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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved a resolution sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi calling for the Department of Health to develop protocols to help detect sepsis early and treat it.

The resolution (2019-H 5539) is aimed at helping to prevent loss of life from the potentially fatal condition.

Sepsis is a complication that occurs when a person’s body has an extreme response to an infection. It can cause damage to organs in the body and can be life-threatening if not treated. If sepsis becomes severe enough or develops into septic shock, the chances of dying from sepsis increase significantly.

Leader Shekarchi introduced the legislation after hearing the heart-wrenching stories of several Rhode Island children who lost their lives in recent years as a result of sepsis.

“Sepsis moves quickly. In many cases, a person, especially children, may be perfectly healthy until they develop an infection. If that infection leads to sepsis, they could be gone in a matter of a few days. The first signs can be difficult to diagnose, but catching it early is critical to saving lives. Our state needs to make sure that there’s a strong set of procedures to follow that help health professionals identify sepsis at its first signs, and to make sure people with it receive the most effective treatment immediately,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

When the bill was heard by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare on April 3, the parents of two girls lost to sepsis in 2017 testified in favor of it, urging the adoption of best practices throughout the health care system so other families would be spared the devastation theirs experienced.

Five-year-old Layla Charette of Cumberland and 17-year-old Gianna Cirella of Warwick both died in 2017 after developing sepsis. In Layla’s case, the first signs were nothing alarming, and when she developed a fever, her doctor recommended the usual regimen of fluids, over-the-counter fever-reducer and rest. But in less than a day, her fever spiked, she began vomiting and became delusional. She was rushed to the hospital, but passed away there just two days later.

Gianna was a healthy soccer player at Toll Gate High School who also developed sepsis that year. Her symptoms began with a sore throat, which was treated with antibiotics. She was seen by three different health care providers in the days before she went to the hospital with sepsis. She died 16 days later.

Both girls’ parents testified that they believe having statewide sepsis protocols in place would help health care providers — not only hospitals, but the physicians who are likely the first to see patients when symptoms begin — to identify potential sepsis cases and treat them before it’s too late.

The House resolution, which does not require Senate approval, respectfully requests the Rhode Island Department of Health to develop statewide evidence-based sepsis protocols for the early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. It is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).

Sepsis is the most common cause of death in hospitalized children in both Rhode Island and the rest of the United States. According to a 2018 study from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, only 40 percent of sepsis patients receive proper treatment. Nationwide, only Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and Delaware have lower rates for proper treatment of sepsis.

IN PHOTO: Majority Leader Shekarchi, right, with Alaina Charette, mother of the late Layla Charette. Mrs. Charette was on hand to witness the House passing the resolution calling for sepsis protocols.
4/23/2019RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The House of Representatives approved a resolution sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi calling for the Department of Health to develop protocols to help detect sepsis early and treat it.
NoYesApproved3702554/23/2019 5:57 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 6:02 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5125A) that codifies in state law the privacy rights and reproductive freedoms guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in the case Roe v. Wade and its constitutional progeny was passed by the House of Representatives tonight.

The vote for passage was 44-30 in support of the legislation.

“I commend the House of Representatives for sending a clear message today that we as a state will not cower in the face of threats at the national level and that Rhode Island will stand strong in protecting women’s access to critical reproductive services.  Due to this bill, Rhode Island will remain resolute in ensuring a woman’s privacy in making her own health care decisions and we will not turn back the clock on decades of progress for female reproductive health equality,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams’ bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act, is a strict codification in state law of the rights guaranteed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases.  It expressly bans and prohibits all late-term abortions except when necessary for the life or health of the mother.  The bill also adds new language confirming the federal statute which bans partial birth abortion and affirms that partial birth abortion will remain banned in Rhode Island.

The bill’s cosponsors are Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).

“We were all proud to cosponsor this legislation when Representative Williams introduced the bill and we are grateful for the House’s decision to pass this important piece of legislation that protects the freedom, privacy, and reproductive health of Rhode Island’s women,” said the House cosponsors of the legislation.

The legislation received the support of the Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, which is comprised of Planned Parenthood, the Women’s Fund, the ACLU, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and several other groups.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

3/7/2019RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5125A) that codifies in state law the privacy rights and reproductive freedoms guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in the case Roe v. Wade and its constitutional progeny was passed by the House of Representatives.


NoYesApproved517653/7/2019 9:06 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 5:15 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski to notify workers of their opportunity to organize a cooperative and make a bid to buy out their company in the event of a mass layoff or plant closing.

The bill is meant to encourage the preservation of Rhode Island businesses and jobs.

“During the devastating experience of losing a job because a company is closing or contracting, employees may not be thinking that they could try to buy out the company cooperatively. They may not even know that possibility exists. My bill is meant to make sure they are informed of their rights so they don’t miss the opportunity to preserve their jobs and their company,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence). “Ultimately, this notification could help people turn potential job loss into an opportunity to become a part-owner of their company, and keep Rhode Island businesses from shutting down.”

The bill (2019-H 5769aa) would apply only to companies that are subject to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which generally requires employers with 100 or more employees to give employees notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site.

The legislation would require that, whenever an employer is required to issue a WARN act notification, the state Department of Labor and Training (DLT) would provide the affected employees a written notice that they are legally allowed to furnish a bid to purchase the company, and also provide them information and resources concerning the formation of a workers’ cooperative. In 2017, the General Assembly enacted the statutory vehicle that enables the creation of workers’ cooperatives, which are employee-owned enterprise in which workers share profits and decision-making power.

The bill also directs the DLT to furnish the business owner with information about the formation of workers’ cooperatives. The legislation does not compel, nor prevent, any sale or conversion of any business.

The bill, which would take effect Sept. 1 if enacted, now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-S 0253). The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), Rep. Mario F. Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence) and Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).
 

4/23/2019RepRep. Christopher Blazejewski; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3702544/23/2019 5:15 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 5:15 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio plans to introduce two pieces of legislation today to address the opioid overdose epidemic in Rhode Island. The bills would provide a dedicated funding stream to combat the crisis and remove a barrier to accessing lifesaving anti-overdose medication.
 
More than 200 Rhode Islanders have died due to accidental drug overdose in each of the last six years, and more than 300 have died each of the last three years, according to data published by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
 
“It is critical that we do all we can to educate Rhode Islanders about the crisis, prevent overdose incidents when possible, and support treatment and recovery programs,” said President Ruggerio. “One bill I am submitting today puts the financial burden where it belongs, on the manufacturers profiting from the sale of opioids, so that we can better address this crisis. The other bill removes a barrier that may discourage an individual from keeping NARCAN readily available. These bills build upon action we have already taken to address this public health crisis.”
 
NARCAN and EVZIO are brand names of naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.
 
The first piece of legislation is known as the “Opioid Stewardship Act.” The bill (2019-S 0798) would establish a restricted receipt account to fund opioid treatment, recovery, prevention and education services administered through several state departments, including: the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Department of Education; the Office of Veterans’ Affairs; the Department of Corrections; the Department of Corrections; and the Department of Labor and Training.
 
The stewardship fund would be financed by an assessment on opioid products sold or distributed in Rhode Island, up to a cap of $7.5 million. Manufacturers and distributors would be assessed based on the total number of morphine milligram equivalents, or MMEs, sold or distributed in the state.
 
The second bill (2019-S 0799) would address a situation experienced by some individuals who obtained naloxone, then had trouble getting life insurance. Rhode Island has an “open prescription” for naloxone, meaning any person can obtain the medication at a pharmacy.
 
“We as a state should be encouraging anyone who may come in contact with overdose victims to have NARCAN accessible. That’s the reason we make it available to all,” said President Ruggerio. “Individuals who work in health care, public safety and other fields may want to have NARCAN easily accessible in case there is a need for it, as might individuals who have a friend or family member struggling with an opioid addiction.”
 
He continued; “Filling a prescription for naloxone does not automatically mean an individual is a greater risk to the insurer. No one should be denied life insurance for the sole reason that they carry medication that they could use to save another person’s life. This legislation removes a barrier to accessing this life saving medication.”
 

4/10/2019SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio plans to introduce two pieces of legislation today to address the opioid overdose epidemic in Rhode Island. The bills would provide a dedicated funding stream to combat the crisis and remove a barrier to accessing lifesaving anti-overdose medication.
 
YesYesApprovedhttp://www.rilegislature.gov///pressrelease/SocialMediaPictures/_w/Ruggerio-Social_png.jpg3702314/10/2019 3:08 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 5:15 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is praising the passage of legislation (2019-H 5539) by the House of Representatives that requests the RI Department of Health develop statewide sepsis protocols.  House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) is the lead sponsor of the legislation and Representative Canario is a cosponsor of the bill.

“As we have seen recently in the news, sepsis is still posing a great danger to those that enter our hospitals and we as a state are still not adequately prepared to identify and treat cases of sepsis before it is too late and death results.  This legislation is a good first-step in treating this public health problem and I was proud to cosponsor this life-saving bill,” said Representative Canario.

Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to infections that can cause organ damage when not treated, and if the condition develops into septic shock, the chances of dying from sepsis greatly increase.

According to a 2018 study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Rhode Island ranks fourth lowest in the United States for properly treating sepsis, which kills more than 200,000 people yearly in the country.  Sepsis is also the most common cause of death in hospitalized children in both Rhode Island and the entire United States.

Early identification and treatment of sepsis greatly reduces the risk of death in patients.  The legislation calls for the Department of Health to develop statewide evidence-based sepsis protocols for the early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis cases.

The legislation is a House resolution so it does not require Senate approval.

4/23/2019RepRep. Dennis Canario; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702534/23/2019 4:27 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 4:37 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) will be joining the RI Foreign Language Association (RIFLA) today at the State House for the group’s Multilingual Education Advocacy Day.

Today, April 23 at 3 p.m. in the State House, Senator Ciccone and the RIFLA will be highlighting and advocating for Senator Ciccone’s legislation (2019-S 0198) that establishes and requires funding for a world language and dual language immersion program.  The legislation would also create a world language and dual-language immersion specialist position at the Rhode Island Department of Education to spearhead this educational effort in our state.

4/23/2019SenSen. Frank Ciccone; #77; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702524/23/2019 2:19 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 2:19 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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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 this Thursday, April 25 at 2:00 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 be hearing a presentation from Elena Nicolella of the New England States Consortium Systems Organization. 

Elena Nicolella is the Executive Director for the New England States Consortium Systems Organization (NESCSO).  NESCO recently contracted with the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to complete a comprehensive review of the rate model that was established by Project Sustainability. She will provide the commission with an update to NESCO’s efforts and what areas the commission should continue to analyze in regards to Project Sustainability. 

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.

4/23/2019SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702514/23/2019 12:43 PMSystem Account4/23/2019 12:44 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting three times this week to hear testimony on a department budget, three new budget articles, legislation that establishes a student loan bill of rights, and several bills relating to road repair funding.

On Tuesday, April 23 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Human Services will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

On Wednesday, April 24 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on a new budget article relating to the Public Utilities Reserve Fund, a new article relating to Health Source RI, and a new budget article relating to Student Loans.

The committee will also hear testimony on legislation (2019-H 5936) sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) that creates the "Student Loan Bill of Rights Act" which establishes guidelines for the issuance of postsecondary loans.

On Thursday, April 25 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills that relate to road repair funding:
  • 2019-H 5883, sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), authorizes the issuance and refinancing of GARVEE Bonds.
  • 2019-H 5148, sponsored by Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls), authorizes the appropriation of the sum of $20,000,000 to the Rhode Island capital plan funds.
  • 2019-H 5637, sponsored by Representative Edwards, requires road and bridge contractors for the Department of Transportation to furnish a bond equal to at least 50 percent of the contract price on contracts in excess of $150,000.
  • 2019-H 5908, sponsored by Representative Edwards, authorizes approval of $50,000,000 Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Revenue Bonds secured by toll, transfers of motor fuel taxes and other revenues to provide funds to maintain and improve certain bridges and projects.

4/22/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702504/22/2019 12:45 PMSystem Account4/22/2019 12:45 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on several pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, April 23 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0331, sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), prohibits discrimination in housing against those persons who have a lawful source of income.
  • 2019-S 0231, sponsored by Senator Metts, prohibits a landlord from asking about the immigration status of a tenant, prospective tenant, occupant, or prospective occupant of residential rental property.
  • 2019-S 0030, sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston),  mandates that a landlord have a general liability policy of at least 100,000 dollars in effect for those injured on premises due to the landlord's negligence. Failure to provide proof of insurance would preclude a landlord from proceeding on an eviction action.
  • 2019-S 0081, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), prohibits any contractual clause in a contract for home repairs which would limit the homeowner's ability to initiate legal proceedings against the contractor for breach of contract.
  • 2019-S 0605, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), provides guidelines and restrictions pertaining to short-term rentals to address health and safety concerns.
On Thursday, April 25 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0157 / 2019-S 0320, sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), creates the Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act, to provide a legal mechanism whereby a terminally ill patient may choose to end his or her life using drugs prescribed by a physician.
  • 2019-S 0223, sponsored by Senator Coyne, establishes the Rhode Island program to address Alzheimer's disease and would also create a 13 member advisory council. This act would also establish a training requirement for medical professionals.
  • 2019-S 0462, sponsored by Senator Coyne, provides certain restrictions on the sale of tobacco products, enhances the definition of "tobacco products", and raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and nicotine-delivery systems from 18 to 21 years of age.
  • 2019-S 0165, sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), extends the immunity from liability for ordinary negligence to any person who uses an automated external defibrillator or performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a person in need thereof.
  • 2019-S 0497, sponsored by Senator Goldin, provides for a process for married and unmarried parents, to complete adoption to confirm their parentage of children born into their relationships with mutual intent and through assisted reproduction.
  • 2019-S 0499, sponsored by Senator Lombardi, makes it a felony to isolate an elder or dependent adult and would expand the persons entitled to notice when a guardianship or conservatorship petition is filed in the probate court for dependents or elderly adults.
  • 2019-S 0698, sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), creates a comprehensive statutory scheme to address all aspects of noncompetition agreements.
  • 2019-S 0789, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), repeals current state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

4/22/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702494/22/2019 12:03 PMSystem Account4/22/2019 12:03 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — The Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conferences are scheduled Friday, April 26 through Friday, May 10.  All meetings are public and will be held in Room 35 on the basement level of the State House.

Twice yearly, in the spring and the fall, the conference principals (the State Budget Officer, Senate Fiscal Advisor and House Fiscal Advisor) must reach a consensus on what the state general revenues and caseload expenses are estimated to be for the current fiscal year and the budget year. The General Assembly and the state budget office use these projections to prepare the budget.

The meeting schedule of the spring estimating conference is:
Friday, April 26         Testimony
9 a.m.              Cash assistance and medical caseloads —
Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services
 
Wednesday, May 1    Follow-up Testimony
9 a.m.              Cash assistance and medical caseloads —
Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services
 
Friday, May 3            Economic Overview and Testimony
9 a.m.               U.S. and R.I. economic forecasts —
IHS Markit economist Michael Lynch
 
R.I. Labor Market Conditions —
Department of Labor and Training Labor Market Information Unit
Assistant Director Donna Murray
 
           Consensus Economic Forecast
 
10:30 a.m.       Unclaimed Property — Office of the General Treasurer
Historic Structures Tax Credits — Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission
Motion Picture Production Tax Credits — R.I. Film and Television Office
Lottery Receipts —Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery
Commerce Corporation Tax Credits, Commerce Corporation
 
1 p.m.             Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        Acting State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
                        Accruals — Accounts and Controls, State Controller Peter Keenan
                       
 
Monday, May 6         Caseload Estimate
9 a.m.              Caseload Estimating Conference
 
Wednesday, May 8    Follow-up Testimony (if necessary)
9 a.m.             Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        Acting State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
                        Accruals — Accounts and Controls, State Controller Peter Keenan
 
Friday, May 10          Revenue Estimate
9 a.m.             Revenue Estimating Conference

4/22/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Marvin Abney; #202; #199; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3702484/22/2019 11:52 AMSystem Account4/22/2019 11:52 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on several pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, April 23 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5760, sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), makes the possession of schedule I through V controlled substances and possession of more than an ounce of marijuana misdemeanors punishable by up one year imprisonment and /or a 500 dollar fine or both.
  • 2019-H 5975, sponsored by Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), increases the penalties for a first offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death to a minimum five years in incarceration, a minimum of 10,000 dollars and a minimum license revocation of five years.
  • 2019-H 5985, sponsored by Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), provides for minimum qualifications for court constable to include education, military, or law enforcement experience and drug and psychological screening.
  • 2019-H 5987, sponsored by Rep. James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), criminalizes accessing the user account of another person without consent for the purpose of viewing or using information maintained on any electronic database, website or account with each instance constituting a separate offense.
On Wednesday, April 24 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 bills:
  • 2019-H 5715, sponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), removes the requirement that party primary voters automatically change their party affiliation to that party and reduces from 90 to 30 days the time before an election that a non-candidate can change their affiliation.
  • 2019-H 5986, sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), permits, in certain circumstances, the publication, or broadcast of the likeness of an elected official on an official government website with 120 days preceding an election.
  • 2019-H 6006, sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), requires all candidates to file the same number of campaign finance reports, all due at the same times, whether or not they have a contested primary election.
  • 2019-H 6007, sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), requires training for police officers and trainees to more accurately identify complaints involving persons with cognitive or communication-related disabilities.

4/22/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3702474/22/2019 11:38 AMSystem Account4/22/2019 11:39 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet twice this week to discuss the proposed state budget (2019-H 5151), particularly issues relating to the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and the Department of Labor and Training.

The committee will meet Tuesday, April 23, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The panel will hear testimony from representatives of DCYF on  the current year budget deficit, foster care restructure, the Rhode Island Children’s Information System, juvenile justice initiatives and other budget priorities and operational issues.

The committee will also meet on Thursday, April 25, at the rise in Room 211 to hear testimony from representatives of the Department of Revenue on the implementation of Real ID, plate reissuance, implementation of the motor vehicle tax phase out, sports betting and mobile gaming, the Office of Municipal Finance, taxation reorganization and other budget priorities and operational issues.

The panel will also hear testimony from representatives of the Department of Labor and Training on the Governor’s Medicaid employer assessment, the expansion of job development to nonprofits, adult education status, the unemployment insurance deficit and other budget priorities and operational issues.

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

4/22/2019SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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NoNoApproved3702464/22/2019 10:19 AMSystem Account4/22/2019 10:19 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – A Senate commission that studied the issue has determined that adult learners in Rhode Island would be better served by moving the administration of adult education programs from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to the Governor’s Workforce Board within the Department of Labor and Training.

