems, my office will be ready, on behalf of mistreated borrowers, to investigate and enforce violations of the student loan standards outlined in this bill.”
9/30/2019RepSen. Dawn Euer; Rep. Joseph McNamara; #244; #41; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island has been ceremonially signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo.

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State House, Providence, RI – Today, House Republican Finance Committee members called for an independent study on the proposed IGT 20-year contract extension and the competing proposal from Twin River, Camelot, and Intralot.
 
“Given that the presentations by the Raimondo Administration and IGT differ in material aspects from that offered by Twin River, it is imperative that we take an informed and strategic approach to secure the best deal for Rhode Island taxpayers,” said Blake A. Filippi, House Republican Leader. “While we have a talented House Finance Committee and fiscal staff, we are not technology contracting experts, and must seek outside expert help to get this right. We must not gamble with our third largest source of state revenue.”
 
The key disputed issues are:
 
  1. Does the proposed IGT contract include a premium on services as a subsidy to keep 1100 jobs in Rhode Island? The Administration and IGT claim there is no premium on services in the proposed IGT contract, while Twin River pegs the premium at approximately $300 million over the life of the proposed the contract. Similarly, we must also determine whether Twin River’s competing proposal offers market-driven rates, or whether it includes a premium on services for creating jobs.
 
  1. How well do the IGT Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) perform against their competitors on the Lincoln and Tiverton casino floors? IGT testified that their VLTs are modern and largely performing at or above their competitors’ machines on the Lincoln and Tiverton casino floors. Conversely, Twin River claims that the IGT machines are underperforming and largely outdated.
 
  1. Is it in Rhode Island’s best interest to have IGT supply up to 85% of the video lottery terminals (VLTs) on the Lincoln and Tiverton casino floors? The Administration and IGT testified that this is an acceptable provision in the proposed IGT contract, which includes performance metrics to ensure IGT’s VLTs maximize revenue. On the other hand, Twin River contends that state revenues will be hurt if one company controls 85% of the casino floor, because it restricts competition by limiting the state’s ability to assess how the IGT machines are performing against competitors’ VLTs, and to then have the ability to remove underperforming machines.
 
  1. Is 20-years an appropriate length of time for this type of technology contract? The Administration and IGT testified that this term is comparable to lottery contracts in other states and that Rhode Island is protected in the event of rapidly changing technology. Twin River testified that a 20-year contract is outside the norm and that the state would be disadvantaged by a long technology commitment, and has instead countered with a 12-year proposal.
 
  1. What is the ultimate cost to the state from the competing proposals and how do they compare to other state’s gaming contracts? The Administration and IGT assert that the proposed $1 billion 20-year IGT contract extension reflects market rates for services. Twin River contends that the proposed IGT contract uses inflated pricing, and claims their proposal will result in less than $500 million in costs to the state over 12 years.
 
  1. Can Twin River, Camelot and Intralot provide the services necessary to effectively and efficiently operate our lottery and VLT systems? It is indisputable that IGT has the technology know-how to operate these specialized systems. The Administration and IGT have questioned whether Twin River and their partners can similarly perform.
 
“Our hearings made it evident that we need a critical deep dive into the multitude of complex issues surrounding our gaming contract. Thankfully, former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld has offered to finance an independent analysis of the proposed IGT contract and we believe the General Assembly should take him up on his offer. We also believe this study should include a critical analysis of Twin River’s competing proposal and how it stacks up against IGT’s. Hassenfeld is uniquely positioned in the world of technology, gaming and marketing, and has urged the state to exercise caution with its gaming contracts. Since the current contract is not up until 2023, we have plenty of time to get this right,” said Senior Deputy Minority Leader Justin Price. 
 
“With Hassenfeld's offer to finance this much needed analysis, we have nothing to lose and much insight to gain from his examination on behalf of Rhode Island taxpayers. We need to confirm that our gaming contracts maximize value for taxpayers. This study would give us all, legislators and citizens alike, a better handle on the best course of action,” explained Deputy Minority Leader Robert Quattrocchi.
 
“We have learned much over the past few weeks,” said Leader Filippi, “but perhaps most important, we have learned what we do not know. The complexities of this industry require outside expert assistance. We need to get this right. The future of gaming revenues is far too important to rush through when there is such conflicting testimony from the Administration, IGT and Twin River.”
 

10/9/2019RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; #218; #219; #238; Sue Stenhouse
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House Republican Finance Committee members called for an independent study on the proposed IGT 20-year contract extension and the competing proposal from Twin River, Camelot, and Intralot.



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STATE HOUSE – A ceremonial signing was held today for new law sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski that makes noncompetition agreements unenforceable against hourly and low-wage employees as well as children and college students.

The legislation (2019-S 0698A, 2019-H 6019A) is intended as a way to help employees find other employment when they leave a job.

Noncompetition agreements are meant to place limits on an employee’s activities such as working for a competitor, often for a period of months or years after they have left their job.

Such agreements have a chilling effect on employees’ ability to seek other work in their field.

“Hourly workers, low-wage employees and people who are just starting out should not be hindered from finding a new job when they leave or lose another. They need to keep working. A former employer should not have the right to place any restrictions on them that make it hard for them to land another job, especially in a field where they have experience. Noncompete agreements are one more roadblock that can contribute to keeping poor people poor, and they should not be allowed to be used in that way,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The legislation makes such agreements unenforceable against non-salaried employees, employees who make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, children under 18 and both undergraduate and graduate students.

“There’s simply no justification for noncompete agreements for employees who are nowhere near the top of the corporate ladder. This legislation will help workers get back to work after job loss and protect them from being unfairly forced to sit on the sidelines without a paycheck when they are ready and willing to work,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

The signing was held at the Rudolph Tavares Community Center Gym in Providence.

“Noncompetes that target low-wage workers restrict economic mobility and hamper employees’ ability to negotiate for better working conditions,” said Governor Raimondo. “They run contrary to the belief at the heart of our economic approach: that everyone deserves a fair shot at a good job.  This bill will eliminate a barrier that unfairly hurt Rhode Islanders.”

IN PHOTO: From left, bill sponsors Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin and Gov. Gina M. Raimondo listen as Melissa Sanzaro, executive director of the Providence Housing Authority, welcomes them to the Rudolph Tavares Community Center Gym in Providence, where today’s ceremonial bill signing was held.

10/31/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #104; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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A ceremonial signing was held today for new law sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski that makes noncompetition agreements unenforceable against hourly and low-wage employees as well as children and college students.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) was honored by Day One with the organization’s Spotlight Award at the third annual Dine for Day One event held on October 24 at the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket.  Representative McEntee, along with her sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, were honored due to their sponsorship and advocacy for a new law that extends the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims.

“Annie and I were truly honored to be recognized by Day One, an organization that does so much to fight against abuse and help all those who are affected by physical, mental, and sexual abuse.  It has been a long road to seeing ‘Annie’s Bill’ become law and it would not have been possible without the aid of Day One and others who are equally committed to ending childhood sexual abuse.  We thank Day One and all the other advocates who saw the need for this legislation to be passed into law and especially for all the support they offered over the past two legislative sessions,” said Representative McEntee.

Representative McEntee introduced the bill due to her own personal family connection to childhood sexual abuse.  Last session and this session, Representative McEntee has accompanied her older sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, to testify in favor of the legislation.  Representative McEntee has referred to the legislation as “Annie’s Bill” due to her sister’s advocacy for the bill.

Dr. Webb recounted her own experiences being a young survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the family parish priest.  Representative McEntee’s sister, now a psychologist specializing in counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, detailed how often it takes years, if not decades, for victims of childhood sexual assault to not only come to terms with their abuse, but also to find the strength to come forward, to name their abuser, and seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against their innocence and youth.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative McEntee, extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years. The legislation also extends to 35 years the statute of limitations for entities, individuals or organizations which caused or contributed to childhood sexual abuse through negligent supervision, conduct, concealment or other factors that enabled the abuse to occur.  The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities are also included under this provision of the legislation.

The 35 year statute begins at the age of 18 for the victims.

The bill also includes a “seven year discovery rule” which enables victims of sex abuse to file suit against perpetrators and non-perpetrators up to seven years from the time a victim discovered or remembered abuse had taken place, such as through therapy as an adult.

Day One is a Rhode Island organization that is specifically organized to deal with issues of sexual assault as a community concern. They provide treatment, intervention, education, advocacy, and prevention services to Rhode Islanders of all ages—from preschool children to elder adults. Additionally, they advocate for public policy initiatives and systemic changes that positively impact how Rhode Island families handle sexual abuse cases.

From the left: Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, Executive Director of Day One Peg Langhammer, and Dr. Ann Hagan Webb at the Dine for Day One event held at the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket.


11/7/2019RepRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; #226; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) was honored by Day One with the organization’s Spotlight Award at the third annual Dine for Day One event held on October 24 at the Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket.  Representative McEntee, along with her sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, were honored due to their sponsorship and advocacy for a new law that extends the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims.


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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo today ceremonially signed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) that extends veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

The bill (2019-H 5443A, 2019-S 0837) provides a petition process to have a discharge from service recorded as honorable for members of the armed services separated from the service with a general or other than honorable discharge due solely to their sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

“While the military will now upgrade some of those undesirable discharges to ‘honorable’ status as long as there were no instances of misconduct, digging up decades-old records can be difficult and time-consuming — and it often takes years,” explained Representative Vella-Wilkinson, who serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Some of our LGBT vets who served during World War II, Korean or Vietnam wars choose to deny their service rather than answer prying questions.  We don't have the authority to reinstate federal benefits but Rhode Island can certainly take a bold, compassionate step to ensure state and local benefits are afforded to all our deserving patriots.”

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay between World War II and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many of these were given undesirable discharges, barring them from veterans’ benefits. Under the provisions of the legislation, the director of the Office of Veterans’ Affairs willprovide a form certifying that the member’s discharge is to be treated as honorable.

“While the armed forces have fortunately stopped discharging members under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, the current federal administration has renewed its attacks on our transgender service members. Far too many veterans have been discharged, shamed and left without the benefits they earned because of decades of a dehumanizing policy that said they couldn’t serve. They deserved gratitude and honor, and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that these wrongs are righted and that they get the respect they deserve,” said Senator Euer.
11/8/2019SenRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; Sen. Dawn Euer; #235; #244; Daniel Trafford
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Gov. Gina Raimondo today ceremonially signed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) that extends veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

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STATE HOUSE — House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and House Republican Leader Blake Filippi today announced that Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC has been awarded the contract for conducting the independent study on the 20-year gaming proposal under consideration by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

Christiansen Capital Advisors will complete the detailed evaluation of the IGT proposal submitted for consideration by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and the assessment of the analyses submitted supporting and disputing the proposal. The fixed contract amount for the study is $147,600, with anticipated additional expenses of $11,500. Christiansen was one of four professional gaming consulting firms that submitted in-depth study proposals for consideration. The proposal review considered content, process, impartiality, timeliness and expertise. Funding for this study is provided through the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS).

“I support the efforts to obtain an independent analysis of the proposal and related issues and I await the results,” said Speaker Mattiello.

“Bringing in third-party experts has become standard practice for governments that contract in this technical field,” said Leader Filippi. “This need is only magnified by the IGT proposal —particularly because competitive bidding has not been used, the proposed contract is for 20 years, and the conflicting testimony between IGT, the Raimondo administration, and Twin River about core elements of the proposed contract. We believe that outside experts will help us secure the best deal for Rhode Island taxpayers. I wish to thank the speaker for his support and open mind in engaging this process. We need to get this right. The future of gaming revenues in the state of Rhode Island is far too important.”

“This examination would not have been possible without the initial offer by Alan Hassenfeld to fund such a study. His concerns with the trajectory of technology in the world of gaming and the length of the proposed contract were duly noted. This detailed study will give us all, legislators and citizens alike, the information we need to make the best decision,” explained Deputy Minority Leader Robert Quattrocchi.

“Our hearings made it evident that we need a critical deep dive into the multitude of complex issues surrounding our gaming contract. Thankfully, we had a number of professional gaming consultants respond to our request for proposals. We wish to thank Spectrum Gaming Group, The Innovation Group and WhiteSand Gaming for their interest and participation in our process,” said Senior Deputy Minority Leader Justin Price. 
11/27/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; #120; #218; #238; #219; Larry Berman
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House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and House Republican Leader Blake Filippi today announced that Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC has been awarded the contract for conducting the independent study on the 20-year gaming proposal under consideration by the Rhode Island General Assembly.
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PAWTUCKET – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio joined Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien and other state and local leaders today to announce the largest economic development project in Pawtucket’s history, made possible by legislation passed by the General Assembly in June.

Known as Tidewater Landing, the $400 million project proposed by Fortuitous Partners will transform Pawtucket’s waterfront with hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development, including a new professional soccer team that will compete in the United Soccer League Championship — the second division of professional soccer in the United States. 

Public investment, generated through new Pawtucket Tax Increment Financing (TIF) tool authorized by the General Assembly, will be focused on public infrastructure and non-stadium development. The project is expected to add more than $130 million annually to the state’s GDP.

The TIF legislation (2019-H 6153Aaa / 2019-S 0673aa), sponsored by Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), authorizes state and local incremental tax revenues, such as sales taxes, generated in the Arts District, the Growth Center District and the Ballpark District in Pawtucket to be used to finance improvements and redevelopment in the districts. 

“When the General Assembly proudly enacted the legislation creating the Pawtucket Tax Increment Financing earlier this year, we were hopeful it would generate such an exciting economic development opportunity as this one,” said Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “It has been a collaborative effort between the Pawtucket House delegation of Reps. Mary Messier, Raymond Johnston, Carlos Tobon, Jean-Philippe Barros and Karen Alzate, in working with Mayor Grebien and the Commerce Corporation, to attract this great project which will transform the city’s waterfront. I thank Brett Johnson and Fortuitous Partners for their faith and foresight by investing in Pawtucket’s future and bringing this extensive business and retail development, which will generate thousands of jobs, and the fast-growing sport of professional soccer to our state.”