The commission, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), met over the course of this winter and concluded that, because adult learners’ needs are different than those of children, the move would better position them to gain the skills they need to be a part of today’s workforce.

“Our goal is to make sure that the adults who need education are able to access it quickly and that the skills they learn and the classes that are offered are suited to the needs of people who want to be ready for success in the workforce,” said Senator Metts. “Many are people with families, and they may be working but need to improve their skills so they can qualify for a job that will better support them. They are not children – they are adults with adult needs, and they need flexible programs that are focused on preparing them for the real life that they are already living.”

The Department of Education has worked collaboratively since 2007 with the Governor’s Workforce Board on its programs for adult learners. Moving the operations over to the Governor’s Workforce Board would allow the adult education system to build upon that foundation, to better emphasize workforce-readiness objectives and to expand collaborative efforts with other agencies, the commission said in its final report, released April 5.

While the majority of states house their adult education programs within their departments of education, there has been a trend toward moving these programs to agencies that more typically serve adult needs. Nineteen states now run their adult education programs out of their departments of higher education, their departments of labor or workforce development, or their departments of community and technical colleges.

The 13-member commission included Senator Metts, Sen. James E. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) and representatives from the Department of Education, higher education, workforce development and agencies that help those in need of adult education.

The commission emphasized the importance of collaboration between state agencies, including the Department of Education, to ensure that students are served effectively and swiftly and that resources are maximized. Rhode Island’s budget for adult education programs is $7.9 million this fiscal year, and those programs are expected to serve nearly 5,700 adult learners. About 94 percent of those in the programs enter with less than a ninth-grade education level.

Besides moving the administration of the programs, the commission also recommended that an adult education advisory committee within the Governor’s Workforce Board offer recommendations specific to adult education.

The commission also made several other specific recommendations for that advisory committee, including ensuring that the state’s plan on adult education includes a framework for when to include 16- and 17-year-olds who have left the K-12 system. It also recommended that the advisory committee ensure that data on the programs be carefully collected and analyzed to assess demand and progress of the programs. Further, the commission recommended that DLT develop a centralized data intake system to be used by all adult education providers, with an emphasis on reducing the current waiting list. That list is currently about 1,500 people, although it includes some duplication because various providers maintain their own lists and individuals may sign up for multiple programs.

While the purpose of the move is to better prepare learners for the workforce, the commission also stated the importance of ensuring that the programs are helpful to all learners, including those who wish to go on to higher education and those who want to gain literacy skills for purposes that include taking citizenship tests, helping their children in school, and otherwise participating in society.

Senator Metts expects to introduce legislation next week to effectuate the move, with a goal of completing the transition by the end of 2019.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo thanked the commission for its work.
 
“In order to position Rhode Island for long-term economic success, we must better address the unique needs of our adult learners,” said Governor Raimondo. “I’m grateful to the members of the commission for their commitment to this issue, and for the thought and deliberation that went into making these recommendations. I look forward to working with the legislature to make the proposed changes that will best serve the many adult learners in our state.”   
4/18/2019SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Representative calls for library construction project to move forward
 
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives marked National Library Week and Rhode Island Library Day last week with a resolution sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi commemorating the celebrations.

On hand for the passage of the resolution were a number of representatives from the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library in Narragansett, who were Representative Tanzi’s guests in the House chamber.

The resolution, passed April 11, recognized the national celebration April 7 through April 13 and proclaimed Saturday, April 13, to be Rhode Island Library Day.  The resolution expressed “sincere gratitude to those dedicated individuals who work, volunteer, and advocate for libraries across our state.”

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) invited representatives of the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library for the passage of the resolution to show her support for the efforts to construct a new library in the town.

“Libraries are such a critical part of the fabric of our communities; a truly democratic place where everyone — no exceptions — is welcome to visit, enjoy, learn and share. This is an opportunity to honor the incredible value that they, and all their staff, volunteers and contributors, add to our communities,” said Representative Tanzi. “In particular, I support the efforts of the board, staff, volunteers and supporters of the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library, and their work to see the library construction project through. I agree with them, along with the vast majority of the Narragansett voters who supported the library bond in 2016, that this project is overdue and the people of Narragansett deserve to finally have a modern building that is an appropriate size, is accessible and can truly support the needs of our community.”

IN PHOTO: Rep. Teresa Tanzi, Sen. Bridget G. Valverde and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee in the State Library with guests from the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library, who visited the State House April 11 to mark National Library Week and Rhode Island Library Day. From left are Gail Shields, Karen Shabshelowitz, Ann Sullivan, and Gloria Roman of the library board; Mary Ann Grintchenko, president of the Friends of the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library; library board Chairwoman Laurie Kelly; Representative Tanzi; Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown); library Director Patti Arkwright (front); library board member Ellen Kooima; Narragansett Town Councilor Jesse Pugh; Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett); library board member Nancy McKenna and Narragansett resident Melissa Jenkins.
 

4/18/2019RepRep. Teresa Tanzi; #166; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) honored Brian Casey, owner of the Oak Hill Tavern and Company Picnic Company, with a House of Representatives citation for being named Treasurer of the National Restaurant Association.  Casey is slated to become chairman of the national organization in 2021.

 “To say that we are proud of Brian’s national accomplishment would be a severe understatement.  He has always been a tireless advocate for the restaurant industry in Rhode Island and he is a wonderful small businessman and community partner to the town of North Kingstown.  With our internationally recognized food scene in Rhode Island, it is only fitting that a Rhode Islander possesses a top board seat within the National Restaurant Association and I am looking forward to the recognition Rhode Island’s culinary industry will receive coming with Brian’s new national post,” said Representative Craven, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“North Kingstown is full of pride that our own Brian Casey has been elevated to such a high position on the national stage.  We could not have a better promoter and supporter of Rhode Island’s culinary community on the board of the National Restaurant Association than Brian and I look forward to working with him to ensure that the restaurants of Rhode Island get the respect and attention that they deserve across the country,” said Representative Casimiro.

“The restaurant industry has been my passion for as long as I can remember and being a part of its fabric in Rhode Island has always given me great pride.  I thank Representative Craven and Representative Casimiro for this recognition and I am quite eager and excited to take on this expanded role with the National Restaurant Association where, rest assured, I will be quite vocal in extolling the virtues of Rhode Island’s restaurants to the rest of my association members,” said Brian Casey.

Brian Casey is the president and owner of the Oak Hill Tavern and the Company Picnic Company, both based in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. He is a 35-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has deep roots within his local community.  Casey is a two-term past chairman of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. In 2008, he was named its Caterer of the Year. In 2013, he was named Restauranteur of the Year.

He is a lifelong resident of Rhode Island and has a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Rhode Island College.

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 15 million employees. They represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf by advancing and protecting America’s restaurant and foodservice industry.

Photo: Rep. Robert Craven, left, presents Brian Casey, right, with a RI House of Representatives citation congratulating him for his appointment as Treasurer of the National Restaurant Association


4/17/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; Rep. Julie A. Casimiro; #189; #237; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would extend veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

The bill (2019-H 5443A) would provide 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.

“Today, gay members of the armed forces can serve proudly and openly since ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed in 2011,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson, a retired Navy officer. “But that doesn’t absolve us of our duty and obligation to those who served with honor before then. Many gay service members who were unceremoniously shown the door have been denied benefits for decades. And it’s time to right that wrong.”

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 would provide a form certifying that the member’s discharge is to be treated as honorable.

“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.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

4/11/2019RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – At a meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee on Education, Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) questioned representatives from Rhode Island College (RIC) and the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) over their decisions to hire armed police details for campus events at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the taxpayer.  The campus police forces for RIC and CCRI are not armed and both administrations have been strong opponents to legislation (2019-H 5138) sponsored by Representative O’Brien that calls for the arming of RIC and CCRI police officers.

“The terrible reality that our society currently faces is that active-shooter situations are a persistent threat and as we have seen, schools are frequently targeted for such vile and tragic acts.  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.

At the subcommittee meeting, Representative O’Brien questioned RIC Interim​ Vice President and CFO​ Stephen Nedder and CCRI President Dr. Meghan Hughes about why at times armed police details were being hired to patrol the campuses of RIC and 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.

“If the administrations of RIC and CCRI truly believe that there is no need for armed security on their campuses, then there is no reason for armed police details to be hired at great costs to the taxpayers and students of both institutions.  Dr. Hughes even admitted that if CCRI police officers were armed, there would have been no reason to hire an outside armed police detail for an incident several years ago that lasted almost a week,” added Representative O’Brien.

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

“All of these men and women are former law enforcement officers, and all are required to go through the training of the police academy, which also means under Rhode Island state law, they can carry firearms legally.  If the worst were to happen on either campus, I would much prefer that the campus police officers be trained, prepared, and equipped with firearms rather than having to approach an active-shooter with a pair of handcuffs and a prayer,” said Representative O’Brien.

Representative O’Brien’s legislation is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Video of the subcommittee meeting can be found here.

4/12/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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At a meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee on Education, Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) questioned representatives from Rhode Island College (RIC) and the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) over their decisions to hire armed police details for campus events at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the taxpayer.  The campus police forces for RIC and CCRI are not armed and both administrations have been strong opponents to legislation (2019-H 5138) sponsored by Representative O’Brien that calls for the arming of RIC and CCRI police officers.


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STATE HOUSE – Legislation (2019-H 5299aa) sponsored by Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester) that prohibits the misrepresentation of pets as service animals in order to acquire any rights or privileges afforded to disabled people passed the House of Representatives last week.

“Service animals provide tremendous support and critical services for those that are in need, but when an animal is misrepresented as a service animal, this negatively affects those that are truly in need of service animal support,” said Representative Hawkins.

While the behaviors of pets and service animals are distinguishable, often managers of businesses and agencies they visit have only one means to identify them: the vest they usually wear. 

Unfortunately, replicas of these vests are easily available online, leading many people to fraudulently claiming their pets as service animals.

According to the legislation, if a person is found to have misrepresented a pet as a service animal, the person would be guilty of a civil violation, punishable with up to 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities.

“It is fundamentally unfair to people with actual disabilities who need their service animals by their sides at all times for others to misrepresent the same conditions.  Misrepresenting a service animal defrauds actual service dog users, and businesses and agencies that work with people who employ service dogs.  This legislation protects these parties as well as providing an appropriate punishment for those who try to game the system with fake service animals,” concluded Representative Hawkins.
 

4/16/2019RepRep. Bernard A. Hawkins; #254; Andrew Caruolo
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Legislation (2019-H 5299aa) sponsored by Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester) that prohibits the misrepresentation of pets as service animals in order to acquire any rights or privileges afforded to disabled people passed the House of Representatives.


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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Scott A. Slater have filed legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license based solely or partially on a non-related criminal conviction. 

The “Fair Chance Licensing” act (2019-S 0610, 2019-H 5863) develops a standardized process by which only convictions directly related to the duties of the licensed occupation can be considered in the application for a professional license; to provide guidance on how those records should be considered when an application is being reviewed; and to create a more transparent decision-making and notification process.

The sponsors were joined by advocates from a coalition of more than 30 community groups, including Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE), today at a State House event to call attention to the need for the legislation.

“If the purpose of prison system is really supposed to be rehabilitation, someone who’s been there shouldn’t face a lifetime of discrimination in their efforts to find meaningful employment and become a contributing member of our society. Once they’ve served their time and been released, they shouldn’t be denied a license to work in a field that has nothing to do with their previous offense. There needs to be a more-nuanced, less-punitive approach to licensing,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), a deacon in the Congdon Street Baptist Church who regularly provides ministry in prison. “Most people who go to prison are already facing numerous challenges like systemic poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and a lack of educational opportunities. The licensing system shouldn’t be another. If they are otherwise qualified, the licensing board should have more discretion and shouldn’t automatically deny them.”

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

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

“Passage of this bill is a matter of fairness and equity. People who have been involved in the criminal justice system face a vast array of obstacles in re-entering society,” said Steven Brown, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. “The state should not be adding to them through the use of unnecessarily stringent occupational licensing requirements, which are all too prevalent. The ACLU applauds the sponsors of the legislation for seeking to reduce this discrimination by giving every person a fair chance in the occupational licensing process.”

“Discrimination in occupational licensing deprives us of so many employment opportunities that we are equally fit to do, and deprives us of a better life, and breaking the cycle of incarceration” said Sara Reyes, a member of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE).

In expanding opportunity for meaningful employment for those who have been involved in the criminal justice system, occupational licensing reform represents an important step in efforts to build stable and safe communities for all Rhode Islanders. Besides DARE and the RI ALCU, the legislation is supported by 30 additional community-based organizations, including the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the Economic Progress Institute and Amos House. 

4/11/2019RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Scott Slater; #91; #155; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Scott A. Slater have filed legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license based solely or partially on a non-related criminal conviction. 
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio plans to submit legislation today that takes a new approach to economic development on large tracts of state land. Spurred by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District, President Ruggerio hopes to create a more streamlined process for approvals on these state-owned parcels moving forward.
 
“We have a rare opportunity for development at the former I-195 land and some other areas across the state,” said Senator Ruggerio. “In the I-195 District, a developer is hoping to invest more than a quarter of a billion dollars to create an iconic structure that redefines the skyline. We should have welcomed this investment with open arms. Instead, we did everything we could to chase the developer away. Thankfully, he’s still here. This process has sent a terrible message to anyone looking to invest in Rhode Island.”
 
President Ruggerio continued, “This legislation streamlines the approval process for large, contiguous parcels of state land intended for redevelopment, so that progress isn’t stymied by narrow interests.
 
“These large development districts present extraordinary opportunities and also have a significant impact upon the common good. It is clear that municipalities are not equipped with sufficient flexibility to address the unique needs of these districts while governing their coordinated development. This new approach to economic development will provide a new mechanism with all the tools necessary to handle development in a nimble and coordinated way. It will benefit the entire state of Rhode Island.”
 
The legislation establishes a process for creating Special Economic Development Districts on state-owned tracts of 20 or more contiguous acres. These special districts would be vested with the authority to adopt development plans that include land use, location of buildings, street systems, dimension and height requirements, parking, landscaping, design review and population density.
 
The I-195 Redevelopment Commission would be granted the same authority as the economic development districts.
 
President Ruggerio began working on these bills last fall, as the Hope Point Tower faced yet another roadblock. He noted that the legislative proposal is complex and will require thorough analysis and public input through the committee hearing process. “The introduction of this legislation today is the beginning of that process, not the end,” he said.

4/11/2019SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio plans to submit legislation today that takes a new approach to economic development on large tracts of state land. Spurred by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District, President Ruggerio hopes to create a more streamlined process for approvals on these state-owned parcels moving forward.


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STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin requiring presidential candidates to release their personal tax returns in order to be listed on the Rhode Island ballot.

The sponsor said people have the right to know what conflicts of interest their president may have. While state and local officials in Rhode Island are required to file ethics disclosures that publicly reveal any potential conflicts of interest, the president is held to no such standard.

President Donald Trump is the only president — and the only major party presidential candidate — in the last 40 years to refuse to publicly release his tax return. The U.S. House last week asked the IRS to release the president’s returns in an effort to seek information for investigations into his business and campaign activities, but the White House has vowed to block any release.

“We simply don’t know what financial conflicts the president has because he hasn’t disclosed them. Did he impose the Mexico City global gag rule, blocking federal funding to international nonprofit organizations that provide abortion referrals because he profits from that? Over the past month, the Trump administration has instituted rules to defund Title X, ensuring women across this country will struggle to access basic health care, and then gave nearly $2 million of that family planning money to the Obria Group, an organization that does not even believe in birth control. Does the president have a financial interest in taking this action? Is there a financial benefit to his stacking the courts with anti-choice judges?” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence). “While his tax returns might not tell us for sure, they certainly are a good place to start.”

The legislation (2019-S 0342), which now goes to the House of Representatives, would require all candidates for United States president and vice president to file copies of their last five years of federal income tax returns with the state Board of Elections no later than 63 days prior to the primary election in order to appear on the Rhode Island ballot.

Under the proposed legislation, the Board of Elections would be required to redact certain information after consulting with the state tax administrator and director of revenue, and then to post the return on the Board of Elections website.

Unlike members of Congress, the president is exempt from many conflict-of-interest laws. Except President Trump, every president since Richard Nixon has voluntarily released his tax returns. Tax returns provide information about a candidate’s financial ties to foreign businesses and governments, business arrangements, and other potential conflicts of interest.

While it is widely known that President Trump has done business in many countries with people and firms linked to foreign governments, without his tax returns, it’s impossible to understand the scope of those deals and how they might affect his decisions in office. Additionally, tax documents from 1995 showed that he reported a $916 million loss, which tax experts say could have been used to avoid paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years.

Americans believe the president should release his or her tax returns. Prior to the President Trump’s inauguration, a survey showed that 74 percent of Americans believed he should release his tax returns, including almost half of those who voted for him.

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced companion legislation (2019-H 5727) in the House.

4/10/2019SenSen. Gayle Goldin; #200; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson today honored the Rhode Island League of Women Voters on its upcoming centennial with a resolution presented to representatives of the state chapter.

“The League of Women Voters has always advocated tirelessly to shape public policy in support of greater equality, voter access and participation, health care, education, employment and a safer environment. Our country and our state are stronger and more inclusive because of the league’s work over the last century, and I’m sure we will continue to benefit from its members’ efforts for many years to come,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

The Rhode Island League of Women Voters is celebrating its centennial, having been founded by the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association on April 1, 1919, a year before the national organization formed and a year before the ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote.

The league is dedicated to informed and active participation in elections. It has long run “get out the vote” campaigns as well as hosting presidential debates.

The House today approved a resolution (2019-H 5981) Representative Carson sponsored offering congratulations to both the national league and the local chapter for their century of successful advocacy.

On hand for the passage of the resolution were Hollie Courage of Providence, the past state and Providence League president; Susan Escherich of East Providence, a state board member and member-at-large; Marian Styles-McClintock of Providence, a member of the Providence League of Women Voters and former state board member; Claire Nelson of Middletown, a member of the Newport County League; Linda Jenkins of Tiverton, a member of the Newport County League; Nina Rossomando of Westerly, president of the South County League; and Dotty Stumpf of Westerly, a member of the South County League.

IN PHOTO: Sen. Lauren H. Carson honored members of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters at the State House today for their organization’s 100th anniversary. From left are Linda Jenkins, Susan Escherich, Nina Rossomando, Representative Carson, Marian Styles-McClintock and Hollie Courage.
For larger photo, please contact mwhitty@rilegislature.gov.
 

4/10/2019RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano’s (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) legislation (2019-S 0330) that requires employers of four or more employees to conduct sexual harassment training and includes retaliation as an unlawful employment practice was passed by the Rhode Island Senate tonight.

“Everyone deserves a workplace that is free from harassment and retaliation, regardless of the job that they possess.  The momentum to speak against and denounce harassment, especially sexual harassment in the workplace, will continue with the passage of this bill because we still have a long way to go in educating people on what is and what isn’t appropriate behavior in the workplace,” said Senator Cano.

The legislation would require employers of four or more employees to comply with sexual harassment education and workplace training requirements.  Current law encourages employers of 50 or more to do so. The employers would also be responsible to conduct the training for new employees within one month of the employee’s hire date.

The bill would also extend workplace protections to domestic service employees and include retaliation as an unlawful employment practice.  The Commission for Human Rights and the Department of Labor and Training would be responsible for enforcement of the act.

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

4/10/2019SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Sandra Cano’s (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) legislation (2019-S 0330) that requires employers of four or more employees to conduct sexual harassment training and includes retaliation as an unlawful employment practice was passed by the Rhode Island Senate.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5677) that would exempt natural hair braiders from the state’s requirement for hairdressers and cosmeticians to be licensed with the state passed the House of Representatives tonight.

“Over the years as I have introduced this bill, there has been a long and steady stream of misinformation relating to this bill that has downplayed the cultural and economic significance that natural hair braiding has to different communities in our state.  Natural hair braiders not only see their craft as a proud demonstration of their culture, but also as a means to advance their economic well-being for themselves and their families.  To continue to subject these hardworking and creative braiders to oppressive regulations and fees is to deny them the opportunity to pursue the American Dream while passing down the rich traditions and culture that we have celebrated over generations,” said Representative Williams.

According to the legislation, natural hair braiding is a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand.  Natural hair braiding may include the use of natural or synthetic hair extensions, natural or synthetic hair and fibers, decorative beads, and other hair accessories.  The use of topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding can also be used.

Natural hair braiding does not include the application of 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 the use of chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds, or fusion bonds.

“Without the presence of toxic chemicals in the braiding process, there is no need to take any money out of the pockets of these hardworking women and men who work with hair in a natural and safe way,” said Representative Williams. 

"For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women.  Hair braiding skills and techniques come naturally.  Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity and does not require any kind of formal training.   Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice,” added Representative Williams.  

“The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what is occurring now with natural hair braiders.  It should be telling to all those that would attempt to stifle our state’s natural hair braiders that this legislation has garnered a wide-range of support, including the support of the political spectrum from the Right to the Left. All natural hair braiders should be able to practice their art form, continue with their cultural practices, promote or share their heritage without undue burdens to provide for themselves and their families,” concluded Representative Williams.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

4/10/2019RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5677) that would exempt natural hair braiders from the state’s requirement for hairdressers and cosmeticians to be licensed with the state passed the House of Representatives.


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STATE HOUSE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2019-S 0257) that prevents consideration of an applicant’s credit history when determining automobile insurance rates was passed by the Rhode Island Senate tonight.

“There is no reason why an individual who may have struggled financially in the past should be haunted by poor credit when purchasing car insurance,” said Senator Lynch Prata. “Insurance rates should be based on the risk one poses on the road, not an arbitrary factor such as credit rating. Tying insurance rates to credit history may make it harder for drivers to secure the appropriate level of insurance. This bill will prevent that from happening, ensuring a more equitable system and helping to ensure Rhode Island motorists are insured.”

The legislation states that only past claim experience and “merit rating” or “experience rating” can be used in determining automobile insurance rates.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

4/9/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2019-S 0257) that prevents consideration of an applicant’s credit history when determining automobile insurance rates was passed by the Rhode Island Senate.


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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Frank A. Ciccone’s (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) legislation (2019-S 0090) that would establish a cause of action against employers and employees for workplace bullying, harassment and other abusive behavior that may not fall into other categories that are already protected such as race, sex or sexual orientation passed the Rhode Island Senate tonight.

 “I have been introducing this legislation for four years and in today’s climate of accountability being brought upon harassers, bullies, and abusers, we must continue the social progress we have made and pass this protective legislation for all employees in Rhode Island.  Rhode Island workers deserve to have the Healthy Workplace Act of 2019 become law and I thank my colleagues in the Senate for supporting this important piece of workplace protection legislation,” said Senator Ciccone.

The purpose of the legislation is to provide legal relief for employees who have been harmed psychologically, physically, or economically, by deliberate exposure to abusive work environments.  The legislation would also provide legal incentives for employers to prevent and respond to abusive mistreatment of employees at work.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

4/10/2019SenSen. Frank Ciccone; #77; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Frank A. Ciccone’s (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) legislation (2019-S 0090) that would establish a cause of action against employers and employees for workplace bullying, harassment and other abusive behavior that may not fall into other categories that are already protected such as race, sex or sexual orientation passed the Rhode Island Senate.


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STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller to launch a pilot program testing the effectiveness of using Medicaid waiver funds to treat chronic homelessness.

The bill (2019-S 0024) will now be forwarded to the House of Representatives, where Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-H 5571).

Modeled after an innovative bill in Hawaii, the legislation directs the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to commission Medicaid waiver funds for a pilot program covering supportive housing services to people suffering from chronic homelessness. The program would provide individuals with behavioral health services, case management, personal care and assistance services, home and community-based services and housing support services.

“The acute correlation between homelessness and adverse health conditions is a heinous reality. Unfortunately, issues tend to be aggravated since the tragedy of homelessness brings more attention and concern to shelter than to the treatment options in place,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “Getting people into housing removes the burden of finding shelter and allows for the freedom to get connected with programs and employment opportunities, while directly engaging in the most effective preventative care mechanism we have, a roof,” he said.

One of the biggest health costs related to homelessness is emergency room visits, said Senator Miller, who in 2013 co-chaired a Senate commission that studied ways to divert those seeking treatment for behavioral health issues away from emergency rooms and into more appropriate and less-costly treatment settings.

The incidence of emergency room visits among the homeless is high, in part due to poorer health because the homeless struggle to get preventive care, so preventable problems often do not get treatment until they become critical. Additionally, because emergency rooms cannot, by law, turn them away for inability to pay, the homeless often turn to them as a means to get services or treatment that could otherwise be provided in less-costly settings.

Studies have shown that housing the chronically homeless who are “super users” of emergency rooms reduces their use of emergency rooms by about 50 percent. And since a single night in the hospital might cost about $3,000 but rent for a month might be about $1,000, the savings are significant. Supportive housing is a win-win because it also improves the health of participants.

Senator Miller based the legislation, which passed the Senate in 2017 and 2018 before, on a bill introduced in 2017 by Hawaii state Sen. Josh Green. An emergency room doctor by trade, Senator Green devised the plan after treating the same patients weekend after weekend, and seeing the high costs — both human and financial — associated with homelessness. Senator Miller contacted Senator Green for assistance in crafting his own legislation. Under Senator Miller’s bill, the pilot project would be called the Rhode Island Pathways Project, after a similarly named project connected to the Hawaii bill.

A University of Hawaii survey found health care costs for chronically homeless people dropped by 43 percent when they had decent housing for six uninterrupted months. A study of the Hawaii Pathways project found that from baseline to follow-up, health care costs per client per month decreased by 76 percent with a net savings equated to $4,247 per month per client.

Senator Miller’s bill would direct OHHS to include services such as outreach, housing search assistance, education on rights and responsibilities of tenants and independent living skills, coordination of primary care and care for mental health and substance abuse, and links to education, job training and employment. OHHS would be required to apply for any waiver amendments to use the federal waiver funds, which are to be reserved for home- and community-based health services. Furthering the process would call for the implementation of eligibility rules, ensuring that the program is open only to the chronically homeless.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist .12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

4/9/2019SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at West Warwick could be used for distressed areas statewide
 
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell to encourage redevelopment of distressed neighborhoods, including areas of West Warwick.

The bill (2019-S 0057) would create “micro-zones” in exceptionally distressed areas and encourage revitalization in those zones through a combination of expedited permitting and tax and fee waivers.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland) is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-H 5388).

Under the proposal, a city or town council would be allowed to designate one or more areas as a micro-zone in which the rehabilitation efforts receive special consideration.

The designation would target substantially vacant buildings and allow those who wish to rehabilitate them to get fee-free, expedited building permits and to get tax credits reimbursing them for the state sales tax they pay on all building materials, furnishings and fixtures for the building. The owner would also be eligible for a 10-year property tax stabilization agreement with the community. In communities West Warwick’s size, individual zones would be limited to 20 acres. The designation would allow the town to more effectively market West Warwick as an attractive place to set up a business.

The program is different from the Municipal Economic Development” (MED) zone program, under which the village of Arctic has been designated to encourage development. Micro-zones would target smaller areas of extreme distress, and would concentrate on redevelopment of existing structures, rather than new buildings.

“We have plenty of buildings that could be viable locations if we offer the right incentives. But we need to make sure the programs allow for redevelopment, as opposed to just new construction, because that’s the sort of opportunity we have in West Warwick. The buildings are already there, and if we help entrepreneurs make the changes they need to use them, and give them incentives to want to be part of West Warwick, we’ll be laying out the welcome mat for the new businesses and jobs we need in our town,” said Senator Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).

West Warwick once had retail sections in many of its villages, but today, despite attempts in the past to reinvigorate it, many of its buildings remain empty and derelict, shadows that suggest a prosperity that once was, but is now frustratingly out of reach.

Senator Satchell thinks that micro-zones would be a way to lure businesses to other parts of West Warwick, not just Arctic.

“The status quo isn’t doing much for our town. I hope that these new incentives will help bring developers to our town and add some much-needed economic development in villages like Phenix and Crompton, as well as Arctic,” said Senator Satchell.

4/9/2019SenSen. Adam Satchell; #201; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Oversight is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear an update on the vendor that provides transportation to the elderly and Medicaid beneficiaries.

The committee will meet Thursday, April 11, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

Since Jan. 1, Missouri-based Medical Transportation Management has been responsible for coordinating transportation services for Medicaid beneficiaries and individuals over the age of 60 for non-emergency medical services. The transition has been a rocky one, with almost 1,300 complaints that the service has either been delayed or that drivers never showed up.

The Oversight Committee met twice in February to review hundreds of complaints lodged against the vendor. During the hearings, it was revealed that the company would pay a $1-million penalty and agree to future monetary sanctions until all problems have been resolved.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) indicated at that time that another meeting would be planned to ensure that the remaining problems have been fixed to the satisfaction of the committee.

4/9/2019RepRep. Patricia Serpa; #121; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The annual Single Audit of the State of Rhode Island for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, resulted in 78 findings. Many of the findings (37) related to the state’s key operations and controls over financial reporting while the remainder (41) related to the administration of federal programs — principally human service programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The annual audit is required by both state and federal law as a condition of continued federal assistance.

The Single Audit Report, prepared by Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle, was recently released by the Joint Committee on Legislative Services.  Certain of the findings were presented by the Auditor General at an April 4, 2019, meeting of the House Committee on Oversight which focused on the impact of the challenged RIBridges eligibility system on compliance with federal program requirements for the Medicaid, SNAP, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and child care programs.

The state’s fiscal 2018 expenditures of federal awards totaled $4.9 billion (including component units) under a wide variety of more than 450 individual programs. Federal assistance consists of both direct cash and noncash awards (e.g., loan and loan guarantee programs and donated food commodities). Many programs are jointly financed with federal and state funding.  

Financial statement related findings — The auditors again reported that the state lacks a strategic plan to (1) coordinate needed replacements/enhancements to its key statewide financial systems and (2) ensure that critical legacy financial systems, such as the payroll system, which pose a business continuity risk, will be available to support state operations. Without a comprehensive plan, there is substantial risk that the intended integration of various components may not be achieved. The auditors reported that the state has already experienced such integration issues and halted work on a time and effort reporting system and a grants management system. Nearly $3 million had been expended on those projects.

The complexity of Medicaid program operations adds to the challenge of accurately accounting for all Medicaid program related financial activity within the state’s financial statements. This complexity results from new federal regulations, various state initiatives, and additional challenges resulting from its implementation of the RIBridges eligibility system.

The auditors further recommended that assigning responsibility for monitoring the investment activity and other compliance aspects of funds on deposit with a fiscal agent (trustee) can be improved and should be vested with the Office of the General Treasurer.

Overall, the auditors noted that the state has not sufficiently addressed information technology (IT) security risks, an increasing concern given the state’s complex computing environment. The state needs to ensure its IT security policies and procedures are current, well communicated and complied with. Assessments of compliance for all critical IT applications have not been performed — systems deemed to pose the most significant operational risk must be prioritized.

The state does not follow uniform enterprise-wide program change control procedures for the various IT applications operating within state government. This increases the risk that unauthorized or inappropriate changes could be made to IT applications without detection.

The auditors recommended that management should propose an additional dedicated funding source for the Information Technology Investment Fund to support the anticipated enhancements to critical financial and administrative computer systems identified through implementation of the strategic plan.

Policies need to be developed and implemented to guide decision-making regarding what types of costs should be paid from the newly established Information Technology internal service fund.

Monitoring of escrow liability account balances needs to be improved and the establishment of these accounts should be more limited to ensure they are only used when that is the proper accounting for such funds.

Processing functionalities within the Division of Taxation’s STAARS system result in a volume of returns held in suspense pending resolution. This complicates financial reporting estimates due to the uncertain effect of returns that had not fully processed at fiscal year-end.

The Division of Taxation can enhance policies and operating procedures to restrict access to personally identifiable information and to ensure the effectiveness of the business continuity plan.

The Department of Transportation (RIDOT) can enhance controls over the presentation of fund balance components within the IST Fund and enhance the accuracy of transportation infrastructure assets identified for inclusion in the state’s financial statements.

The auditors found that controls to ensure accurate and consistent reporting of investment expenses within the pension trusts require enhancement at both the custodian and Employees’ Retirement System management levels. Also, a unified database or computer application is needed to maintain membership data for each of the state’s OPEB plans. This would improve controls over the administration of the benefit programs.

Federal program findings — Among the other federal program related findings included in the report, the auditors found that the Executive Office of Health and Human Services lacks strong oversight procedures regarding fiscal monitoring and contract settlement for its managed care organizations — the auditors recommended more stringent audit and financial monitoring procedures be employed.

The auditors recommended that the Department of Human Services improve controls to ensure compliance with the period of performance requirement for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and to improve related federal reporting for such requirements.

The Department of Labor and Training did not make the necessary changes to its system to allow for the imposition of penalties on overpayments due to fraud, and to prohibit relief from charges to an employer’s Unemployment Compensation account when the overpayment was the result of the employer’s failure to respond timely or adequately to a request for information.

The auditors recommended that RIDOT should further enhance its quality assurance program to ensure that required materials tests are performed and documented consistent with federal regulation and RIDOT policy.

The Department of Education needs to increase efforts to comply with the requirement to perform administrative reviews of all school Food Authorities every 3 years.

The auditors recommend that the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals improve its controls over federal reporting to ensure that substance abuse program expenditures are reported accurately and consistently with federal requirements.

Management’s response and planned corrective actions are included within the Single Audit Report. A Summary Schedule of Prior Audit Findings, which reports the status of findings from prior audits, is also included.

The State’s Single Audit Report was submitted to a federal clearinghouse for such reports — this data is then made available to all federal funding agencies. The Single Audit Report and related Audit Summary are available on the Auditor General’s website — www.oag.ri.gov
4/9/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Dennis E. Hoyle, CPA
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Mario Mendez is supporting legislation to raise wages for direct service professionals who provide care to individuals with developmental disabilities. 

Representative Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence) is a cosponsor of legislation introduced by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) to raise the minimum wage for direct service professionals at state-reimbursed agencies that serve at least five developmentally disabled individuals to $13.77 on July 1, and $15 on July 1, 2020.

The legislation also requires that the state increase funding to those agencies to help pay the cost of the raise.

"Despite low wages, the professionals who work with developmentally disabled individuals stay in this field because they care deeply about the population they serve. No one goes into it expecting to make a fortune, but they definitely deserve to be able to support themselves,” said Representative Mendez. “I support paying direct service professionals a living wage. Doing so will strengthen our community and increase the quality of care for those they serve.”

Most direct service providers working in Rhode Island’s network of community agencies caring for adults with developmental disabilities are earning just over $11 per hour. Home care aides who do similar work in Massachusetts and Connecticut have minimum starting rates of $15 per hour. A poll conducted last year by Fleming and Associates found that 69 percent of Rhode Islanders supported caregivers in long-term care earning at least $15 per hour.

A 2016 survey found a 33-percent turnover rate among direct service providers in community agencies.

4/5/2019RepRep. Mario F. Mendez; #247; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) will be joined by advocates from the Coalition for Fair Chance Licensing Thursday for an event highlighting their licensing reform legislation.

Who: Senator Metts, Representative Slater and the Coalition for Fair Chance Licensing
What: Fair Chance Licensing Campaign Kick-Off
When: Thursday, April 11, 3 p.m.
Where: Senate Lounge, State House
Why: It is well established that the path to stability for people caught up in the criminal justice system is through employment, yet after meeting all of the demands of a criminal sentence—incarceration, probation, drug and/or mental health counseling, fines and restitution—people have difficulty finding work because of the mark of a criminal record. This long-term barrier to employment begs the question: When does a sentence end?

More and more jobs now require an active license or certification. Over 150 state occupational licensing laws in Rhode Island (and hundreds of additional regulations) prevent people with criminal records from pursuing a wide range of careers, or put unnecessary roadblocks on the path to stable employment. Careers impacted by licensing restrictions include: certain contracting jobs, plumbing and pipe-fitting, real estate jobs, insurance industry jobs, taxi driving/driving for hire, certain jobs in sales, barber/hairdresser, cosmetology and many careers in health care.

Legislation (2019-S 0610, 2019-H 5863) sponsored by Senator Metts and Representative Slater will help remedy this situation.

4/9/2019RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Scott Slater; #91; #155; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on legislation to enact provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law to protect Rhode Islanders in the event that the federal law is repealed or overturned.

The committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Tuesday, April 9, at the rise of the Senate (around 4:45 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House. Among the bills on its calendar for hearings are:
  • 2019-S 0738 — Sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), this bill would  ensure that the standards of the Affordable Care Act — often called Obamacare — remain in effect in Rhode Island, even if the courts or Congress were to eliminate the federal laws that created it.
  • 2019-S 0445 — This bill sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) would prohibit insurers from varying the premium  rates charged for a health coverage plan based on the gender of the individual policy holder, enrollee, subscriber or member.
  • 2019-S 0146 — Sponsored by Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston), this bill would protect people with health insurance from surprise medical bills for emergency and other services by requiring a non-participating health care providers to bill an insured party only for a co-payment or deductible.
 