President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) said, “Pawtucket is the northern gateway for our state, and this project will help the city to revitalize and grow. This is a transformative project not only for Pawtucket but also for our state. I want to commend the entire Pawtucket delegation for sponsoring the legislation that made this possible, and especially the prime sponsor, Sen. Sandra Cano, for her efforts.” 

The project will include expanded waterfront access through a riverwalk park connecting downtown to the currently underutilized riverfront, a new pedestrian bridge, and other key infrastructure upgrades. In addition to a new 7,500-seat multi-use stadium, the selected developer — Fortuitous Partners, an investment firm specializing in sports-anchored mixed-use real estate projects — is expected to include an indoor sports complex, more than 200 units of market-rate and workforce housing, a 200-room hotel, 200,000 square feet of commercial office space and 100,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage and other community space. It is estimated that the full project will create more than 2,500 direct and indirect construction jobs and more than 1,200 direct, ongoing jobs once complete.

“Today is an exciting first step toward a $400 million investment in Pawtucket’s future,” said Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. “This economic development project will establish a professional soccer team from a leading national league here in Rhode Island, revitalize the waterfront and downtown and create more than 3,500 jobs. Most importantly, it will transform this area into a vibrant hub of activity like we haven’t seen in decades.”

The project is currently focused on the Tidewater and Division Street sites that are owned by National Grid and the city, respectively. The final development sites, phasing, construction costs and schedule for the project will be finalized during an upcoming due diligence period. The goal is for the USL professional soccer team to kick off in its new stadium in time for the 2022 season.  

The project’s developer, Fortuitous Partners, is an investment firm that invests in real estate developments and operating businesses, particularly in sports-anchored, mixed-use real estate projects. Its founder and principal, Brett M. Johnson, is also co-chairman and shareholder of Phoenix Rising Football Club (PRFC) in the USL Championship Division.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for the city of Pawtucket, the Blackstone Valley and the state of Rhode Island. This $400 million investment in one of Pawtucket’s opportunity zones will create jobs and will be a transformative economic development at the gateway into our state. It’s a natural expansion from our beautiful Slater Mill National Park to the city’s underutilized riverfront. The Blackstone Valley is prime with development opportunities. The Fortuitous Project along with the Pawtucket/Central Falls commuter rail stop are game changers,” said Mayor Grebien. “The Fortuitous Partners’ vision aligns with what the residents of Pawtucket need and deserve. We thank Gov. Gina Raimondo, Speaker Mattiello, Senate President Ruggerio, the General Assembly, CommerceRI, the City Council, the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency and everyone who assisted in this project that will be a major catalyst for years to come.”

In photo: Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), the sponsors of the TIF legislation that made the Tidewater proposal possible, at the announcement of the proposal.
12/2/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; Sen. Sandra Cano; #120; #85; #221; #245; Larry Berman
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House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio joined Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien and other state and local leaders today to announce the largest economic development project in Pawtucket’s history, made possible by legislation passed by the General Assembly in June.



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Ryan Kyote of California meets with Rep. Ranglin-Vassell in support of her bill for universal free school lunch

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today welcomed to Rhode Island a 10-year-old California boy who made headlines earlier this year for paying off his classmates’ lunch debts with savings from his allowance.

Ryan Kyote, of Napa, Calif., who is visiting family in the state, met with Representative Ranglin-Vassell to help call attention to the problem of lunch debt and lunch shaming in Rhode Island.

“No child should be shamed or denied food at school because they don’t have the money to pay for it – for any reason. Kids can’t concentrate on learning when they are hungry. In a country where there is such wealth, it is outrageous that lunch debt is even a concept. At 10, Ryan Kyote can understand the importance of lifting this burden from kids, and he made it happen himself for his class. In Providence, we’ve done the same by providing lunch for everyone this year. I hope Ryan’s message will be heard by those in power here in Rhode Island and that we can do the same for kids statewide, so we can put an end to lunch shaming and lunch debt and make sure kids are fed and ready to learn,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

Kyote met Rep. Ranglin-Vassell at the State House, where he talked with the media about the childhood hunger and lunch shaming, and then toured the building with his family and Representative Ranglin-Vassell. He was scheduled to meet with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza at City Hall later in the afternoon.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) has long been an advocate for providing free meals to the state’s public school students. In the upcoming 2020 legislative session, she intends to once again submit legislation to require universal free lunch at all public elementary and secondary schools statewide. She has been pushing for the bill since she came to the House in 2017. She is an educator in the Providence school district, which began providing universal free lunch this school year.

Kyote gained nationwide attention during the last school year when he paid his third-grade classmates’ lunch debts — $74.80 — with money he’d saved his allowance after he’d heard about a 6-year-old in Indiana whose lunch had been taken away because she didn’t have enough money in her lunch account to pay for it. When his own state passed a law in October banning lunch shaming or giving a worse lunch to children with lunch debt, California Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked Kyote for his advocacy on the issue. Kyote this week was named one of the Heroes of 2019 in Time magazine.

IN PHOTO: Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, right, at the State House with Ryan Kyote.
12/13/2019RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Ryan Kyote of California meets with Rep. Ranglin-Vassell in support of her bill for universal free school lunch

Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today welcomed to Rhode Island a 10-year-old California boy who made headlines earlier this year for paying off his classmates’ lunch debts with savings from his allowance.


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STATE HOUSE — A special legislative task force charged with making a comprehensive study of the state’s education funding formula will meet Tuesday to hear presentations on the student success factor, tuitions and prekindergarten investment.

The commission will meet Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

After opening remarks by the task force chairman, Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the commission will hear a presentation by Dr. Kenneth K. Wong, director of the Urban Education Policy Program at Brown University, on the history of the student success factor, how its funds are used today, and alternative models to address this need.

The commission will also hear a presentation by Tim Ryan and members of the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association, including Bob Mitchell from Cumberland on charter school tuitions, Phil Thornton from Warwick on career and technical education tuitions, Colleen Jermain from Newport on English language learners, and Pat McGee from Woonsocket on Every Student Succeeds Act transportation.

The task force will also hear about the importance of investing in prekindergarten education and models to consider moving forward, as well as public input on the impact of the education funding formula and opportunities moving forward.
11/18/2019SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. June S. Speakman and Rep. Terri Cortvriend plan to introduce legislation in the upcoming legislative session to push the state to take action to protect drinking water from known toxins.

The Safe Drinking Water Act, which the two lawmakers also introduced last year (2019-H 6064), will be introduced in partnership with the Conservation Law Foundation, Future Now and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  The bill — being introduced in state legislatures around the country — provides for state-level standards for drinking water to limit known toxics and protect residents from harm.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has resisted calls by public health groups and environmentalists to regulate manmade contaminants, including PFOA, PFOS and related compounds linked to cancer, Chromium-6 (the Erin Brockovich chemical) and 1,4 dioxane, which can be found in the drinking water of millions of people. The Safe Drinking Water Act allows the state to step up and take action, setting standards for drinking water to protect residents from known toxins.

“There are a lot of things we don’t know about many of the chemicals that wind up in drinking water from manufacturing and other industries, but we do know that many are dangerous to public health and cause a variety of health problems. While we gather more information, I firmly believe we should be erring on the side of protecting the public rather than on the side of polluters. It is absolutely critical that public drinking water supplies are safe. From Flint, Michigan, to our own Burrillville, we have seen instances of public drinking water made unsafe by contaminants, and government not always being swift to step in. Instead, we should be proactive and give priority to public health,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).

Said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), “Rhode Island doesn’t have to sit idle while the federal government looks the other way from the pollution that is harming public health. In fact, it’s our duty to take the action necessary to protect our drinking water. Safe drinking water is a necessity and a human right, and Rhode Islanders deserve to have that right protected. We look forward to addressing this issue in the 2020 legislative session.”

Although the legislators are still working with advocates to establish the details in Rhode Island’s legislation, it is expected to:
  • Establish state-wide maximum contaminant levels for PFOS, PFOA, other PFAS compounds, chromium-6 and 1,4 dioxane in public drinking water systems;
  • Direct the state to consider limits on other pollutants in drinking water systems when two or more other states have set limits or issued guidance on a given pollutant;
  • Provide for review of the best available scientific evidence in setting maximum contaminant limits;
  • Ensure contaminant limits sufficient to protect vulnerable people, including pregnant and nursing mothers, infants, and children.
States including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont have already taken state-level action and are leading the way in protecting their residents from these dangerous chemicals.
PFAs — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are manmade chemicals linked to cancer, developmental delays and other health problems. They are commonly used in nonstick and stain-repellent coatings, as well as firefighting foam and thousands of other applications.

The federal EPA has agreed only to a “recommendation” that that drinking water not contain more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA and PFOS, two of the more extensively studied chemicals in the PFA group.

The 2019 version of the bill would have required the Department of Health to establish maximum contaminate levels of PFAs in public drinking water supplies and set an interim standard of 20 ppt, which is the level recently adopted in Vermont.

The bill is also supported by the Conservation Law Foundation, which earlier this year petitioned the Department of Health to impose a 20 ppt limit on public water supplies. The department denied the request, saying it needs more research and EPA regulations.

“Toxic PFAS have no place in our bodies or our drinking water,” said Amy Moses, vice president and director of Conservation Law Foundation Rhode Island. “The federal government is ignoring its responsibility to protect the public from these dangerous chemicals. It’s up to the states to protect the public from these dangerous chemicals.  It’s up to the states to safeguard our water, and this bill is a great step in that direction.”

The EPA did require public water systems that serve 10,000 or more to test for the substances between 2013 and 2015, and while systems in Cumberland and Westerly had some contamination, their levels were below the advisory levels at that time and have since dropped.

However, following news about serious contaminations in New Hampshire and Vermont, in 2017, DEM conducted testing on smaller water systems and vulnerable sites near potential contamination sites. The results showed contamination in eight places around the state, including a small public water system in the Oakland neighborhood in Burrillville that significantly exceeded the EPA’s advisory level. That system, as well as six other private wells in the neighborhood, were found to be contaminated by firefighting foam used by the nearby Oakland-Mapleville Fire District. System users were instructed to stop consuming the water, and have had to rely on bottled water until a connection to the nearby Harrisville water system was completed this summer.

The issue is receiving greater public attention as a result of actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo’s new legal thriller, “Dark Waters,” which tells the true story of a lawyer taking on a major corporation after it caused staggering PFOA contamination of water that devastated communities. This chemical that the movie is centered around, PFOA, is a key contaminant lawmakers across the nation are fighting against through the Safe Drinking Water Act.
 

12/17/2019RepRep. June Speakman; Rep. Terri Cortvriend; #268; #258; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich) will be reintroducing two pieces of legislation once the upcoming legislative session begins that would establish an Office of Inspector General and give voters the chance to vote on a constitutional amendment granting the governor the power to utilize a line-item veto in the state budget.

“Passing these two bills would go a long way to ensure the public has the open and accountable government that they thoroughly deserve,” said Senator Raptakis.  “These are two good government reform bills that the public wants and I hope this session will see them pass and become law.  I will keep reintroducing these two pieces of legislation until they become law in Rhode Island.”
Senator Raptakis is once again introducing a bill that would create an Office of Inspector General in Rhode Island, charged with preventing and detecting fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in the expenditure of public funds.

“At a time when the state is struggling to save money and make government more efficient, we need an Inspector General to make sure state agencies are operating in a transparent manner,” said Senator Raptakis. “The state’s taxpayers deserve to have someone in place who can alert law enforcement officials to instances of fraud and mismanagement so that steps can be taken before millions of taxpayer dollars go down the drain.”

Senator Raptakis’ legislation would grant the Inspector General the authority to examine the procurement of supplies, services or construction by state government entities in Rhode Island. The person would be appointed by a majority vote of the governor, attorney general and general treasurer for a five year term and would be selected without regard for political affiliation. The individual would have to have a demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, investigation, or criminal justice administration.

Senator Raptakis has also sponsored the same bill the past several legislative sessions to give voters the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment granting the governor the power to utilize a line item veto on the state budget. 

“I will continue to press this issue and advocate for the need of this executive power for our current and future governors,” said Senator Raptakis.  “The voters should decide whether or not they want their governor to be able to go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb or have the option of only either rubberstamping or completely vetoing the entire budget.  This legislation is about having proper checks and balances within our state government, and I believe it is necessary to move our state forward.”

12/17/2019SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – A legislative commission studying the impacts of insurance reimbursement rates on access to health care will meet tomorrow with state leaders representing mental health and dental services providers.

The Special Legislative Commission to Study the Impact of Insurer Payments on Access to Health Care is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Dec. 17, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Senate lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The commission was created as a result of legislation (2019-S 1038) sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to explore whether the sufficiency of payments to providers of medical, dental and mental health care may be negatively impacting the ability of Rhode Islanders to access appropriate care in appropriate settings.

The meeting will include opening remarks by Senator Miller, as well as presentations by Susan Storti, president and CEO of the Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of Rhode Island, who is also a member of the commission; and Dr. Andrew Gazerro, chairman of Council on Dental Benefits for the Rhode Island Dental Association. There will also be a roundtable discussion. Public comments will be welcome.