The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, April 11, at the rise of the Senate in Room 212 on the second floor of the State House for hearings on:
  • 2019-S 0218 — Sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), this bill would prohibit PFAS, a class of fluorinated organic chemicals, from being used in food packaging.
  • 2019-S 0447 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown) requires the personal care product industry to more fully disclose the ingredients they use and, where applicable, identify ingredients that have been published as a chemical of concern.

4/8/2019SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings this week on criminal justice reforms and has scheduled votes on the creation of a joint committee on the repealer to eliminate outdated laws as well as advice and consent on two traffic tribunal magistrates.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 9, at the rise of the Senate (around 4:45 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House, the committee will hear numerous bills concerning criminal justice, including:
  • 2019-S 0341 — Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), this bill would eliminate sentences of life without parole for juveniles sentenced as adults, making them eligible for parole consideration after completing 15 years of their sentence.
  • 2019-S 0472  — This bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, would make the possession of Schedule I through V controlled substances and possession of more than an ounce of marijuana misdemeanors punishable by up to one year imprisonment, a $500 fine or both.
  • 2019-S 0701 — Sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), this bill would enable those who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime to petition for compensation and damages.
On Thursday, April 11, at 3 p.m. in Room 313, the committee will hold hearings on advice and consent for the reappointment of Alan R. Goulart of North Kingstown to a 10-year term as a magistrate of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, and the appointment of Michael DiChiro Jr. of Johnston to a 10-year term as a Traffic Tribunal magistrate.

On Thursday, April 11, at the rise of the Senate in Room 313, the committee has scheduled consideration of:
  • 2019-S 0346 — Sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this bill would establish the Joint Committee of the Repealer to compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations and executive orders.

4/8/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Rep. Liana Cassar recognizing this week as National Public Health Week.

Held annually the first full week of April, National Public Health Week is organized by the American Public Health Association with weeklong activities designed to educate and highlight issues that are critically important to the health of the American people and to accomplish the goal of improving the public’s general health.

“Enhancing public health will always be a critically important mission for our whole society. Public Health Week is a good reminder, particularly for policymakers, of the many facets of public health and the challenges associated with each. It’s my hope that the observance of Public Health Week prompts all of us in the State House to renew our dedication to improving health care access and quality for all,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), who holds a master’s in public health and works as a strategy and operations consultant for the Global Health Media Project. 

The American Public Health Association sets themes for each day of the week. The resolution (2019-H 5954) details those themes and provides information about each. The themes are health communities on Monday, violence prevention on Tuesday, rural health on Wednesday, technology and health on Thursday, climate change and its negative impact on public health on Friday and global health on Saturday and Sunday.
 

4/4/2019RepRep. Liana M. Cassar; #267; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATEHOUSE — Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) welcomed representatives of Bike Newport and advocates of the “Rhode Island Waves” campaign to the State House yesterday to honor them for their successful campaign to make streets safer for everyone.

The Rhode Island Waves campaign, created by Bike Newport, asks all road users, including walkers, bikers, runners, skateboarders, motorists and those engaging in any other activity, to stop, look and wave to each other when crossing intersections. The objective is to ensure that both parties have noticed each other to create a safer environment.

“This is a great public awareness campaign that encourages people to use the power of a friendly wave to keep everyone safe while also fostering human connections in neighborhoods and city streets. I think it’s a great idea to use this simple gesture in this way. Only good things can come from people exchanging a wave and a smile,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

Representative Carson today introduced a House resolution (2019-H 5952) honoring the campaign and encouraging all Rhode Islanders to join the campaign and exchange waves with other road users at intersections to increase public safety. The House passed the resolution, and took a moment to wave in the chamber in honor of the campaign.

On hand for the adoption of the resolution were Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) Public Affairs Director Barbara Polichetti; AAA Northeast Traffic Safety Programs Manager Diana Imondi; JaiCG Founder Joseph Phommasith; Bike Newport Executive Director Bari Freemen and Bike Newport representatives Liz Davis, Allyson McCalla, Alice Cialella, Clare Woodhead and Jordan Miller.

“RI Waves is a grassroots campaign — improved safety on our streets depends on participation by all road users — people biking, walking and driving,” said Freeman. “We’re especially grateful for Representative Carson’s commitment to spearhead the adoption of this resolution, as well as continued support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, AAA and RIPTA to help us spread the word — and the wave — among Rhode Islanders.”

IN PHOTO: Rep. Lauren H. Carson, center, is joined by proponents of “RI Waves.” From left are Barbara Polichetti of RIPTA; Diana Imondi of AAA Northeast; Liz Davis of Bike Newport; Bike Newport Executive Director Bari Freeman; Representative Carson; Allyson McCalla, Clare Woodhead and Jordan Miller of Bike Newport; and Alice Ciallela, Bike Newport’s Rhode Island Waves coordinator.
  
 
NOTE: For a larger photo, contact mwhitty@rilegislature.gov

4/4/2019RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE -- Committees in both legislative chambers will hold hearings today on legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to require pension plans managed by religious organizations in Rhode Island to send regular updates on the financial health of the pensions to their plan participants.
  
"All Rhode Island workers and retirees deserve to know the truth about the health of their pension plan," said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). "Too many hard-working caregivers and health professionals, who spent their careers serving their communities, have been hurt by a lack of transparency. We must ensure that this never happens again."
 
The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires most private pension plans to send members a letter each year outlining the health of their plan. Pension plans administered by religious organizations claim exemption from both ERISA and GASB reporting standards. Members of these plans often have no ability to access information regarding the financial health of their pensions.

Until all pension plans in Rhode Island are required to provide this information, there remains a risk that other church-run pension plans could conceal vital financial information from plan members. 
 
"This common-sense legislation will ensure members and retirees of all Rhode Island pension plans have information about the health of their pension plans," said House Majority Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). "It is the members of these pension plans, many of whom have spent decades serving their community, who are directly impacted. Members and retirees have a right to know about the health of their plan."
 
Today at the rise of the House and Senate sessions (around 4:45 p.m.), the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are holding separate public hearings on the bills.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is scheduled to testify for the legislation.

"There are thousands of Rhode Islanders, including more than 2,700 current and retired employees of St. Joseph's and Our Lady of Fatima hospitals, who have been kept in the dark regarding the health of their pension plan because of this loophole," said Treasurer Magaziner. "Church plans should be required to be transparent with their members, just like other pension plans."
 
4/9/2019SenRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #187; #85; Legislative Press Bureau
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet three times this week to discuss budget issues relating to the General Treasurer’s office, the Secretary of State’s office and education.

The committee will meet Tuesday, April 9, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The panel will hear testimony on budget articles relating to the General Treasurer’s office, including debt affordability, state pension and investments.

The committee will also hear testimony relating to the Secretary of State’s office, including the State Archives and the business records scanning project.

In addition, the committee will hear testimony on several pieces of legislation relating to pensions, including a bill (2019-S 0431) introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that would require all pension plans with at least 200 members not covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, to submit to the same public scrutiny, including public reporting of all its liabilities and assets; and a bill (2019-S 0055) introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) that would establish small business development fund to encourage formation of private capital investment in underserved small businesses with annual report and termination after six years.

The committee will also meet jointly with the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, April 10, at the rise of the Senate in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The committees will hear testimony on budget Article 11 relating to Rhode Island Promise, a scholarship program relating to the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, and Article 6, relating to debt management at the University of Rhode Island.

The committee will also meet on Thursday, April 11, at the rise in the Senate Lounge to hear testimony on budget Article 6, Section 5, relating to high security at the Department of Corrections. The committee will also hear several pieces of legislation relating to the Department of Corrections.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Senator Conley. The Senate Education Committee is chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).
4/9/2019SenSen. William Conley; Sen. Hanna Gallo; #202; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote on proposed legislation, including a bill relating to school threat assessment policies. It will also hear testimony on various bills relating to health and safety.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, April 10, at the rise of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will consider the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5322 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), would repeal the current chapter of the general laws regarding immunity for food donors to food banks, and would adopt a new chapter with comprehensive immunity provisions for persons involved in donating food to food banks.
  • 2019-H 5538 — This bill, sponsored by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) would authorize school boards to establish threat assessment policies and teams. It would also establish an oversight committee for the teams.
  • 2019-H 5572 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), would update the laws relating to physician assistants to reflect current standards and terminology.
The committee will also hear testimony on several pieces of legislation, including the following:
  • 2019-H 5436 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) would define pet trainers and require trainers to be licensed. This act would further provide that all trainers must provide adequate housing facilities and/or primary enclosures for all animals.
  • 2019-H 5552 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), would prohibit the use of seclusion in schools except to prevent immediate injury to the pupil or others.
  • 2019-H 5559 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak, (D-Dist. 4, Providence) would requires the Rhode Island Department of Education, within the next three years, to create a plan where all teachers would be trained in the BEARS curriculum (BEARS training includes hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Heimlich maneuver, and bleeding control).
  • 2019-H 5737 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), would require the installation of video surveillance cameras and equipment in any classroom which has an enrolled child with a disability, who as a result of such disability is unable to communicate.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

4/9/2019RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) are highlighting the release of Auditor General Dennis Hoyle’s report on the long-troubled Coventry sewer program and the high costs being levied on Coventry’s taxpayers.  The Auditor General completed the report at the request of Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and other members of the Coventry delegation in the General Assembly.

The report lays out a detailed analysis of the operations and implementation of the controversial sewer project and offers several recommendations to rectify concerns about the program, as well as, recommendations to ensure the project’s short-term and long-term financial viability and success.

“I thank Auditor General Hoyle for this comprehensive and factually accurate report about the troubles that have plagued the Coventry sewer project.  Since the program’s inception, I have called for an independent report about the outrageous costs being imposed on Coventry’s ratepayers and the report lays out the problems associated with the program quite clearly.  It also offers many solutions to these issues and I will be fighting for the report’s recommendations to be followed for the sake of Coventry’s residents and businesses,” said Senator Raptakis.

“I am very appreciative of the Auditor General’s report and the thorough examination that was undertaken regarding the costly and frustrating concerns that have arisen surrounding this project.  The costs that have been put upon the ratepayers are unsustainable and ridiculous, so I will be a strong advocate to ensure that the report’s recommendations are followed and put into place,” said Representative Serpa.

“I would like to first thank Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and former Representative Nunes, along with the entire Coventry Delegation for all of their support during this arduous process.  When they heard that the Town Council not only was going to slap astronomical $22,000 to $30,000 sewer assessments on taxpayers, along with a 20-year, 6% note and thousands of dollars in required tie-in fees on ratepayers living in the least economically advantaged area of town, the Coventry Delegation acted swiftly to protect us.  The Auditor General’s report confirmed years’ worth of efforts obtaining facts, documents, and questionable decisions made by the Town Council that I, along with Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa had previously presented.  The recommendation of notifying residents two years in advance, removing paving costs, removing police details, and reducing the interest rate, will save the ratepayers of this community tens of thousands of dollars each.  The report, which was 46 pages long, in my opinion clearly documents the significant financial issues (the tens of millions of dollars spent and the tens of millions of dollars that still need to be repaid), due to a significant lack of planning and oversight - all for a project that was never approved by the taxpayers in an all-day referendum,” said James LeBlanc, a Coventry resident concerned with the sewer project.

In particular, the Auditor General points to legislation (2019-S 0201 / 2019-H 5798), sponsored by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa, which prohibits the town of Coventry from charging its sewage works’ users more than the interest the town has actually paid for its borrowed funds for sewage works’ purposes.

The report states, “The interest rate charged to homeowners has been higher at 6% than the Town’s actual borrowing costs which approximates 3% to 4%. Legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly to limit the interest rate charged to homeowners on sewer assessments. Aligning the Town’s costs of borrowing with the interest charged on the assessments is both appropriate and necessary to lessen the cost of sewer assessments on homeowners and businesses.”

“This is project was already an exorbitant and unnecessary expense for so many in Coventry and the town should not be charging its residents any more than the actual cost of the project.  There are too many families, seniors, and those living on fixed incomes, who are facing true financial harm due to the mandate of this project.  This bill will protect the taxpayers from the large interest rates for a project they do not want in the first place,” said Representative Serpa.

Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa have long-been champions for Coventry residents who live in sections of Coventry where the sewers have been expanded.  Those residents now have to pay for tie-in fees, use fees, and assessment fees, regardless of whether they possess a fully compliant septic system.

“It is imperative that the report’s solutions and recommendations are listened to and followed so that our town’s sewer system works for the ratepayers rather than driving them out of their homes.  This report also cost nothing to the taxpayers, unlike the Citrin Cooperman report which cost taxpayers $35,000 and offered no solutions to the ballooning problems associated with this project.  We are too far along with the project to turn back now, but hopefully, with the Auditor General’s report, we can correct the errors in implementation that have occurred and establish this project for future success,” concluded Senator Raptakis.

The Auditor General’s report can be found here.

4/5/2019RepSen. Leonidas Raptakis; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #100; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) are highlighting the release of Auditor General Dennis Hoyle’s report on the long-troubled Coventry sewer program and the high costs being levied on Coventry’s taxpayers.  The Auditor General completed the report at the request of Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and other members of the Coventry delegation in the General Assembly.


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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would extend veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

The bill (2019-H 5443) would permit former members of the armed forces who received less than honorable discharges based solely on sexual orientation to receive earned veterans’ benefits as if their discharge had been characterized as honorable including housing and employment veterans’ preferences.

“Today, gay members of the armed forces can serve proudly and openly since ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed in 2011,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson, a retired Navy officer. “But that doesn’t absolve us of our duty and obligation to those who served with honor before then. Many gay service members who were unceremoniously shown the door have been denied benefits for decades. And it’s time to right that wrong.”

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.

“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.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by Representatives Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), has been referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
4/4/2019RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would extend veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

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STATEHOUSE — Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) welcomed representatives of Bike Newport and advocates of the “Rhode Island Waves” campaign to the State House yesterday to honor them for their successful campaign to make streets safer for everyone.

The Rhode Island Waves campaign, created by Bike Newport, asks all road users, including walkers, bikers, runners, skateboarders, motorists and those engaging in any other activity, to stop, look and wave to each other when crossing intersections. The objective is to ensure that both parties have noticed each other to create a safer environment.

“This is a great public awareness campaign that encourages people to use the power of a friendly wave to keep everyone safe while also fostering human connections in neighborhoods and city streets. I think it’s a great idea to use this simple gesture in this way. Only good things can come from people exchanging a wave and a smile,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

Representative Carson today introduced a House resolution (2019-H 5952) honoring the campaign and encouraging all Rhode Islanders to join the campaign and exchange waves with other road users at intersections to increase public safety. The House passed the resolution, and took a moment to wave in the chamber in honor of the campaign.

On hand for the adoption of the resolution were Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) Public Affairs Director Barbara Polichetti; AAA Northeast Traffic Safety Programs Manager Diana Imondi; JaiCG Founder Joseph Phommasith; Bike Newport Executive Director Bari Freemen and Bike Newport representatives Liz Davis, Allyson McCalla, Alice Cialella, Clare Woodhead and Jordan Miller.

“RI Waves is a grassroots campaign — improved safety on our streets depends on participation by all road users — people biking, walking and driving,” said Freeman. “We’re especially grateful for Representative Carson’s commitment to spearhead the adoption of this resolution, as well as continued support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, AAA and RIPTA to help us spread the word — and the wave — among Rhode Islanders.”

IN PHOTO: Rep. Lauren H. Carson, center, is joined by proponents of “RI Waves.” From left are Barbara Polichetti of RIPTA; Diana Imondi of AAA Northeast; Liz Davis of Bike Newport; Bike Newport Executive Director Bari Freeman; Representative Carson; Allyson McCalla, Clare Woodhead and Jordan Miller of Bike Newport; and Alice Ciallela, Bike Newport’s Rhode Island Waves coordinator.
 
NOTE: For larger photo contact mwhitty@rilegislature.gov.
4/4/2019RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Rep. Liana Cassar recognizing this week as National Public Health Week.

Held annually the first full week of April, National Public Health Week is organized by the American Public Health Association with weeklong activities designed to educate and highlight issues that are critically important to the health of the American people and to accomplish the goal of improving the public’s general health.

“Enhancing public health will always be a critically important mission for our whole society. Public Health Week is a good reminder, particularly for policymakers, of the many facets of public health and the challenges associated with each. It’s my hope that the observance of Public Health Week prompts all of us in the State House to renew our dedication to improving health care access and quality for all,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), who holds a master’s in public health and works as a strategy and operations consultant for the Global Health Media Project. 

The American Public Health Association sets themes for each day of the week. The resolution (2019-H 5954) details those themes and provides information about each. The themes are health communities on Monday, violence prevention on Tuesday, rural health on Wednesday, technology and health on Thursday, climate change and its negative impact on public health on Friday and global health on Saturday and Sunday.
4/4/2019RepRep. Liana M. Cassar; #267; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

The bill (2019-H 5549), which was heard Wednesday by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, would authorize a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives, provided that the pharmacist has completed a training program approved by the state board of pharmacy.

“Taking time off work, finding transportation to a clinic and paying for a doctor’s visit is a lot of work to get birth control,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Pharmacist-prescribed birth control would improve the quality of life for so many women, which is an important goal of our evolving health care system.”

Rhode Island would join 12 other states that have existing laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

“Pharmacists are highly underutilized health care professionals,” said Representative Wilkinson. “Laws that keep developing and whose policies are incorporated into practice will allow the profession to expand and better serve patients. Prescribing birth control is a major step in pharmacists’ ability to take some of the workload off physicians, use their knowledge to the fullest, and enhance the patient’s health care experience.”

The legislation would limit prescriptions to those patients who are at least 18 years of age, unless the patient has evidence of a previous prescription from a primary care practitioner or women’s health care practitioner.

The pharmacist would also be required to provide a self-screening risk assessment tool that the patient must use prior to the pharmacist’s prescribing the birth control.

“Some states have found a decrease in abortion rates following enactment of this law,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, research shows that access to effective birth control leads to lower abortion rates, likely by helping to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick) and Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).
3/28/2019RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Terri Cortvriend has introduced a resolution requesting that Rhode Island public schools incorporate environment and climate literacy into school curricula to ensure that young Rhode Islanders understand the environmental challenges they will face in their lifetime.