Besides Senator Miller, who serves as the chairman, and Storti, the commission includes Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton); Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield); Health Insurance Commissioner Marie Ganim, Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones; Dr. David Kroessler, appointed by the Rhode Island Medical Society; Rhode Island Health Center Association President and CEO Jane Hayward; Monica A. Auciello, vice president of legal affairs and policy and general counsel for Blue Cross Blue Shield of R.I.; Stephanie A. de Abreau, manager of state regulatory affordability programs for United Healthcare; Lisa P. Tomasso, vice president for strategy and public relations at the Hospital Association of Rhode Island; CODAC Behavioral Healthcare President and CEO Linda E. Hurley; Thomas Chase, vice president and chief operating officer at Delta Dental; community-based psychologist Peter M. Oppenheimer; RI Primary Care Physicians Corporation COO Noah Benedict and Dr. Patricia Recupero of the Rhode Island Psychiatric Society.
12/16/2019SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE — Allaying serious concerns of Rhode Island’s commercial fishermen, Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) has announced that the United States Coast Guard will continue to conduct its search-and-rescue missions in and near wind farms.

Senator Sosnowski, who chairs the Senate Fisheries Task Force, contacted the Coast Guard and other federal agencies with several concerns over wind energy projects, including safety in and near the zones.

“The wind energy development area will not be a limited rescue zone nor a no-rescue zone,” wrote Capt. Jennifer Williams, acting director of marine Transportation Systems. “The Coast Guard will conduct its search and rescue (SAR) mission in and near wind farms.”

Two other agencies, the U.S. Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration also responded to the task force’s concerns relating to the displacement of vessel traffic, collision risks and radar interference.

“The Coast Guard’s response will be a great relief to Rhode Island’s commercial fishermen,” said Senator Sosnowski. “We have many concerns regarding navigational safety near wind farms, and that was the biggest.”

The Senate Fisheries Task Force was re-established in March, with Senator Sosnowski being named chairwoman. The purposes of the task force are to:
·         Track the status and trends of the fishing industries of Rhode Island;
·         Understand the legal and regulatory mandates imposed on the fishing industry;
·         Provide a forum for individuals and organizations in the fishing community to present ideas and identify challenges facing these communities; and
·         Propose legislative and regulatory recommendations for consideration.

Fisheries policy and regulation have become increasingly complex since the reauthorization of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act in January 2007, and decision-makers need to better understand the values and business models that make up the Rhode Island fishing community.  Commercial and recreational fishing in Rhode Island are important industries that support not only the vessels and fishermen on the water but also fish markets, ship repair shops, ice houses, marinas, restaurants, grocery stores, and dozens of other shore-side businesses. Rhode Island fishermen and the communities that rely on a vibrant fishing industry have been undergoing a transformation during the past decade, and there are numerous challenges to address in the years ahead.
12/13/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero will host a constituent conversation on “The Power of Education” in Jamestown in January.

The forum will be held in Jamestown at the Jamestown Philomenian Library, 26 North Road, on Monday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m. with Jamestown Superintendent Ken Duva providing the local perspective and Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green sharing the state perspective. All are welcome to join in on the conversation.

Representative Ruggiero held a very well-attended similar forum in Middletown Dec. 10, during which the attendees engaged in a lively and organic conversation ranging from the commissioner’s vision on education to the importance of collaboration and parent involvement.

“The state and local communities need to embrace the power of education as economic development. Rhode Island has to set a course and stay the course when it comes to education,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “We had a tremendously interesting and thoughtful discussion at the event in Middletown about how it’s going locally and what the future of education in our state should look like. The commissioner has a very refreshing approach and a great sense of humor. I’m really looking forward to another engaging conversation about education here in Jamestown.”
 

12/13/2019RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island Farm Bureau presented Rhode Island House Republican Deputy Whip Sherry Roberts with the 2019 Legislative Award at the Annual Meeting.
 
The Rhode Island Farm Bureau Legislative Award, is presented to a nominee who has a record of achievement in preserving individual and constitutional freedoms. The 2019 award honored Roberts for her impressive voting history of promoting and defending those freedoms during both the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions.
 
In 2019, Roberts was the #1 ranked and highest scoring member in the entire 113-person General Assembly on the RI Freedom and Prosperity Center’s annual Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard.  In 2018, Roberts was the highest scoring member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.  Many of those liberties identified by the Center, and that Roberts voted to uphold, directly impact the Rhode Island farming community.
 
“On behalf of President Henry B. Wright, III and the members of the Board of Directors, the RIFB is pleased to provide this opportunity to recognize Representative Roberts for her legislative voting record,” said Heidi Quinn, Rhode Island Farm Bureau Executive Director. “Her legislative stance aligns closely with RIFB policy, especially regarding the right-to-farm, property rights and personal freedoms.”
 
“I am truly honored to be a recognized by the RI Farm Bureau of this distinction,” said Roberts.  “Thank you to Bureau President Henry Wright III and the Board of Directors for recognizing my legislative contributions and voting record.”

“Many hours of hard work goes into researching policies and verifying the impacts hundreds of submitted bills have on taxpayers across Rhode Island --and especially my neighbors and the constituents in my district,” said Roberts. “My voice, and the voices of my legislative colleagues in the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus, are important.  The number of bills we encounter on Smith Hill that erode our liberties is on the rise and we need to be steadfast in our resolve to debate these issues.” 

“We offer fact-based rebuttal and common sense solutions to combat the special interests and to counter the knee-jerk legislation submitted year after year,” said Roberts. “It is incumbent on us, as your representatives, to make sure that our government provides efficient services, offers transparency, and that we call out bad legislation when we see it.”

12/12/2019RepRep. Sherry Roberts; #216; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island Soccer Coaches Association inducted Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) to the organization’s Hall of Fame during their annual dinner on Sunday and renamed their Official of the Year award after the senator.

Senator Lombardi, who’s been officiating youth soccer for over 25 years, has been named referee of the year eight times — so often that the association has decided to name the award after him.

“Frank is very well respected by the coaches,” said Richard Grenier, who served as president of the Soccer Coaches Association for 12 years and is the group’s historian. “He has a way with him when he’s officiating. He’s approachable, has a firm control over the game; and whenever he speaks to the kids at the beginning of the game, he has a calming influence. He’s worked really hard to promote youth soccer in the state.”

Senator Lombardi, who serves as president of the Rhode Island Soccer Officials Association, will now be responsible for nominating three referees for the new Frank Lombardi Award, which will continue to be awarded by the Rhode Island Soccer Coaches Association.

“This has all been very humbling,” said Senator Lombardi. “I’ve worked hard for years in youth soccer, and I’m tremendously honored to be recognized by the coaches. I hope to continue to work to earn this honor.”

Senator Lombardi dedicated his Hall of Fame induction to his father-in-law, Carlo Catallozzi, himself a longtime fixture in Rhode Island youth soccer. “I started at 18 under his tutelage.  He was Rhode Island’s first FIFA referee when only five were awarded per country.  He officiated Pele and other greats.  He still critiques me at 85 years old, assuring that I perform as close to perfection as possible.”
12/11/2019SenSen. Frank Lombardi; #205; Daniel Trafford
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Ryan Kyote of California to meet with Rep. Ranglin-Vassell, sponsor of universal free lunch bill
 
STATE HOUSE – On Friday, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell will welcome to Providence a 9-year-old California boy who made headlines earlier this year for paying off his classmates’ lunch debts with savings from his allowance.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell said she is honored to meet Ryan Kyote, of Napa, Calif., and said she hopes his visit will call attention to the problem of lunch debt and lunch shaming in Rhode Island.