The idea was a recommendation of “Resilient Rhody,” the statewide climate resilience action strategy created as a result of an executive order signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in 2017.

The resolution asks public schools to offer courses in climate and environmental literacy, and also asks the Department of Education to develop a set of key environmental and climate principals that can be incorporated into existing curricula in any subjects.

“The students of today are going to be the next generation of stewards of this earth. They are inheriting a planet that needs help, and a state that is being significantly impacted by sea level rise. It’s imperative that they are provided accurate scientific information about climate change and that they understand what it means for their future,” said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown). “Kids are also some of the greatest ambassadors for messages about protecting the earth. When kids learn about the necessity of reducing our impacts, they are willing to make change and ask their families to do the same. Making sure they all learn about how real and serious climate change is will have an impact here and now as well as when they grow up.”

The vast majority of climate scientists — 97 percent — agree that human activities have contributed to global warming. But, as the resolution states, only 30 percent of middle school science teachers and 45 percent of high school science teachers are aware of the extent of that scientific consensus. Politics that have become associated with the topic may leave some teachers hesitant about bringing up the subject in class.

But future generations must grasp the extent of the problem to understand that they must address it and to develop the ways to do so, and learning about it in school from an early age is critical, said Representative Cortvriend.

Representative Cortvriend developed her legislation to meet the recommendation of the Resilient Rhody strategy, which called for expanding K-12 education on environmental literacy, including climate-related emergency preparedness, by developing resources for school use and identifying how these concepts can be incorporated into existing state standards.

The resolution (2019-H 5563) is cosponsored by Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich). It is before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee, which held a hearing on it March 27.
4/4/2019RepRep. Terri Cortvriend; #258; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rep. Terri Cortvriend has introduced a resolution requesting that Rhode Island public schools incorporate environment and climate literacy into school curricula to ensure that young Rhode Islanders understand the environmental challenges they will face in their lifetime.


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STATE HOUSE – House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi has introduced legislation to clarify and streamline Rhode Island’s financial regulatory structure for users of blockchain technology.

The legislation (2019-H 5847) will consolidate two licenses that are currently required for tech companies that assist consumers with financial blockchain transactions, and will better position Rhode Island’s businesses to use this emergent technology.

“Our message in Rhode Island for the last several years is that we welcome business development and growth. This bill is one element of the effort to make Rhode Island a place where businesses can thrive. By readying our regulatory systems for the technology of the future, we’re encouraging tech companies that may be developing blockchain technology to consider Rhode Island, while also making it easier for other companies, new and existing, to use it. This bill is about making it easier to do business in Rhode Island,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Blockchain is a database technology that can be used to store information in a secure and public or encrypted manner, creating a decentralized database of blocks of data that are shared by all users. Each block is attached to a chain of the blocks that came before it, creating an easily traceable and hard-to-alter history of the data. Although the design’s most high-profile use is to track the virtual currency Bitcoin, it has many applications, some financial, some not. Walmart has begun using it to track the supply chain of its produce, and Rhode Island-based CVS and Fidelity have been using it to ensure patient information security and to facilitate the financial transactions of the future.

Majority Leader Shekarchi’s legislation concerns only the functions that that involve currency or virtual currency, since those are already licensed activities in Rhode Island.

This bill would consolidate Rhode Island’s current electronic money transmitter license and its sales of checks license and add the authority for virtual currency to the new currency transmission license. The new license will allow licensees to conduct all the activities allowed under the two prior licenses, plus virtual currency activities. Currently, users of blockchain financial applications are required to have both licenses.

Much of the bill is based on model law used in other states, reducing the regulatory burden for companies that operate in several states.

The legislation is supported by the Department of Business Regulation (DBR).

“DBR is proud to support this key piece of legislation,” said DBR Director Liz Tanner. “The bill addresses needed clarifications that will enable the blockchain community to grow in Rhode Island.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate. 

4/3/2019RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) was honored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) with the organization’s Capitol Caregiver Award for his sponsorship, support, and passage of the RI Livable Home Modification Grant at a ceremony held at the State House on Tuesday.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive recognition for legislation we worked so hard to get passed.  The AARP was an instrumental partner in crafting this bill that will help so many of our elderly residents stay in their homes and it was a pleasure working with this great organization to help and protect our senior citizens,” said Senator Felag.

Senator Felag’s legislation (2018-S 2554Aaa) 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 act 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,” said Senator Felag.

Sen. Walter S. Felag, right, with AARP RI State Director Kathleen Connell, left, accepting the 2019 Capitol Caregiver Award


4/3/2019SenSen. Walter Felag; #112; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) was honored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) with the organization’s Capitol Caregiver Award for his sponsorship, support, and passage of the RI Livable Home Modification Grant at a ceremony held at the State House on Tuesday.


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STATE HOUSE — In recognition of their efforts to create and fund the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant, the AARP named Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73 (Newport, Middletown) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) as Capitol Caregivers during a ceremony Tuesday at the State House.

These elected officials have advanced policies to help remove barriers allowing the disabled to stay safely and independently within their homes and out of long-term care facilities.

The Rhode Island Livable Home Modification 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

AARP State Director Kathleen Connell presented Capitol Caregiver certificates of appreciation to the legislators.

4/3/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Marvin Abney; Rep. Joseph McNamara; #120; #199; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore’s legislation (2019-H 5766) which extends the “look back” period on repeat alcohol-related vehicular offenses from the current five years to 10 years was heard by the House Judiciary Committee last week.

“Serial drunk drivers are currently gaming the legal system due to our lax “look-back” laws and this situation needs to be rectified immediately so that those who continuously drink and drive are held fully responsible for their dangerous, selfish and habitual behavior," said Representative Amore.
According to the Century Council’s Hardcore Drunk Driving Sourcebook, a majority of jurisdictions have a “look back” period of 10 years. In fact, Rhode Island is the only New England state with a “look back” period of less than 10 years.

“The current five-year look back period is a dangerous loophole,” said Representative Amore. “It allows repeat offenders to be treated as first offenders, after the five year period has elapsed, in both the District Court and the Traffic Tribunal. Not only does that threaten the lives of Rhode Islanders who must share the roads with individuals with a long history of driving drunk, it also allows these repeat drunk drivers to receive lessened sanctions.”

The 10 year “look back” period is supported by the National Highway Safety Administration, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Hardcore Drunk Driver Project.

Last year, Representative Amore was honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as their Legislator of the Year for his sponsorship of two bills, the “look back” bill that he has reintroduced this session and legislation that creates a new criminal offense of driving under the influence resulting in non-serious bodily injury.

The bill was held for further study by the committee.

4/3/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Gregg Amore’s legislation (2019-H 5766) which extends the “look back” period on repeat alcohol-related vehicular offenses from the current five years to 10 years was heard by the House Judiciary Committee last week.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) two bills that update the Rhode Island law concerning parentage and the law on adoption processes were heard by the House Judiciary Committee.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect, and be responsible for their children.  These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society.    These two bills are specifically about one thing - equality and fairness,” said Representative McEntee.

The RI Confirmatory Adoption Act (2019-H 5706) provides for a process for married and unmarried parents, to complete adoption to confirm their parentage of children born into their relationships with mutual intent and through assisted reproduction.  The bill will codify a streamlined process for co-parent adoptions by LGBTQ couples who petition to adopt their own children and the bill will ensure greater clarity, efficiency, and consistency in the adoption process.

The current system creates barriers and delays for families by requiring home studies, providing notice of adoption to anonymous donors, a six-month waiting period, and other court requirements.

The RI Parentage Act (2019-H 5707) repeals current state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

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

“The ‘family dynamic’ of the past no longer exists and families now come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Just because a particular family does not consist of one heterosexual male and one heterosexual female does not mean that these individuals do not love and provide for their children, nor should it remove the rights of these individuals to raise their children in the eyes of the law.  There are so many horrific stories of neglect and abuse perpetrated by parents who do not want, or deserve, their children so we must not make it harder for loving individuals to raise their own families, regardless of their gender or sexual identity,” concluded Representative McEntee.

The bills were held for further study by the committee.

4/3/2019RepRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; #226; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) two bills that update the Rhode Island law concerning parentage and the law on adoption processes were heard by the House Judiciary Committee.



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STATE HOUSE -- Representative John W. Lyle Jr. (District – 46 Lincoln, Pawtucket) and Representative Nardone (District – 28 Coventry) are pleased to put forward legislation to reform the 911 fees.
 
The proposed bill (2019-H 5933) would create a restricted receipt account for all 911 funds collected by telephone service providers on land lines and cell phones, both contract and prepaid. The bill would also require all 911 funds to be used solely for the operation of the 911 system and would authorize the PUC to reduce 911 surcharges if they exceed the sums needed to operate the system.
 
Annually, Rhode Island collects approximately $15 million in E-911 fees from consumers who pay $1 per month on each landline and $1.26 on each cell phone. This money is collected to pay for the emergency communication system. However, only a portion of the money collected is budgeted for the state’s E-911 center; the remaining money goes into the state’s general fund and is not restricted to public safety. 
 
Representative Quattrocchi (District – 41 Scituate, Cranston) believes "if the taxpayers of Rhode
Island are doing their part by paying taxes and fees, it’s time for Rhode Island law makers to do our job and end the improper diversion of 911 funds".
 
“Every year millions of dollars are taken from taxpayers under false pretenses. This is a bait and switch that represents taking money away from our first responders”, concluded Representative Nardone.
 
“Rhode Islanders deserve to sleep soundly knowing that if they have an emergency, someone will be on the other end of the line willing and able to assist in any way possible” said Representative Lyle. House Bill 5433 is co-sponsored by Representative Place (District 47 – Burrillville, Glocester) and Leader Filippi (District 36 – Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly, New Shoreham).  
4/3/2019RepRep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; Rep. George A. Nardone; #253; #251; Gregory Zervos
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STATE HOUSE — Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has appointed Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) to serve on the Rhode Island Permanent Commission on Civic Education.

The 21-member commission, which includes six legislators and various educators and historians, is tasked with appointing committees to study specialized areas of concern, including a Rhode Island history committee. These committees will report their findings back to the commission, which in turn will report its findings back to the General Assembly and the commissioner of education.

“It’s important to encourage civic engagement among our youth, especially since they are the ones who will have to live with the decisions we make today,” said Representative Ackerman. “The whole reason for having civics education in the first place is so that we can have good citizens, so that when the day comes for them to take over, they’ll have a good working knowledge of government, Rhode Island’s history, and most importantly, their rights and responsibilities as citizens.”

Preparing youth for the political world has long been an issue of importance to Representative Ackerman, who served as a mentor to the Cumberland Youth Committee for six years prior to her election to the House of Representatives. In 2013, Representative Ackerman created a Youth Advisory Board comprising juniors from Cumberland and Lincoln high schools to give students the chance to gain knowledge about the inner workings of state government and contribute input on pending legislation.

The commission had its first meeting on Friday, March 29. Other lawmakers serving on the panel will be Representatives Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), who was chosen as co-chairman, and Senators Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), who was chosen as co-chairwoman, Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield).
4/3/2019RepRep. Mia Ackerman; #191; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett) welcomed the Rhode Island State Champion North Kingstown High School basketball team to the Senate chamber today where the team was presented with a Senate citation and a congratulatory resolution.

“As an alumnus of North Kingstown High School, I am extremely proud of the Skippers for this accomplishment” said Senator Sheehan. “The players and their coaches worked very hard to win this honor and distinction, and I’m glad they could be here today to be honored by the Senate.”

The North Kingstown Boys Basketball Team had an outstanding regular season in 2018-2019, compiling a stellar and league best 15-3 Division I-C record and earning a first-round bye in the Division I Boys Basketball Tournament.

In the Rhode Island State Championship Tournament that followed the Division I Tournament, the Skippers entered as the number two seed overall and plowed through the competition, handily sweeping the big Rhode Island high school boys basketball events of the 2018-2019 season.

4/2/2019SenSen. James Sheehan; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #90; #264; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – At a rally held in the State House rotunda, Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) announced she will be introducing a resolution to support the efforts of the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee to ensure that every Rhode Island resident is counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.  The committee was created by Governor Raimondo last year through an executive order.  It is has been tasked with developing and recommending a census outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the 2020 federal Census.

“An accurate census count is crucial to our state because if our census count is too low in 2020, we may lose a congressional seat and our state would be deprived of much needed federal dollars.  I know of many people who are scared to participate due to the rhetoric coming out of Washington but it truly is urgent that everyone responds to the 2020 census so that we do not lose out on a decade’s worth of federal dollars,” said Senator Cano.

The rally was co-emceed by RI Complete Count co-chairs Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the RI Department of Health.  Senator Cano was joined by fellow speakers Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), companion legislation sponsor Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Attorney General Peter Neronha and RI AFL-CIO President George Nee.

The Committee's outreach strategy includes--but is not limited to--initiatives to encourage participation in the 2020 Census, the establishment and support of school-based outreach programs, partnerships with non-profit community-based organizations and a multi-lingual, multi-media campaign designed to ensure an accurate and complete count of Rhode Island's population.

Later in the evening, Senator Cano will lead a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee where she will advocate for funding in the state budget for the Census 2020 and Complete Count Initiative.  Senator Cano will stress the importance of a complete and accurate census count to her colleagues on the Finance Committee.

Governor Raimondo has included $150,000 in her budget proposal for the Complete Count Committee.  Senator Cano is advocating for the General Assembly to increase that amount to $500,000 in the state budget.

“The upcoming census will determine our federal funding for the next decade.  It is imperative that we have an accurate count so that the proper and necessary amount of federal dollars is applied to Rhode Island’s residents.  This extra appropriation of $350,000 in the state budget is a small investment for the billions of dollars in federal money that is at stake so we must take the census count very seriously,” said Senator Cano.

4/2/2019SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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At a rally held in the State House rotunda, Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) announced she will be introducing a resolution to support the efforts of the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee to ensure that every Rhode Island resident is counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.  The committee was created by Governor Raimondo last year through an executive order.  It is has been tasked with developing and recommending a census outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the 2020 federal Census.


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Legislation would prohibit employers from seeking applicants’ wage history
 
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is sponsoring legislation to help close the gender wage gap by prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their wage history, or prohibiting employees from discussing their wages with one another.

The legislation was drafted with assistance from the Rhode Island chapter of Society for Human Resource Management (RI SHRM) with collaboration between business and social justice groups that agree that wage history has been a reason women – and also men – continue to be underpaid in their career. 

“Basing a person’s pay on what they’ve been paid in the past perpetuates the wage disparities and discriminatory pay practices they may have faced in the past. It makes it so that if someone is underpaid, the effects of that lower wage follow them from job to job,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “All employees should be paid fairly for the value they bring to the job, without regard for what someone else was paying them, their gender, race or anything else that does not have to do with their skills or job performance.”

The legislation (2019-H 5917) would prohibit employers from requiring or seeking an applicant’s prior wages, or seeking that information from their current or previous employer (except for confirmation in a situation when a candidate seeks a higher wage than offered because it’s lower than they’ve previously been paid.) The bill would still allow employers to ask job applicants what their salary expectations are.

It would also ban employers from prohibiting employees from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing their wages or those of another employee, or retaliating against any employee for doing so.

Several other states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, already prohibit employers
from inquiring about a candidate’s salary history during the hiring process.

“RI SHRM vigorously supports equal pay for equal work and we believe that pay disparities based upon discriminatory considerations must be identified and remedied as quickly as possible. We provided Representative Ruggiero input to the Wage Fairness Act in hopes that a common sense solution to a workplace issue, one that protects employees and also that employers can implement in a reasonable time frame, could be presented to the legislature for consideration,” said RI SHRM State Chapter Director Cindy Butler.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).
4/2/2019RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislation would enable creation of taproom on North Main St.
 
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray and Rep. Michael A. Morin to help pave the way for a new brewery in downtown Woonsocket is now headed to the governor.

The legislation allows the Woonsocket City Council to approve a Class B liquor license for Lops Brewing at 122 North Main St.

The Senate version of the bill (2019-S 0038) passed the House today and will be transmitted to the governor. The House passed its identical version of the bill (2019-H 5053) Feb. 26, and last week a Senate committee recommended it for passage by the full Senate. The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland) and Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket).

The brewery is planned for a building within the Downtown Overlay District established by the city in 2015. The property is currently being rehabilitated with business space on the ground floor and apartments on the three floors above. Brewer Sean Lopolito of Plainville has been working to open a 40-seat taproom on the first floor plus seasonal patio seating, and conduct brewing in the basement. Lopolito plans to offer trivia and live music, and the building’s owner has said he views the business as perfect for his plans to make the building and its apartments attractive to young professionals.

Senator Murray was a member of the City Council when the Downtown Overlay District was created and made downtown revitalization a top priority. She said she was happy to sponsor the legislation – which is the first bill she introduced as a new legislator – to help bring the business downtown.

“A small brewery is a perfect fit for the effort to revitalize downtown Woonsocket. We now have a number of high-quality restaurants and bars, plus the Stadium Theatre, which has become a regional attraction with national acts and popular large productions. This is an exciting opportunity for downtown Woonsocket, one that could help in the effort to bring in visitors and help develop the neighborhood and its atmosphere,” said Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).

The legislation allows a commonly granted exemption to location limits, enabling the City Council to approve the brewery’s license if the brewery meets all other requirements.

“The growth of small breweries and distilleries in the Blackstone Valley and around the state has created exciting new opportunities for Woonsocket. They are helping to make our city an inviting destination, where people enjoy spending their time and their money at our local businesses. Lops will be an outstanding addition to our growing dining and entertainment scene downtown,” said Representative Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

Representative Morin has been an advocate for the expansion of the local brewing industry and was the sponsor of the law passed in 2016 that allowed breweries and distilleries to sell limited amounts of their products to visitors for sampling and off-site consumption.

4/2/2019RepSen. Melissa A. Murray; Rep. Michael Morin; #263; #207; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate House and Municipal Government Committee will be meeting on Thursday, April 4 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 310 of the State House to hear testimony on several bills within the Senate’s “Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island” package of bills to spur economic development in Rhode Island. 

The legislative initiatives propose action in a number of areas, including development, workforce training, housing, education, solar energy, and supporting small businesses and Rhode Island’s seafood industry.

The committee will be hearing testimony on the following bills within the package:
  • 2019-S 0688, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardo (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), authorizes building inspectors to affix their signatures to permits that pertain to work they inspect.
  • 2019-S 0691, sponsored by Senator Lombardo, expands the definition of "family member" for purposes of zoning ordinances.

4/2/2019SenSen. Frank Lombardo, III; #182; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Labor Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, April 3 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 212 of the State House to vote on bills relating to sexual harassment and workers’ rights. 

The committee will be voting on legislation (2019-S 0330) sponsored by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Providence) that extends protections to domestic servants and includes retaliation as an unlawful practice and requires employers of four or more employees to conduct sexual harassment programs for new employees. 

Legislation (2019-S 0370) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) which increases the maximum weekly unemployment benefit rate to the higher of 57.5% of the average weekly wages paid to workers in the prior calendar year or $636 per week will also have a committee vote.

The committee will also hear testimony on several bills within the Senate’s “Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island” package of bills to spur economic development in Rhode Island. 
The legislative initiatives propose action in a number of areas, including development, workforce training, housing, education, solar energy, and supporting small businesses and Rhode Island’s seafood industry.

The committee will be hearing testimony on the following bills within the package:
  • 2019-S 0713, sponsored by Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), requires builders on state public school contracts $5,000,000 or more to have 15% of the labor performed by apprentices, and sets forth other consequential requirements for such contracts.
  • 2019-S 0714, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), requires the workforce board to fund a non-trade apprenticeship incentive program in fisheries.
  • 2019-S 0725, sponsored by Senator Ciccone, adds thermal systems insulation workers, apprentices, journeypersons, contractors and masters to the mechanical trades' regulation chapter of the general laws.
  • 2019-S 0726, sponsored by Senator Cano, comprehensively amends the state's apprenticeship laws to make them easier to understand and be more consistent with each other and applicable federal regulations.

4/2/2019SenSen. Frank Ciccone; #77; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Oversight is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear an update on the Unified Health Infrastructure project.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 4 at the rise of the House (about 5:30 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

Auditor General Dennis Hoyle is expected to share his findings with the committee along with an update on project progress, extension of the contract with Deloitte and long-term care payments and reconciliation.

This will be the 11th meeting the Oversight Committee has convened regarding UHIP since first opening an investigation on the program on Oct. 20, 2016. Since then, the committee has heard testimony on the botched computer system from public officials, nursing home and child care administrators, and citizens affected by the rollout. The committee has learned of two warnings from the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, delayed payments to long-term care providers, and an action plan to improve the project.

The $364-million Unified Health Infrastructure project, now also called RIBridges, is a statewide computer system that replaces and unifies numerous aged computer systems across the state’s human services agencies, with the goals of modernization, information sharing and efficiency. The program has faced criticism for changes in size and scope over the years.

The House Oversight Committee is chaired by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).
4/1/2019RepRep. Patricia Serpa; #121; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The first meeting of the newly reformed Senate Task Force on Fisheries will convene Wednesday, chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, April 3, at 2:30 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

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.
Expected to speak during Wednesday’s meeting are Meghan Lapp, the fisheries liaison for Seafreeze Ltd.; Rich Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fisherman’s Alliance; Katie Almeida, a fishery policy analyst for The Town Dock; and Rhode Island seafood processors.

4/1/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Bridget Valverde has introduced legislation to create a statewide council that would help identify ecologically significant woodlands around the state and provide cities and towns with guidelines for protecting them.

The Woodland Preservation and Stewardship Act (2019-S 0663), developed with the help of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, would build on existing woodland stewardship planning in the state, and would provide communities with information they may use to incorporate woodland conservation in their own comprehensive planning and zoning.

The effort would also help cities and towns respond to the influx of plans for large solar arrays in currently wooded areas.

“Many communities are facing difficult choices as a result of large solar development proposals in previously undeveloped woodlands. Most cities and towns didn’t have this type of project in mind when they drafted their comprehensive plans and would benefit from some data-driven guidance on how to balance the need for renewable energy development with the need to protect sensitive woodlands. This legislation is a means to help cities and towns adapt their planning in ways that can protect and preserve valuable woodland areas, while maintaining local control of development,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett).

The legislation would establish that it is the state’s policy to preserve the integrity and viability of woodlands. It would direct the Department of Environmental Management to develop recommendations for woodland stewardship and urban forestry throughout the state by April 2020. It would require other state agencies with planning responsibilities to include woodland conservation as a goal in their plans, and direct DEM to provide guidance by July 2020 to other state agencies and cities and towns on designating woodlands as significant natural areas and adopting measures to protect them.

The bill does not create any new state administrative bureaucracy, instead building on existing
agencies and empowering local comprehensive planning and zoning agencies to make decisions.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island supports the bill as a means to protect sensitive wildlife habitats and give Rhode Islanders the tools they need to be good stewards of critical woodlands.

“Rhode Island is the smallest and second-most densely populated state in the U.S., yet it supports a wide diversity of wildlife,” said Audubon Society of Rhode Island Executive Director Lawrence Taft.  “A variety of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles thrive in forests across Rhode Island. In addition to supporting wildlife, Rhode Island’s woodlands provide critical environmental and recreational services to citizens of the state.” 

Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5813) in the House.
4/1/2019SenSen. Bridget G. Valverde; #264; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote on bills related to service animals and mayoral academies. It will also hear testimony on various bills relating to student safety and animal welfare.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, April 3, at the rise of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will consider the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5299 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), would prohibit misrepresentation of the status of an animal as a service animal in order to acquire any right or privilege afforded disabled persons.
  • 2019-H 5520 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) would require any mayoral academy which is part of a network that seeks to be established or expanded to provide evidence that its attrition rates, special education rates and suspension rates are within acceptable averages.
The committee will also hear testimony on several pieces of legislation, including the following:
  • 2019-H 5538 — This bill, sponsored by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) would authorize school boards to establish threat assessment policies and teams. Oversight committee for the teams is established.
  • 2019-H 5426 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (R-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston) would require public schools to provide screening for dyslexia/related disorders/establish appropriate treatment and/or education plan for students starting in school year 2020-2021.
  • 2019-H 5428 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston), would provide that any person who is convicted of, or pleads nolo contendere to a charge of cruelty to animals shall be required to reimburse any adoptive owner for reasonable costs associated with treating the animals’ injuries.
  • 2019-H 5433 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), would authorize certain state and municipal agents to take possession of animals found abandoned or neglected, and to proceed to provide all necessary care and treatment for the animal.
  • 2019-H 5546 — This bill, sponsored by House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi (R-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly), would require that teachers be trained and certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • 2019-H 5547 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), would require the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to adopt a course of study on the nation’s founding and related documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.
  • 2019-H 5552 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), would prohibit the use of seclusion in schools except to prevent immediate injury to the pupil or others.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

4/1/2019RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony on various pieces of legislation relating school hours, virtual education, combining school districts and student privacy rights.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, April 3, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House. The committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0015 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich), would require public schools, including charter schools, begin the school year on the day after Labor Day commencing in the school year 2020-2021.
  • 2019-S 0046 — This bill, sponsored Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland), would allow a school district to conduct instruction through virtual education up to five days when schools have been closed due to inclement weather, emergency or any nonscheduled school closings.
  • 2019-S 0114 — This bill, sponsored Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), would authorize the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to mandate libraries in high schools to be open one hour before, during and one hour after school.
  • 2019-S 0266 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), would combine all public school districts into four school districts, based on counties.
  • 2019-S 0402 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett), would require schools to comply with recycling and composting laws and promotes food donation and local food service contracts.
  • 2019-S 0541 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), would authorize the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to waive certain provisions of the laws on elementary and secondary education for public schools but would prohibit the waiver of other listed provisions.
  • 2019-S 0549 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), would establish certain student privacy rights in regard to take-home technology devices from school.
  • 2019-S 0653 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), would establish courses that include instruction in career and technical education programs.
  • 2019-S 0655 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland), would require a school committee to demonstrate a good faith effort to meet the required number of days in the school year.
The Senate Committee on Education is chaired by Senator Gallo.

4/1/2019SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet this week to discuss budget issues relating to the Department of Administration, as well as to consider legislation and the reappointment of the director of the Department of Administration.

The committee will meet Tuesday, April 2, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The panel will hear testimony on budget articles relating to the Department of Administration, including Article 3, Section 27, relating to government reform (injured on duty), a new article relating to the Public Utilities Reserve Fund, and a new article relating to the Rhode Island Health Benefit Exchange.

The committee is also scheduled to consider the governor’s reappointment of Michael DiBiase as Director of the Department of Administration, which requires the advice and consent of the Senate.

In addition, the committee will consider a bill (2019-S 0057) introduced by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) that would create micro zones in distressed areas to stimulate economic revitalization/employment opportunities/business development through redevelopment of abandoned industrial/commercial structures, and a bill (2019-S 0058) introduced by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) that would require the participation and input of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals in medical assistance and public assistance caseload estimating conferences and the generation of monthly data to the members of the caseload estimating conference.

The committee will also meet on Thursday, April 4, at the rise in the Senate Lounge to hear testimony on a joint resolution (2019-S 0633) introduced by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) that would authorize the governor to refinance previously issued bonds for transportation projects.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
4/1/2019SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to consider a few bills and to hear testimony on several bills that relate to firearms on Tuesday, and on Thursday, the committee will hear testimony on several bills that relate to animals.

On Tuesday, April 2 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will consider legislation (2019-S 0072), sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), which provides that a vehicle unlawfully parked in a properly marked "handicapped parking" space would be towed at the owner's expense.  The committee will also consider legislation (2019-S 0342), sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), which requires all candidates for United States President and Vice President file copies of their last five years of federal income tax returns with the state board of elections.

The committee will also hear testimony on the following bills that relate to firearms:
  • 2019-S 0084, 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 as defined herein.
  • 2019-S 0469, sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), enhances penalties for failure to report lost or stolen firearms to the police department, and specify penalties for making a false report of lost or stolen firearms.
  • 2019-S 0635, sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), bans possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons which are not property registered.
  • 2019-S 0636, sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), prohibits firearms possession within 300 feet of school grounds except for peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, persons providing school security, firearms on private property and unloaded firearms in containers or locked car racks.
  • 2019-S 0637, sponsored by Senator Goldin, prohibits sale/possession of feeding device holding more than 10 ammunition rounds punishable by up to $5,000 fine or up to 5 years imprisonment with law enforcement/military personnel exceptions.
On Thursday, April 4 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following legislation:
  • 2019-S 0082, sponsored by Senator Lombardi, requires all persons or entities caring for or having custody of an animal to report animal abuse, cruel neglect or abandonment to the police.
  • 2019-S 0083, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), prohibits the use of a dog or cat as security for its purchase where the seller or lender can repossess the dog or cat for failure to make payments. It also provides exceptions for certain agricultural activities.
  • 2019-S 0160, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), provides for the mandatory microchipping of all dogs and cats and applicable penalties to the owner for failing to microchip the animal.
  • 2019-S 0225, sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), expands family court jurisdiction to enter protective orders to provide for the safety and welfare of household pets in domestic abuse situations.
  • 2019-S 0699, also sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio, prohibits pet shops from offering for sale cats or dogs that are not obtained from an animal shelter, dog pound or animal rescue. Further prohibits any person from selling, exchanging, trading, bartering or displaying any dog or cat in public.

4/1/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittees will be meeting six times this week to continue hearing department budgets for the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised state budgets.

On Tuesday, April 2 at 3 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Education will be hearing testimony on the budgets of the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.  They will also hear testimony on the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

Also on Tuesday April 2 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Human Services will hear testimony on the budgets of the Office of the Child Advocate, the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, and the Department of Human Services (excluding Elderly Affairs and Veterans Affairs).  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

On Wednesday, April 3 at 3 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on General Government will hear testimony on the budgets for the Office of the General Treasurer and the Board of Elections.  Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) is the chair of the subcommittee.

Also on Wednesday, April 3 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on General Government will be meeting again to hear testimony on the budgets of the Department of Business Regulation and the Executive Office of Commerce.

On Thursday, April 4 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Public Safety will hear testimony on the budgets of the Department of Public Safety and the Judiciary.  Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) is the chair of the subcommittee.

Also on Thursday, April 4 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Human Services will hear testimony on the budgets of the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

4/1/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; Rep. Alex Marszalkowski; Rep. Michael Morin; #195; #222; #239; #207; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on a variety of legislation.

On Tuesday, April 2 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5757, sponsored by Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston), this act would prohibit minors under the age of 21 years old from engaging in any type of legal casino gambling and be subject to civil penalties for violation.
  • 2019-H 5787, sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), repeals the requirement that law enforcement officers issue only warnings of the risks to persons leaving a child under the age of seven unattended in a motor vehicle.
  • 2019-H 5817, sponsored by Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), provides that a school teacher or employee that engages in sexual penetration of a student over 14 and less than 18 shall be guilty of third degree sexual assault.
  • 2019-H 5865, sponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), prohibits the release of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gas.
  • 2019-H 5886, sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), allows social gaming in private residences and in public taverns or private clubs so long as the gambling is incidental to a bona fide social relationship between the participants and only participants receive anything of value.
On Wednesday, April 3 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 bills:
  • 2019-H 5704, sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), allows landlords to recover funds expended or fines associated with violations of local ordinances when such violations are due to actions of their tenants(s), provided that the lease clearly addresses the reimbursement.
  • 2019-H 5742, sponsored by Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), permits grand juries to issue reports to Superior Court as a public record and provide a process for review and acceptance by the Superior Court and allow the attorney general or any person or entity named in the report to challenge the court's decision.
  • 2019-H 5822, sponsored by Rep. Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence), creates a custody procedure for pets in divorce and separation proceedings based on the best interests of the animal.
  • 2019-H 5879, sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), provides an exemption to the access to public records law for winners of lottery prizes.

4/1/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, was elected chairman of the New England Board of Higher Education at the organization’s annual spring meeting at Lasell College in Newton, Mass.

 “It is an honor to be chosen to lead the Board of Delegates during the challenging times ahead,” said Representative McNamara. “We have identified four priority areas for the coming years, including opportunities for adult learners, cost-savings opportunities, advancing PreK-16 alignment, and articulating the public value of postsecondary education. I look forward to working with all the delegates to develop policy to make all these things happen.”

Representative McNamara is a retired educator, previously serving as the director of the Pawtucket School Department’s Alternative Learning Program. He received his Master of Education degree from Providence College. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Boston University and graduated from Pilgrim High School in Warwick.

Over the past several years, he has been the sponsor of successful legislation, including the Statewide Virtual Education Act, which was signed into law in 2012 to promote the use of virtual courses as part of public education in the state. He also sponsored a law that establishes steps the state will take to overhaul and energize career and technical education in the state.

Most recently, he sponsored laws that that establish deadlines for the safety assessments of school buildings and the Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act, which mandates that state departments develop and coordinate the standards for a system of early childhood home visiting services to meet the needs of the state’s most vulnerable families with young children.

This session, he has proposed legislation that would mandate a financial literacy curriculum in the state’s schools, another that would develop statewide academic standards, and another that would establish attendance review teams in public schools.

The New England Board of Higher Education promotes greater education opportunities and services for the residents of New England and its more than 270 colleges and universities. It works across the six New England states to help leaders assess, develop and implement sound education practices and policies of regional significance; to promote regional cooperation and programs that encourage the efficient use and sharing of educational resources; and to strengthen the relationship between higher education and the economic well-being and quality of life in New England.
3/29/2019RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara have introduced legislation (2019-S 0737, 2019-H 5936) backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island.

The sponsors joined Treasurer Magaziner, Attorney General Neronha, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Brenda Dann-Messier and Department of Business Regulation Director Liz Tanner at an event today to announce the legislation.

“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, titled the Student Loan Bill of Rights, 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.

“Too many Rhode Islanders are vulnerable to deceptive and predatory practices by their student loan servicers, who make it hard for borrowers to keep their loan payments affordable,” said Treasurer Magaziner. “Too often, borrowers aren’t receiving accurate information about their loan, which can result in higher interest, leave them in debt longer, and make them more likely to default. This legislation will hold student loan servicers accountable and help Rhode Islanders choose the options that are best for them.”

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.”

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.
3/28/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Dawn Euer; #41; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara have introduced legislation (2019-S 07372019-H 5936) backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island.

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STATE HOUSE — Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) has presented legislative grants to Narragansett Storm Inc. and the North Kingstown/Exeter Animal Protection League.

“I am proud to help these fine organizations with the work they do by securing these grants,” said Senator Sheehan. “I hope this financial assistance will help them in the services they offer to local residents.”

South County Storm is a girls’ ice hockey co-op team from North Kingstown, South Kingstown, and Narragansett high schools. The team will use the $1,000 grant money to offset the cost of ice time rental, and/or training, coaching, referee and league fees.

The North Kingstown/Exeter Animal Protection League Inc. operates a no-kill pet refuge at 500 Stony Lane in North Kingstown. The organization will use the $1,000 grant money to offset the cost of veterinary care and the spaying/neutering of cats and kittens.
3/29/2019SenSen. James Sheehan; #90; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved a resolution condemning the recent desecration of a Hebrew cemetery in Fall River.

The House resolution (2019-H 5927) was sponsored by the three Jewish members of the House, Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) and Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln).

During the night of March 16, 59 gravestones at the 300-plot cemetery on McMahon Street were defaced with swastikas and vile, threatening anti-Semitic graffiti, or toppled. Many of those whose gravestones were defaced were immigrants who came to this country to escape persecution and to seek a better life, and many have descendants who now live in Rhode Island, including Representative Kislak.

The sponsors said they sought passage of the resolution to stand up publicly against anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence against minority populations at a time when anti-Semitic attacks and hate crimes have been on the rise nationwide.

The resolution calls the attack “not only an affront on the memories of the families of those buried at the cemetery, but was a hate crime perpetrated against all Jewish people, and an assault to humanity.” It states that the House of Representatives “honors the memory of those at the Hebrew Cemetery and stands united in rejecting and condemning these vile and intolerable acts of anti-Semitism and hatred.”

Hundreds of people from many faiths took part in a vigil held Tuesday at the cemetery. Police are treating the vandalism as a hate crime, and a reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible has reached at least $16,000.
3/28/2019RepRep. Jason Knight; Rep. Mia Ackerman; Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #241; #191; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives this week passed two bills recommended by a House commission that studied sexual harassment and discrimination laws last year.

The bills, which both provide more time for victims to report abuse, are the first of the bills recommended by the commission to pass the House. The two sponsors, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), were both members of the commission, along with the commission’s chairwoman, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), and Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick).

On Wednesday the House passed legislation (2019-H 5341) sponsored by Representative Shanley to extend the timeframe within which a person can file a complaint about an alleged unlawful employment practice with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights from one year to two years.

“People who suffer discrimination or harassment often don’t report it immediately. Sometimes they have no idea who to tell, or that there is a commission that handles these matters in Rhode Island, or sometimes they struggle to get the courage to tell anyone at all. Victims deserve more than a 12-month window to start the process. We hope this will enable more victims to seek the justice they deserve,” said Representative Shanley.