“No child should be shamed or denied food at school because they don’t have the money to pay for it – for any reason. Kids can’t concentrate on learning when they are hungry. In a country where there is such wealth, it is outrageous that lunch debt is even a concept. At 9, Ryan Kyote can understand the importance of lifting this burden from kids, and he made it happen himself for his class. In Providence, we’ve done the same by providing lunch for everyone this year. I hope Ryan’s message will be heard by those in power here in Rhode Island and that we can do the same for kids statewide, so we can put an end to lunch shaming and lunch debt and make sure kids are fed and ready to learn,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

Kyote will meet Rep. Ranglin-Vassell at the State House Friday at 1 p.m., where he will tour the building. At 2:30 p.m., he and the representative are scheduled to meet with Mayor Jorge Elorza at City Hall.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) has long been an advocate for providing free meals to the state’s public school students. In the upcoming 2020 legislative session, she intends to once again submit legislation to require universal free lunch at all public elementary and secondary schools statewide. She has been pushing for the bill since she came to the House in 2017. She is an educator in the Providence school district, which began providing universal free lunch this school year.

12/11/2019RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Committee on Finance’s Subcommittee on Human Services will be meeting on Tuesday, December 17 at 3:00 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a FY 2020 budget first quarter report and review corrective action plans for the Office of Veterans Services and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

The meeting will be broadcast on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Channel 15 by Cox Communications and Full Channel subscribers, Channel 1013 by Cox HD customers, and Channel 34 by Verizon viewers. It is also live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

12/11/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) has been honored by RI Lawyers Weekly as the publication’s “Lawyer of the Year” due to legislation he sponsored during the 2019 legislative session.

The bill (2019-H 5478A), which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, provides that an open and obvious danger or defect is not a complete bar to recovery of damages in personal injury or property damage actions.

“It is a true honor to be recognized by RI Lawyers Weekly.  This legislation was about giving someone a chance to win in their case.  And you can’t have a chance to win if you never get an opportunity to present any facts to a jury or to a trier of fact.  With this law, at least you get a shot,” said Chairman Craven.

The new law took effect upon passage, however the open and obvious amendment shall only apply to personal injuries or personal injuries that have resulted in death or injury to property that occur after the passage of the act.

12/11/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The annual “Gingerbread Express” stop at the State House is set for Friday, Dec. 13, this year.

Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) and Nancy Miller, the wife of Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), are hosting this year’s visit, as they have in previous years. This will be the 19th year that the Senate has participated in the program.

Gifts purchased by state legislators and legislative staff members will be wrapped and brought to the State House to be presented to the members of the Rhode Island Children’s Fund for distribution to children. The gifts will help bring joy to needy children in Rhode Island this holiday season.

Representatives from the National Education Association Rhode Island Children’s Fund will be in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House on Dec. 13 at noon to accept the gifts and distribute them to the children.

The drive links needy public school students with anonymous gift donors. Earlier in the season, participating school children were given tags that were cut out in the shape of gingerbread characters. In addition to their age and clothing sizes, the children wrote down on the tags the name of a special toy, game or book they hoped to receive. State House staffers and legislators selected one or more of the cutouts, purchased the appropriate items and wrapped them for the event at the State House. A typical donated gift bundle might include an outfit, underwear, socks, a fun item and a book.
12/11/2019SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston has issued this statement on the passing today of retired Superior Court Presiding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers Jr.:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Superior Court Presiding Justice Joseph Rodgers.  He was the presiding justice for most of my legal career.  He treated all the attorneys and litigants with utmost respect and dignity and administered the Superior Court with great integrity.  Justice Rodgers had an extremely successful political and judicial career.  He was almost bigger than life and beloved by all.  My thoughts and prayers are with his wonderful family at this difficult time.”

12/6/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) placed second in a charity blackjack tournament at Twin River on Thursday, winning $7,500 for Volunteers of Warwick Schools (VOWS).

Twin River Casino Hotel held its seventh annual Holiday Blackjack Tournament for Charity, donating a total of $60,000 to the designated charities of those who were invited to play.

“VOWS is a wonderful organization that provides so much help to the Warwick School System, particularly with community outreach,” said Representative Solomon. “I’m glad I was able to secure this money for them in Twin River’s annual holiday charity event.”

Representative Solomon joined a complement of legislators, including Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield), Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren), Sen. Frank S. Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Each player received $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Leader McCaffrey came in fifth and received $2,500 for the Rhode Island Academic Decathlon. The money went to the following: Speaker Mattiello, Cranston Animal Shelter; president Ruggerio, Saint Edward Food and Wellness Center; Leader Shekarchi, Friends of the Warwick Animal Shelter; Whip Goodwin, Mary House Food Pantry and Shelter; Senator Paolino, Alzheimer’s Association; Representative Caldwell, Cultural Organization of the Arts; Senator Crowley, Forand Manor Tenants Association; Representative Diaz, Multi-Service Center for All; Senator Felag, Neverland Children Theatre; Senator Lombardo, Operation Stand Down; Senator Conley, Plan International USA; Senator Lynch-Prata, Special Olympics of Rhode Island; Representative Morin, the Milk Fund; Representative O’Brien, the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Representative Slater, West End Community Center; and Representative Serpa, West Warwick Angels Caring for Animals.

VOWS is a non-profit corporation that was organized by a group of Warwick citizens and incorporated in 1975. As the Warwick Public Schools’ centrally-directed, district-wide school volunteer management system, VOWS recruits, trains and coordinates volunteers for teacher-requested, teacher-supervised educational activities that offer assistance to students.
12/6/2019RepRep. Joseph J. Solomon; #214; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – A legislative commission to study potential reform of Rhode Island’s vicious dog laws will meet next week with experts on animal behavior and state vicious-dog laws.

The meeting is scheduled Thursday, Dec. 12, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The meeting will include a presentation on understanding aggression in dogs by Katenna Jones of Jones Animal Behavior, as well as a presentation summarizing states’ dangerous-dog laws by Stacey Ober, who performs legislative analysis, community outreach and government relations at the American Kennel Club.

The commission, led by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), is conducting a comprehensive review and is to make recommendations regarding the regulation of vicious dogs and any administrative hearings pertaining to them.
12/5/2019SenSen. Dawn Euer; #244; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carlos Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) is providing the following statement about the recent announcement of the Tidewater Landing project in Pawtucket.

“As the prime sponsor of the TIF legislation in the House, I saw the incredible importance of this bill to Pawtucket and its residents. With the loss of the PawSox, it’s more crucial than ever to redevelop assets that are dormant in our city, particularly in the downtown area. The Tidewater Landing Development will give Pawtucket the crucial economic development needed to revitalize our city without costing taxpayers a dime.  I’d like to thank Speaker Mattiello and the entire House of Representatives for their support of the legislation that paved the way for this wonderful Tidewater Development project announcement and I know everyone is looking forward to seeing the first shovel going into the ground, leading Pawtucket into a new era of economic success and redevelopment.  I am confident that the success of this project will lead to even bigger things for Pawtucket and our state’s economy.  The people of Pawtucket and Rhode Island have waited a long time to see Pawtucket thriving, and we believe that time has come, as we are on the precipice of a Pawtucket that will rival the storied Pawtucket of long ago,” said Representative Tobon.