Today the House approved legislation (2019-H 5340) sponsored by Representative McEntee to exclude the period of investigation of a discrimination case by the Human Rights Commission from counting toward the legal statute of limitations on any other legal notice, claim or lawsuit concerning the matter of a complaint.

“Filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission is a good first step for anyone who believes he or she has been discriminated against. But doing so shouldn’t have any negative effect on the victim’s ability to pursue all other available legal courses of action. This legislation allows that process to run its course before the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations for victims to pursue justice in Superior Court,” said Representative McEntee.  

Both bills now go to the Senate.

Representative Tanzi, who as chairwoman of the commission cosponsored both bills, thanked the House Labor Committee for its support of the bills and said they are both aimed at better ensuring that justice is served in matters of harassment or discrimination.

“I think this is important recognition that matters of discrimination are complicated and often intersectional, and that victims don’t always immediately recognize that they are being discriminated against or know what to do about it. Through these two measures, we are providing Rhode Islanders better opportunities to take action to seek justice. Although these changes are a small part of far greater change that must occur, it’s our hope that strengthening the process for complaints will also ultimately contribute to reducing the frequency of harassment and discrimination overall,” said Representative Tanzi.
3/28/2019RepRep. Evan P. Shanley; Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Rep. Teresa Tanzi; #236; #226; #166; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The House of Representatives has passed two bills recommended by a House commission that studied sexual harassment and discrimination laws last year.


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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) that would make it easier for professional engineers to maintain a designer’s license.

The bill (2019-H 5365) would provide that professional engineers who are registered and authorized to practice by the Rhode Island State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers meet the qualifications for a designer’s license.

“Professional engineers are registered by the state and have already exhibited their professional prowess and skills to the state,” said Representative Edwards. “It’s unnecessary and burdensome to have these engineers retested for something they’ve already been certified to do. These people are designing these systems in their everyday course of business, and it’s redundant for them to have to take another test.”

Those who are authorized to practice engineering in Rhode Island would no longer be required to pass a written examination or to attend or enroll in continuing education programs as a requirement for the granting and renewal of their designer’s license.

The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2019-S 0398) has been introduced by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).
3/28/2019RepRep. John Edwards; #144; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – As the Trump administration this week urged a federal appeals court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of the health committees in both the House and the Senate are introducing legislation to protect Rhode Islanders by enacting many of its provisions at the state level.

The legislation (2019-S 07382019-H 5916), sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller and House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara, would ensure that the standards of the Affordable Care Act — often called Obamacare — remain in effect in Rhode Island, even if the courts or Congress were to eliminate the federal laws that created it.

The bill is also designed to provide predictability to insurers, stabilizing the Rhode Island insurance market regardless of the future of the federal law.

“Whatever may happen at the federal level, we want to do everything we can to help Rhode Islanders remain adequately insured. This bill enacts the Affordable Care Act’s standards of care that in most instances have been in place since 2010 at the state level in case the ACA is overturned or repealed. It also tells insurers that, here in Rhode Island, the quality of insurance is not going to change, so they know what benefits and coverage they can offer to policyholders. They have to be able to know the parameters to which they’re going to be held in the near future in order to write policies. This bill will protect Rhode Islanders’  health and wallets, no matter what politics play out in Washington,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The legislation enacts into state law the current insurance practices that protect consumers under the ACA, such as:
  • Giving people clearer explanations of their benefits.
  • Prohibiting annual limits and lifetime dollar caps on coverage for essential benefits.
  • Requiring that insurers keep their administrative costs in check.
  • Guaranteeing that dependents up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ plans.
  • Guaranteeing protections against pre-existing condition exclusions.
  • Requiring essential benefit coverage that must be included at every tier of coverage (preventive services, maternity, hospital, mental health, etc.).
  • Guaranteeing coverage of preventive services without any patient cost-sharing.
  • Guaranteeing issue and renewal so no one can be denied a policy, even if sick.
  • Allowing discounts for wellness programs.
  •  Allowing insurance premium rates to vary only by age (not gender or health).
  • Setting out-of-pocket limits with a process for updating these annually.
The Justice Department filed a letter with a federal appeals court Monday changing its position on the ACA. It previously objected to the law’s protection prohibiting insurers from turning away people with pre-existing conditions, but is now arguing for the entire law to be struck down, which could result in millions of Americans losing health care coverage.

“The Affordable Care Act has helped many Rhode Islanders get the health insurance coverage they need. But the law has been under assault since before it was even introduced, including several failed attempts by Congress to repeal part or all of it. We all deserve better than to have a constant threat to our health care. Enacting the protections of the bill at the state level will mean that Rhode Islanders will be better protected, and that our insurance market will be stable,” said Chairman McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).
 

3/27/2019RepSen. Joshua Miller; Rep. Joseph McNamara; #118; #41; Meredyth R. Whitty
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As the Trump administration this week urged a federal appeals court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of the health committees in both the House and the Senate are introducing legislation to protect Rhode Islanders by enacting many of its provisions at the state level.
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STATE HOUSE – Representative Susan Donovan has introduced a bill to protect the environment and wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air.

“We are known as the Ocean State and for our beautiful beaches. We must keep them clean and safe not just for people, but for wildlife. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest hazards to animals, and this is an easy way to cut down on an item that poses one a serious danger to them,” said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).

Balloons pose a significant threat to wildlife and the environment. They often end up in waterways, where animals are attracted by their vibrant color and mistake them for food, which can cause injury or death to the animal. Animals also can become entangled in the string or remains of balloons. According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 835 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during its statewide cleanup in 2017.

Representative Donovan, an avid kayaker who represents a coastal district, has witnessed these dangers firsthand. A couple of years ago, while kayaking on the Sakonnet River off Portsmouth with a friend, she encountered a seagull entangled in the string of a balloon. She captured the gull, which was injured and suffering, and used some nail clippers she had with her to free it from the string.

The bill (2019-H 5865), 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 as long as the balloons are recovered, and indoors. 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.

 “Many people release balloons during celebrations, but they do not think about the harm it brings to our state and wildlife.” said Representative Donovan. “Balloons released that way are causing wildlife to suffer very painful and totally needless death. I don’t think anyone really wants their celebration to inflict that kind of suffering. It’s time to put an end to this unintentional but very harmful type of pollution.”

She added that she attended an event that was part of the Newport stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race last year, when Dee Caffari, the skipper of a competing yacht named “Turn the Tide on Plastics,” talked about the extent of the plastics pollution she witnessed in her time sailing around the world. The item that bothered her most, she said, was balloons.

Last year, 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.
3/28/2019RepRep. Susan R. Donovan; #242; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Greek Consul General Efthymiou, Mohegan Gaming Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos and Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President & Director Boston Museum of Science, join local Greek leaders, elected officials in celebration of Greek heritage

STATE HOUSE – State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and the Cranston Hellenic community hosted a celebration of Greek Independence Day at the Rhode Island State House yesterday, bringing together state leaders and members of the Hellenic community to recognize the 198th anniversary of Greece’s independence. This is the twenty-seventh consecutive celebration of the event. The event included the Consul General of the Hellenic Republic Stratos Efthymiou, keynote speakers Mohegan Gaming Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos and Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Miaoulis, President and Director of the Boston Museum of Science, who also met with Rhode Island Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) prior to the festivities.

Throughout the day, Greece’s national flag was flown in four different areas of the Rhode Island State House: the Governors State Room, the Senate chamber, the House of Representatives chamber and atop the State House building. Following the ceremonies in the Senate chamber, a program was held in the Governor’s State Room, with remarks offered by Consul General Efthymiou, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, General Treasurer Seth Magazine, Attorney General Peter Neronha and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). The mayors from several Rhode Island cities that are home to Greek Orthodox churches also participated, including Mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza and Mayor of Cranston Allan Fung. Also speaking were President of Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England, Vasilis Kafkas and George Gialtourdis, President Pontian Society Panagia Soumela of Boston. Other dignitaries of Hellenic descent who attended were Charles Tsonos, East Providence School Committee Chairman, Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. and Joan Panichas Milas.

The state’s Congressional delegation sent representatives and Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee sent a written greeting. The letters of congratulations from all the members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation, including United States Senator Jack Reed, were read by Senator Leonidas Raptakis. Father Andrew George of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church also brought greetings from Metropolitan Methodios, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of New England. This year's co-emcee was Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church parishioner Attorney Nicholas Lambros.

“This event is always a wonderful expression of our strong Hellenic community in Rhode Island and the strong connection between this state, known for its commitment to independence, and the nation which was the birthplace of democracy,” said Raptakis.  “I want to thank the Senate and House for hosting this event, passing resolutions during their sessions yesterday, and consistently supporting Hellenic issues over the years. I am grateful to all of the legislators and general officers who attended again this year, coming together in the Rhode Island State House to take part in this special celebration, including the many Hellenes who participated from Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Our community shares in the values of Greece."

As part of the main program in the Governor’s State Room, Father Andrew George of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Cranston delivered the invocation and Father Nicholas Lanzourakis, also from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, gave the benediction. The audience joined together to sing the national anthems of the United States and the Hellenic Republic.  Father Philip Zymaris of the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Newport gave the invocation in the House of Representatives, while Father Aaron Walker, St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, Newport, and retired Rev. Dr. George Economou also took part in the program.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language teachers Koula Rougas, Ioanna Andreopoulou, and Eleni Trikoulis facilitated the program this year. Children from all three Greek Orthodox parishes made individual presentations of poems and sang together the song "O Thourios."             

Both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation and the 198th Anniversary of Greece’s independence and highlighted the continuing bonds between both the United States and Greece. Most importantly, the resolution recognized the continuing support by the United States to the people of Greece, especially during the economic crisis that has plagued the country the last several years, and the expanding economic partnership and military cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. A reception, sponsored by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, was held in Cranston following the program at the Statehouse.

The ceremony was recorded by Capitol Television and can be viewed here.

The resolution can be found here.


3/27/2019SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and the Cranston Hellenic community hosted a celebration of Greek Independence Day at the Rhode Island State House yesterday, bringing together state leaders and members of the Hellenic community to recognize the 198th anniversary of Greece’s independence. This is the twenty-seventh consecutive celebration of the event. The event included the Consul General of the Hellenic Republic Stratos Efthymiou, keynote speakers Mohegan Gaming Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos and Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Miaoulis, President and Director of the Boston Museum of Science, who also met with Rhode Island Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) prior to the festivities.


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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting this week to hear testimony on a variety of legislation.

On Thursday, March 28 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0325, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), allows the governor to designate any person to solemnize a marriage within the state of Rhode Island on a particular day and within a particular city or town.
  • 2019-S 0480, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), provides that the chief justice of the supreme court may declare a disaster emergency and orders necessary action to ensure efficient operation of the judicial system.
  • 2019-S 0498, sponsored by Sen. Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), provides that the rules and regulations pertaining to the unauthorized practice of law committee would be approved and promulgated by the supreme court.
  • 2019-S 0706, sponsored by Leader McCaffrey, permits grand juries to issue reports to superior court as a public record and provide a process for review and acceptance by the superior court and allow the attorney general or any person or entity named in the report to challenge the court's decision.
  • 2019-S 0710, sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), provides for a fee increase for filing an action in district court, superior court and family court.

3/27/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) that would provide a process for collecting sales tax from out-of-state sellers — removing the unfair advantage online retailers have in competing against Rhode Island businesses.

The bill (2019-S 0251A, 2019-H 5278A) would extend the requirement to collect sales tax to remote sellers in a way that conforms to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making it easier for states to compel collection of the sales tax from retailers who do not have a physical presence in their state.

“Out-of-state retailers should adhere to the state sales tax the same as every store on Main Street,” said Senator Conley, who serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s a question of fairness. This legislation is good news for Rhode Island’s brick-and-mortar businesses, which will now be competing on a more level playing field with their online counterparts.”

The legislation would require a remote seller to register in Rhode Island for a permit to make sales at retail and collect and remit sales and use tax on all taxable sales into the state. The act comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, which granted states the authority to collect a sales tax on online purchases made by state residents. In that case, the Supreme Court determined that retailers don’t have to have physical presence in the state in order for the state to collect taxes — or that physical presence can be defined in other ways, such as an online presence.

“That court decision and this legislation is a real victory for Rhode Island’s small businesses,” said Representative Abney, who serves as chairman of the House Finance Committee. “As long as online retailers were getting away with not paying sales tax, they had an unfair market advantage. This legislation will help us to catch up with the technological realities of the marketplace.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

3/26/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Marvin Abney; #202; #199; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) that will allow mobile sports wagering through the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton.

The legislation (2019-S 0037A, 2019-H 5241) will enable the creation of an app consumers could use to access the sports gaming offerings at Twin River from anyplace within the parameters of the state of Rhode Island. Consumers must initially set up their accounts in person at Twin River, and thereafter can place a wager from anywhere in the state. They must be physically in the state of Rhode Island in order to wager. The system will utilize technology to determine the location of any person placing a wager, and will not accept wagers from outside of the state’s boundaries.

“The new in-person sportsbook that opened in November has been very popular, with lines sometimes stretching out the doors,” said President Ruggerio. “It is an entertainment option that many Rhode Islanders enjoy, and visitors from outside the state are also flocking to our gaming facilities to place their wagers on sporting events. Expanding to mobile gaming would provide a convenient option for those wishing to enjoy this form of entertainment, and open up the economic benefits beyond the walls of Twin River. I can envision a group of friends from out-of-state spending an evening out in a local establishment where they can both watch the game and place a wager.”

Similar to other states, such as New Jersey, wagering is received upon a server-based gaming system located on the premises of the casinos, and therefore deemed to be placed and accepted at the casino. The State of Rhode Island will continue to receive 51 percent of all winnings from sports wagering, among the highest rates in the country.

“This revenue, along with the revenue we anticipate from an expansion to mobile gaming is a tremendous benefit to the state,” said Speaker Mattiello. “It’s an added benefit that we can capture revenue that would have otherwise gone to an illegal market. When you consider that up to 97 percent of sports wagering is done illegally, it makes good sense for the state to increase its revenue by providing an entertainment that can be done safely and legally.”
3/25/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Legislative Commission to Study the Water Resources Board and the Water Supply will meet Wednesday to hear an audit of the board and an update on water fees.

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, March 27, at 2:30 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The commission will hear a review of the audit of the Water Resources Board by the Office of the Auditor General. Then there will be a discussion and update on water fees by the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. This will be followed by a discussion with a representative from Narragansett Bay Commission.
The commission is chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

3/25/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittees will be meeting four times this week to continue hearing department budgets from the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets.

On Tuesday, March 26 at 3 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on General Government will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets of the Office of the Secretary of State and the Public Utilities Commission.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

On Wednesday, March 27 at 3 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Environment and Transportation will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets of the Department of Environmental Management.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket).

On Thursday, March 28 at 3 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Public Safety will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets of the Office of Attorney General and Military Staff.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket).

Also on Thursday, March 28 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the Subcommittee on Human Services will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets of the Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Office of the Mental Health Advocate, and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

3/25/2019RepRep. Jean Philippe Barros; Rep. Alex Marszalkowski; Rep. Michael Morin; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; #222; #239; #207; #221; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote on cat abandonment, therapeutic beds, nurse anesthetists, and to hear testimony on various health-related bills.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 27, at the rise of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.
The committee will consider the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5062 — This bill, sponsored by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), would provide that the trapping and subsequent release of any unowned feral or free roaming cat for the purpose of spaying or neutering of the cat shall not be considered abandonment.
  • 2019-H 5202 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) would direct the Department of Health to promulgate rules and regulations to provide for clinical oversight of the use of therapeutic beds and cribs which are prescribed by a physician for use by a minor.
  • 2019-H 5298 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) would permit a registered nurse who is enrolled in an accredited nurse anesthesia program to practice as a nurse anesthetist under the supervision of a certified registered nurse anesthetist or an anesthesiologist.
  • 2019-H 5430 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) would add the requirement that in DCYF cases resulting in a fatality or near fatality of a child, one of the requirements for the office of the child advocate to investigate the case would be the child or the child's family had prior contact with the DCYF.
The committee will also hear testimony on several bills, including the following:
  • 2019-H 5301 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), would provide that any law or regulations which prohibits or protects a person from exposure to second-hand smoke would include second-hand marijuana smoke.
  • 2019-H 5520 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), would require any mayoral academy which is part of a network that seeks to be established or expanded to provide evidence that its attrition rates, special education rates and suspension rates are within acceptable averages.
  • 2019-H 5520 — This bill, sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), would create the Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act, to provide a legal mechanism whereby a terminally ill patient may choose to end their life using drugs prescribed by a physician.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

3/25/2019RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on legislation and the budget for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

On Tuesday, March 26 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5205, sponsored by Rep. John W. Lyle (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), establishes the office of inspector general as an independent administrative agency charged with the responsibility to investigate, detect, and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the expenditure of public funds.
  • 2019-H 5308, sponsored by Rep. George A. Nardone (R-Dist. 28, Coventry), proposed amendment to the Constitution would provide the governor with a line-item veto on the budget and other bills involving the appropriations of money, that can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by the House of Representatives.
  • 2019-H 5381, sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), extends the period for musical and theatrical productions to obtain tax credits to July 1, 2024.
  • 2019-H 5411, sponsored by Rep. Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), requires that the governor submit a zero-based budget to the general assembly. The zero-based budget shall be phased in over a five year period.
  • 2019-H 5629, sponsored by Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), provides additional controls on state spending by enhancing reporting requirements and penalties and restricting over expenditures.
On Wednesday, March 27 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the FY 2020 and FY 2019 revised budgets of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

3/25/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) today announced that the printed 2018 Rhode Island Public Laws and Acts & Resolves have been distributed by the Law Revision Office of the Rhode Island General Assembly.  The public may access this information through the General Assembly Web Site, www.rilegislature.gov, General Assembly Legislative Information, Law Revision Office – New Session Laws.

The Public Laws of the State of Rhode Island are published annually and, with two exceptions, consist of all acts passed by the General Assembly during the previous legislative session.  Excluded from the Public Laws are resolutions and acts of a local and private nature.  The 2018 edition of the Public Laws provides a valuable reference tool for determining how the state’s general laws have been amended over the years.

The Acts & Resolves contain resolutions passed during a General Assembly session, all acts of a local and private nature, names of legislators and legislative leaders, and executive appointments to state boards and commissions. 

The Public Laws and Acts & Resolves identify both the legislative sponsor and the date of introduction of a proposed bill.  In addition, the chapter number and the number of a local act or resolution are printed at the top of each page. 