12/3/2019RepRep. Carlos E. Tobon; #221; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) is releasing the following statement concerning the announced Tidewater Landing Development project,

“Despite recent hardships, Pawtucket has a lot of momentum behind it, and today’s wonderful announcement is proof that Pawtucket is as resilient as ever.  When I sponsored the TIF legislation that enabled today’s announcement to become a reality, I did so because I recognized the potential Pawtucket has to redevelop and rejuvenate key districts within our city for the betterment of all of our residents.  Today’s historic redevelopment announcement is the first step in this mission and I commend all of the stakeholders involved in order to bring this hope into reality.  In particular, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Senate for believing in Pawtucket’s potential and recognizing the need for, and passing, the legislation that made all of this possible.   I have no doubt that the new stadium and a fully developed and thriving riverfront will be an absolute success and these projects will serve as a shining example of what is possible in our ever-changing communities.  Today marks a brand new beginning for the City of Pawtucket and I truly could not be any more pleased and proud of my city,” said Senator Cano.

12/2/2019SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Committee on Finance will be meeting on Tuesday, December 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on the status of the state’s budget.  The status update will include the Fiscal Year 2019 closing, the November Revenue and Caseload Conference results, and expenditures through the first quarter of the current fiscal year.

The meeting will be broadcast on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Channel 15 by Cox Communications and Full Channel subscribers, Channel 1013 by Cox HD customers, and Channel 34 by Verizon viewers. It is also live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

11/29/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson is urging her constituents to actively participate in the project to redesign the Claiborne Pell Bridge access ramps, now in the planning stages.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is currently accepting public comments the project’s draft environmental assessment, conducted in in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration.

“This project is probably the single biggest redevelopment projects on Aquidneck Island in the last 50 years. It will significantly change the way people get around Newport and open up land for redevelopment. It will profoundly change the way drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists move around our community. This has an impact on everyone in Newport, so I urge everyone to look at the plans and send the state their thoughts. Now is the time to make your opinion heard,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

The project is intended to reduce congestion and backup on the Pell Bridge, which serves as the main point of entry to Newport, bringing drivers on Route 138 across Narragansett Bay from Jamestown into the City. It is also intended to reduce traffic downtown; improve bicycle, pedestrian and public transit opportunities; better connect downtown to the North End for all road users; and spur economic development by creating an “Innovation Hub.” The state hopes to begin construction in spring 2020.

The assessment can be viewed online at www.pellbridge-ea.com, where there is also a link to submit comments electronically. RIDOT requests public comment on the draft environmental assessment be submitted by Dec. 23. Comments can also be submitted by mail to David W. Fish, Administrator of Project Management, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Two Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02903.

The complete proposal can be viewed in Newport at City Hall, 43 Broadway; the Newport Public Library, 300 Spring Street; and the Florence Gray Center, 1 York St.

“I am particularly urging business leaders to get involved, since changes in traffic patterns have a strong impact on small businesses. Every small business owner knows that changes in traffic, whether it means more or less vehicle traffic, changes in public parking or changes in pedestrian and bicyclist traffic, can affect the number of customers who walk through the door.  It’s critically important to local businesses and the state planners needs to hear from the owners of those businesses about the potential effects of the design,” said Representative Carson. 

11/25/2019RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is hosting constituent meetings focusing on “The Power of Education” in both Middletown and Jamestown in the coming weeks.

The first will be held Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Middletown Public Library, 700 West Main Road. Special guests include Middletown Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger to provide a local perspective and Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green to share her state perspective. All are welcome to join in on the conversation.

The same forum for constituents will be held in Jamestown at the Jamestown Philomenian Library, 26 North Road, on Monday, Jan. 6, at 6:30 p.m. with Jamestown Superintendent Ken Duva providing the local perspective and Education Commissioner Infante-Green.

All are welcome to ask questions and share in the conversation.  

“I look forward to these lively discussions not only on the current state of education and goals, but also aspirations about how we could transform education for the 21st century. The students of today are the leaders and the employees of tomorrow. The investment we make in them now will make an enormous difference not only to their own personal future, but for the future of our state. Education is a form of economic development, so every Rhode Islander has a stake in public education,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).
11/25/2019RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Susan Sosnowski called newly announced changes to the proposed wind farms off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts “a positive development” that will better address some of the needs of commercial fishermen and others who work on the water or use it recreationally.

However, she added, the proposals still present some obstacles to local users, and she urged regulators to vigilantly protect the waters’ existing uses.

Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) said that, in particular, changing the orientation of the proposal to align the turbines east to west will accommodate the fishing practices of some commercial fisherman who fish in the area.

“It’s a positive development that the proposal now reflects some of the fishermen’s needs for alignment, as well as the industry’s request for one-nautical-mile spacing that was not in the original plans. While there are still some significant concerns with these proposals, I consider it progress that these adjustments have been made to help protect our fishing industry,” said Senator Sosnowski.

Among her remaining concerns, Senator Sosnowski includes the removal of designated transit lanes through the turbines and the overall size of the projects.

“While I am pleased that these changes have been made in recognition of our valuable fishing industry’s needs, I will continue to advocate for the fishing industry and remain concerned that this proposal still poses considerable risks to the safety and livelihood of our hardworking fishing industry’s workers,” said Senator Sosnowski.

Developers have submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard plans that include the changes for the two proposed wind farms, one for an 84-turbine array off Martha’s Vineyard and the other for 15 turbines in Rhode Island Sound. The proposals are still on hold as the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reviews the concerns of the fishing industry.
11/21/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE — A special legislative task force charged with making a comprehensive study of the state’s education funding formula will meet today to hear presentations on share ratios for public education costs.

The commission will meet today, Thursday, Nov. 21, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

After opening remarks by the task force chairman, Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the commission will hear a presentation by Dr. Kenneth K. Wong, director of the Urban Education Policy Program at Brown University, on the history of the development of the share ratio calculation.

The commission will also hear a presentation by Steve Coleman, chief of the Division of Municipal Finance, on what is Municipal Finance’s role in the share ratio calculation.

The task force will also hear a presentation by the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The task force will also look at national share ratios.

11/21/2019SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – A new legislative commission to study the impacts of insurance reimbursement rates on access to health care will meet for the first time Wednesday.

The Special Legislative Commission to Study the Impact of Insurer Payments on Access to Health Care is scheduled to hold its first meeting Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The commission was created as a result of legislation (2019-S 1038) sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to explore whether the sufficiency of payments to providers of medical, dental and mental health care may be negatively impacting the ability of Rhode Islanders to access appropriate care in appropriate settings.

The meeting will include opening remarks by Senator Miller, as well as a presentation by Neil Sarkar, interim president and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute and founding director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Brown University, who is also a member of the new commission. There will also be a roundtable discussion. Public comments will be welcome.

Besides Senator Miller, who will serve as the chairman; and Sarkar; the commission includes Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton); Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield); Health Insurance Commissioner Marie Ganim, Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones; Rhode Island Medical Society President Dr. Peter A. Hollmann or his designee; Dr. David Kroessler, a community-based psychiatrist; Rhode Island Health Center Association President and CEO Jane Hayward; Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council President and CEO Susan A. Storti; Blue Cross Blue Shield of R.I. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matthew Collins or his designee; United Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ana R. Stankovic or her designee; Hospital Association of Rhode Island President Teresa Paiva Weed or her designee; CODAC Behavioral Healthcare President and CEO Linda E. Hurley; Delta Dental President and CEO Joseph R. Perroni or his designee, community-based psychologist Peter M. Oppenheimer and RI Primary Care Physicians Corporation COO Noah Benedict.
11/18/2019SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Longtime supporter of cancer-prevention efforts made his successful effort to quit smoking a public crusade in 2019
 
STATE HOUSE – The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) honored Representative David A. Bennett today for his longtime support for its initiatives and for going public with his efforts to quit smoking this year.

Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) forged an informal partnership with ACS CAN late last year, seeking the organization’s help to hold him publicly accountable in his effort to finally kick a 40-year addiction that he’d tried many times before to quit. The group’s government relations director, Robert Dulski, who already saw him frequently at the State House, began regularly checking in on the representative’s efforts, at the State House and by phone. ACS CAN started a social media hashtag #WatchBennettQuit. Local media did stories on his effort, providing a window into his very real struggle to kick the habit and hopefully encouraging others who want to improve their health and lives by quitting. The result was that people Representative Bennett knew, as well as people he’d never met, regularly asked him about his progress and encouraged him all year. The social pressure helped, and Representative Bennett has been cigarette-free since January.

He has also been a leader in promoting legislative efforts aimed at reducing Rhode Islanders’ exposure to carcinogens and at increasing their access to high-quality health care.

 “We are honoring Representative Bennett for his continued leadership on cancer issues in the State House. For the last decade, he has been a leading legislative advocate for cancer patients and caregivers,” said Dulski, who presented the award to Representative Bennett. “We also want to recognize how courageous it was for Representative Bennett to make his tobacco-quit journey open to the public. As many know, quitting the use of tobacco products is not easy, and Representative Bennett made himself vulnerable by talking about how difficult it has been to quit over the 40-plus years he has been smoking. His story has inspired others to start their quit journey and reminded his colleagues in the legislature why we must make tobacco control a legislative priority.”

The award was presented today at ACS CAN’s sixth annual Rhode Island Research Breakfast at the Roger Williams Park Casino. The event included a discussion on the groundbreaking strides seen in cancer treatment and care in Rhode Island, and featured a panel of experts who highlighted the impacts of innovation in the health care sector.
 
IN PHOTO: Rep. David Bennett with his award from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
11/15/2019RepRep. David Bennett; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The special legislative commission to study and make recommendations for encouraging more persons of color to enter education fields will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, November 19 at 3 p.m. in Room 101 of the State House.  The commission was created by the passage of Rep. Karen Alzate’s (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) resolution (2019-H 5553A) in the House of Representatives this year.

“Study after study has proved the beneficial aspects of having a diverse teacher workforce, especially in regards to closing achievement gaps for students of color.  A more diverse teacher workforce that represents our state’s demographics also benefits students of all racial backgrounds.  Yet, our teachers are not representative of the communities our students come from and we have to rectify this imbalance for the sake of our kids.  This commission will be an important first step to attaining a diverse teacher pool that our students, especially our students of color, deserve,” said Representative Alzate.

The recommendations of the commission should include:
  • Develop an approach to inform students of color in the state on the importance and benefits of entering the field of education.
  • Identify relevant research and successful practices to enhance minority teacher recruitment and retention throughout the state.
  • Identify and establish public, private, and philanthropic partnerships to increase minority (meaning individuals whose race is other than white, or whose ethnicity is Hispanic or Latino as that term is used by the U.S. Census Bureau) teacher recruitment, including, but not limited to teacher preparation programs.
  • Advise and support local and regional boards of education to prioritize minority teacher recruitment and develop innovative strategies to attract and retain minority teachers within their districts.
  • Review the requirements that prevent persons of color from choosing this profession and remaining in it, including, but not limited to, teacher preparation programs, certification requirements, and lack of diversity in union leadership.
  • Identify a process or method to prepare, support, and encourage school leadership to increase retention of teachers of color.
The commission will consist of three members of the House of Representatives; the President of the RI Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers; the President of the RI Chapter of the National Education Association; the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; three members of student focused organizations, such as Providence Student Union or Young Voices; three members of community based organizations, such as the RI Coalition for Educators of Color or Teach for America; and one member of the Educational Studies faculty at Rhode Island College.

The commission shall report its findings and recommendations to the House of Representatives no later than April 17, 2020 and the commission will expire on June 17, 2020.

11/15/2019RepRep. Karen Alzate; #255; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Dawn Euer is in Washington, D.C., today as part of a coalition of state lawmakers, local officials and business leaders urging Congress to enact offshore drilling protections in the fiscal year 2020 Interior-Environment funding bill. The delegation from 13 East and West Coast states is highlighting the bipartisan opposition to expanded offshore drilling and exploration, as well as the risks posed to coastal economies.

“The Ocean State’s economy is now and always has been heavily reliant on the health and safety of our shores and the ocean. We have a robust blue collar economy that includes ship building, fishing, sailing, tourism, the Navy and more. The state and our institutions have invested incredible resources on forward-thinking coastal policy initiatives. All of those investments and our economy are put at risk if our coastal waters are opened to offshore drilling. Our energy policy should be directed at identifying clean, renewable energy sources and not short-sighted, risky efforts to disrupt our local economy, our region’s way of life and the world’s oceans by drilling for more fossil fuel that will contribute to the destruction of our atmosphere and health,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).

Senator Euer has been actively working for nearly two years to stop a plan by the Trump administration to expand offshore drilling to nearly 90 percent of federal waters, including those off Rhode Island.

In March 2018, Senator Euer, as well as Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75 Newport), were among over 225 legislators from coastal states who raised their voices in opposition to the Trump Administration’s Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

In 2018, Senator Euer and Representative Carson introduced legislation (2018-S 2116, 2018-H 7250) aimed at limiting any new offshore drilling capabilities off the coast of Rhode Island. Similar legislation was filed in coastal states nationwide.

For decades, Congress has upheld offshore drilling moratoriums through the Interior-Environment funding bill, and the delegation in Washington today is urging them to honor these important protections. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed three amendments to the FY2020 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies funding bill (H.R. 3052) that block the expansion of offshore oil drilling activities in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico for fiscal year 2020. The House also voted in favor of an amendment that would block funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue permits for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean.
11/13/2019SenSen. Dawn Euer; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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