The primary distinction that separates the Public Laws from the General Laws is that public laws include all legislation, barring acts and resolves, and the general laws are a codified compilation of statutes that apply to all the citizens of the state of Rhode Island.
3/25/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on legislation concerning marijuana, elections, and a variety of other bills.

On Tuesday, March 26 at the RISE (approximately 5 p.m.) of the House in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5290, sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), prevents employers from refusing to hire or discriminating against individuals for marijuana use and positive test results.
  • 2019-H 5711, sponsored by Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), decreases the penalties for unlawful possession of a schedule I, II, III, IV, and V controlled substance from imprisonment for 3 years down to 1 year and a maximum fine of $5,000 reduced to a maximum fine of $500.
  • 2019-H 5759, sponsored by Representative Slater, prohibits employer discrimination against medical marijuana cardholders testing positive, allows for civil remedies for medical marijuana cardholders experiencing discrimination, and provides state as sole regulator for compassion centers/medical marijuana.
  • 2019-H 5766, sponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), extends the look-back period from five years to ten years for third and subsequent offenses for driving under the influence of liquor or drugs and refusal to submit to chemical testing.
  • 2019-H 5828, sponsored by Representative Slater, establishes a system for the regulation and taxation for adult use and cultivation of marijuana.
On Wednesday, March 27 at the RISE (approximately 5 p.m.) of the House in Room 205 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5275, sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), includes the general assembly elections in the risk-limiting audits within the jurisdiction of the board of elections.
  • 2019-H 5479, sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), requires that all local, state and federal voting be conducted through the use of paper ballots.
  • 2019-H 5511, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), allows the DMV to issue driving privilege licenses/permits to applicants unable to establish lawful presence in US which are not valid for ID purposes effective July 1, 2019.
  • 2019-H 5750, sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), amends certain campaign contribution and expenditure reporting requirements and would provide for forfeiture of campaign contributions upon a conviction or plea of nolo contendere to specified felony crimes relating to public office.

3/25/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony on legislation relating to municipal ordinances that address solar siting.

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, March 27, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

Among the legislation to be heard by the committee is a bill (2019-S 0661) introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), chairwoman of the committee that would require municipalities to adopt comprehensive solar siting ordinances. Municipalities that allow development of a solar installations within a residential zone would be required to supplant the lost residential density by increasing the residential density in other locations.

3/25/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet three times this week to discuss budget issues relating to the United Health Infrastructure Project, prekindergarten and legislation relating to municipal taxation.

The committee will meet Tuesday, March 26, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is expected to testify on Article 16 relating to Medical Assistance, Article 17 relating to Medicaid Reform Act of 2008 Resolution, Article 18 relating to Hospital Uncompensated Care, and Article 19 relating to Licensing of Hospital Facilities.

The committee will also meet jointly with the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 27, at the rise of the Senate in Room 313.

The committees will hear testimony on budget Article 10 relating to universal prekindergarten.

The Finance Committee will also meet Thursday, March 28, at the rise of the Senate in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House to hear testimony on several pieces of legislation relating to municipal taxation.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). The Senate Education Committee is chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

3/25/2019SenSen. William Conley; Sen. Hanna Gallo; #202; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House this week passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Kislak to honor the lives of the 50 people who died last week in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and to express support to Rhode Island’s Muslim community.

“Here in Rhode Island, which was founded as a haven for religious freedom, we must be clear that people of every faith are absolutely welcome here. As leaders, we must ensure that Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry will never be tolerated in Rhode Island, and that we hold up our rich diversity as something to be celebrated,” said Representative Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence).

The House resolution (2019-H 5882), which passed Wednesday, list the names of all 50 of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch attacks, and expresses the House of Representatives’ sympathy. It also extends support to the Muslim community of Rhode Island, saying “Rhode Island stands together against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and hatred around the world, and looks to build community and strength with each other throughout Rhode Island and across the globe.”

Copies of the resolution will be sent to Amjad Kinjawi, President of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, and Mufti Ikam al Haqq, the Imam of Masjid al Islam.
3/22/2019RepRep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien’s (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5253) that amends substance abuse and suicide prevention education in the health education curriculum by including information that mixing opioids and alcohol can cause accidental death was passed by the House of Representatives. 

“While the law we passed last year that mandates substance abuse and suicide prevention education be taught in all schools has had positive results, there is more we can do, especially in the face of our ever present opioid overdose epidemic.  We need to provide our children with every piece of information available about the dangers of these substances in order to protect them, and others, from suffering a horrible tragedy,” said Representative O’Brien.

The bill amends legislation that was passed last year that states that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall incorporate, in consultation with the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, substance abuse prevention and suicide prevention into the health education curriculum. Substance abuse prevention is defined as the implementation of evidence-based, age appropriate programs, practices, or curricula related to the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  Suicide prevention is defined as the implementation of evidence-based appropriate programs, practices, or curricula related to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

“Working as an educator has taught me the necessity for these educational curriculums and their importance to our children’s health cannot be overstated.  These programs work and have positive results for our children and their families,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

3/21/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien’s (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5253) that amends substance abuse and suicide prevention education in the health education curriculum by including information that mixing opioids and alcohol can cause accidental death was passed by the House of Representatives. 


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2019-H 5434) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was heard by the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

“We want to make sure that our public policy in regard to addressing the opioid crisis does not have the unintended consequence of hurting patients who are trying to manage chronic pain.  These patients are not addicts, they are suffering with pain associated with cancer, palliative care, and in many cases, chronic intractable pain.  We need to let physicians determine how best to manage their patients’ pain,” said Representative Amore.

Chronic intractable pain is defined as pain that is excruciating, constant, incurable, and of such severity that it dominates virtually every conscious moment.  It also produces mental and physical debilitation and may produce a desire to commit suicide for the sole purpose of stopping the pain.

The bill calls for new guidelines for the treatment of chronic intractable pain be based upon the 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.  Specifically, the legislation calls for the consideration of individualized needs of patients suffering from chronic intractable pain.

The bill was held for further study by the committee.

3/21/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2019-H 5434) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was heard by the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.


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STATE HOUSE – Students in Rhode Island schools will not be denied the right to possess and apply sunscreen under legislation sponsored by Rep. David Bennett and unanimously approved by the House of Representatives today.

The legislation (2019-H 5118), which also passed the House last year and the previous year, ensures that students, as well as anyone else on school property, will be allowed to have and use sunscreen at school, despite state regulations that prohibit anyone other than a school nurse from administering medications, including Food and Drug Administration-approved substances like sunscreen, or possessing them without a doctor’s note or prescription.

It will now head to the Senate, where Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) is sponsoring identical legislation (2019-S 0116).

Representative Bennett, who works as a nurse, said he sponsored the bill because regular sunscreen use has long been recommended as a means to prevent sun damage and skin cancer, and any policy that stops children from using sunscreen flies in the face of public health and safety.

“The dangers of unprotected sun exposure are well-known. Kids, in particular, need protection both because their skin is more delicate and because even one bad sunburn as a child vastly increases a person’s chances of getting skin cancer. We are really throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we are telling kids they can’t have sunscreen in school because of a medication policy that’s supposed to be protecting their health,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “Schools send kids outside for recess every day. Some have a field day in June, when the kids are out in the sun all day long. Of course those kids should be able to have sunscreen and reapply it. This is common-sense legislation.”

Under current law, a student can go to school wearing sunscreen, but cannot bring the product to school and reapply it there. Most sunscreens recommend reapplication every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

The legislation allows anyone to possess and use a topical sunscreen product without a physician’s note or prescription while on school property or at a school-related event activity, as long as the product is regulated by the FDA for over-the-counter use. It also states that school personnel are not required to assist students in applying the product, nor can schools be held liable for damages resulting from sunscreen’s use. The bill encourages schools to teach children about sun protection.

Similar legislation or regulations have been adopted in 18 other states, and is pending in 10 others, according to the Personal Care Products Council, which supports the legislation along with a coalition that includes the Rhode Island Dermatology Society, the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation, and many other medical societies. 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a single blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Representative Bennett said he hopes the legislation not only allows students to use sunscreen at school, but encourages them to wear it regularly.

“There’s no question that it’s safer for kids to put on sunscreen when they go outside. I know a lot of parents are really careful to slather it all over their kids all the time, but then they send them to school where they aren’t even allowed to have it. That’s unsafe and it sends kids a conflicting message about the very real danger of unprotected sun exposure. Instead, we should be telling them, ‘Listen to your mom. Wear sunscreen.’”

The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).
3/20/2019RepRep. David Bennett; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) has introduced legislation
that would improve over-the-phone CPR instructions by requiring the 911 system to certify and staff individuals trained in telecommunicator CPR.

The legislation (2019-H 5568) would establish an emergency telephone system call review and quality improvement, and would require at least one 911 system operator trained in telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation be on duty at all time.

“911 operators are the real first responders and can make the difference between life and death,” said Representative Ackerman. “When CPR starts before the arrival of an emergency medical technician, the person in cardiac arrest is two-to-three times more likely to survive. T-CPR can help untrained callers provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It can also remind those who are trained how to provide high-quality CPR.”

Each year an estimated 350,000 sudden cardiac arrest events occur in the United States in an out-of-hospital environment, according to the American Heart Association, which strongly endorses T-CPR-trained 911 operators. Almost all of these events result in a call for help to 911. Without quick intervention in the form of CPR and defibrillation, death becomes more likely.

“Implementing a policy where operators trained in T-CPR are always on duty could save countless lives,” said Representative Ackerman. “Emergency telecommunicators are a vital link in the lifesaving chain, and this legislation will help to ensure that CPR is being performed before emergency medical personnel arrive.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) and Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.
3/20/2019RepRep. Mia Ackerman; #191; Daniel Trafford
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Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) has introduced legislation 
that would improve over-the-phone CPR instructions by requiring the 911 system to certify and staff individuals trained in telecommunicator CPR.

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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) testified in support of several common-sense gun control bills before the House Judiciary Committee this week.

“Too many people, especially our children, are dying needlessly because of gun violence and we have a moral responsibility to end this horrific and tragic trend.  The bills I testified in support of are common-sense laws that will keep our residents safe from the terrible scenes of carnage and violence that have played out across our country for too long,” said Representative Kazarian.
Representative Kazarian testified in support of the following bills:
  • 2019-H 5762, sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), prohibits firearms possession within 300 feet of school grounds except for peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, persons providing school security, firearms on private property and unloaded firearms in containers or locked car racks.
  • 2019-H 5728, sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), increases the age from eighteen to twenty-one years for lawful possession, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition. Full-time law enforcement, fire marshals and member of U.S. military would be exempt from these prohibitions.
  • 2019-H 5739, sponsored by Rep. Justine Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), prohibits sale/possession of feeding device holding more than 10 ammunition rounds punishable by up to $5,000 fine or up to 5 years imprisonment with law enforcement/military personnel exceptions.
  • 2019-H 5741, also sponsored by Representative Caldwell, bans possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons which are not property registered.
“By supporting these bills, I am following through on a promise I made to my constituents to fight for common-sense gun laws that will protect our children and families.  Guns have no place in the school setting and any private citizen who feels the need to bring a firearm onto school grounds should face ramifications for putting others in possible danger.  Large capacity clips for ammunition and assault weapons only have one purpose, to kill with speed and efficiency, and if a person cannot buy alcohol because they are deemed too young and immature, they should in no way be able to own a firearm.  All of these are simple reasons why I testified in favor of these bills and I will continue to advocate for their passage to make Rhode Islanders safer and more protected from gun violence,” concluded Representative Kazarian.

3/20/2019RepRep. Katherine Kazarian; #194; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Cumberland Schools Superintendent Robert Mitchell recognized Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) for his efforts in working with representatives of the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Cumberland School Committee to secure a $450,000 grant for improvements to Cumberland High School’s pool.

The recognition came during an event Monday night dedicating the pool to the late Bruce Calvert, the 41-year coach of the Cumberland High School swim team who died in 2016.

“The aquatics center is an important resource that is utilized not just by the school, but by the entire community in Cumberland,” said Representative McLaughlin. “There’s a long tradition of swimming in Cumberland, and this is one of the last high school pools that remain in the state. It’s important that its use be a safe and enjoyable one for everybody. I was proud to work with RIDE officials and members of the school committee to make this possible.”

Testing was done after the roof unit controlling air flow and maintaining proper humidity inside the pool area broke down. The testing showed the air was safe, but the system still needed to be replaced. The funding was used to replace the ductwork.

The Cumberland High School Aquatics Center runs Learn to Swim classes, Masters Programs, Cumberland Swim Club, and other programs for the community in addition to the school swim teams.
3/19/2019RepRep. James McLaughlin; #173; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation will meet tomorrow to discuss education, training, and resources related to elder abuse and exploitation.

The meeting is scheduled Wednesday, March 20, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

On the agenda are presentations from Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice Director Jeanne Gattegno, who is a member of the task force; Division of Elderly Affairs Director Rose Amoros Jones; Division of Elderly Affairs Information & Referral and APS Administrator Mary Ladd, who is also a member of the task force; and United Way of Rhode Island President & CEO Cortney Nicolato.
The task force, led by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), is studying the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and financial exploitation in Rhode Island and is to make recommendations on policies and legislation to effectively address the issue impacting seniors and other vulnerable adults.

Members of the task force include Senator Coyne; Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist.8, Pawtucket); Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee; Special Assistant Attorney General Molly Kapstein Cote; Mary Ladd, chief of program development at the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs; AARP- Rhode Island Associate State Director John DiTomasso; State Police Detective Kyle Shibley; Warwick attorney Mark Heffner; and Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice Director Jeanne Gattegno.
3/19/2019SenSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #208; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare will meet jointly Wednesday, March 20, at 2:30 p.m. in Room 313 at the State House for a presentation by the Stanford Network on Addiction Policy called “Opioids, Cannabis and Vaping — Using Science to Protect Public Health.”  

The presentation will include:
  • Tom Coderre, senior advisor to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, discussing Rhode Island’s Overdose Epidemic – using data to make strategic decisions
  • Keith Humphreys, Esther Ting Memorial Professor at Stanford University, discussing how research can inform public health-oriented policies
  • Dr. Anna Lembke, associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, discussing evidence-based strategies for responding to the opioid crisis, and
  • Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, presenting “Reducing Vaping and Tobacco Use Among Young People: What is the evidence?”
The meeting is open to the public and will be live streamed by Capitol Television at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. It will be broadcast at a later time on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Channel 61 by Cox Communications, Channel 1061 by Cox HD customers, Channel 34 by Verizon viewers and Channel 15 for Full Channel subscribers.

3/18/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Joshua Miller; #41; #118; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting on Thursday to hear testimony on several bills that relate to elections in the state.

On Thursday, March 21 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0318, sponsored by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), allows individuals, who have not reached the age of 18 years, to vote in a primary election, as long as the voter will be 18 as of the date of the general or special election.
  • 2019-S 0323, sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), permits campaign funds to be used to pay all childcare expenses that are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity.
  • 2019-S 0339, also sponsored by Senator Goldin, repeals the state voter identification law.
  • 2019-S 0457, sponsored by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett), creates public funding for legislative candidates, would limit contributions of public funds for all candidates for governor, statewide office holders and legislators.
  • 2019-S 0482, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), permits emergency mail ballots at any time prior to any election and would require that electors sign an electronic poll book containing a certificate of facts relating to the circumstances necessitating the emergency application.

3/18/2019SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear testimony on several bills relating to firearms on Tuesday and a variety of legislation on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, March 19 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on several bills that relate to firearms.  Among the bills being heard are:
  • 2019-H 5703, sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), defines the term "ghost gun" and bans the manufacture, sale purchase or possession of a machine gun, a ghost gun or an undetectable firearm.
  • 2019-H 5728, sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), increases the age from eighteen to twenty-one years for lawful possession, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.
  • 2019-H 5739, sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), prohibits sale/possession of feeding device holding more than 10 ammunition rounds punishable by up to $5,000 fine or up to 5 years imprisonment with law enforcement/military personnel exceptions.
  • 2019-H 5752, sponsored by Rep. Raymond H. Johnston (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), enhances penalties for failure to report lost or stolen firearms to the police department, and specify penalties for making a false report of lost or stolen firearms.
  • 2019-H 5786, 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 as defined herein.
On Wednesday, March 20 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 bills:
  • 2019-H 5357, sponsored by Rep. Moira Jayne Walsh (D-Dist. 3, Providence), requires state and municipal authorities to return forfeited property 90 days after the underlying substantive matter is concluded in the owner's favor unless the property seized is a forfeitable controlled substance.
  • 2019-H 5480, sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), establishes that manufacturers of devices capable of connecting to the Internet equip the devices with reasonable security features.
  • 2019-H 5512, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), requires that the Judicial Nominating Commission be composed of at least three members of color.
  • 2019-H 5707, sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), repeals current state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

3/18/2019RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony on various pieces of legislation relating school curriculum, including suicide prevention, financial literacy, world language immersion.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 20, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House. The committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0112 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), would mandate that a program of financial literacy be taught to all students in the public high schools throughout the state of Rhode Island.
  • 2019-S 0119 — This bill, sponsored Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), would require that all high school students attending public schools fulfill at least one-half credit or course requirement in civics education, commencing with the graduating class of 2020.
  • 2019-S 0198 — This bill, sponsored Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), would establish and require funding for a world language and dual language immersion program.
  • 2019-S 0403 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Elaine J. Morgan (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), would require elementary schools to provide instruction in cursive penmanship.
  • 2019-S 0545 — This bill, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), would create the “Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act,” which requires training of teachers and school personnel regarding suicide awareness and prevention and establishment of a conflict resolution process between teachers or school personnel and students.
The Senate Committee on Education is chaired by Senator Gallo.

3/18/2019SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony on legislation relating to climate change.

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, March 20, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.
The committee will hear the following bills:
  • 2019-S 0269 — This act, introduced by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), would establish the R.I. Coastal Adaptation Trust Fund. The trust would enable cities and towns and the state to apply for grants to fund projects that invest in measures that adapt infrastructure on public lands to address the impacts of climate change.
  • 2019-S 0404 — This resolution, introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), would create a 15-member special legislative commission to make a comprehensive study of the reorganization of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
  • 2019-S 0412 — This act, introduced by Senator Lynch Prata, would establish the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resilience Fund, a fund which provides grants to fund projects that adapt infrastructure to address climate change; assess eligibility of projects, allocation, disbursements and the fund’s financing.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is chaired by Senator Sosnowski.

3/18/2019SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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