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Weekly Roundups  

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House Oversight Chairwoman Patricia Serpa is cautiously optimistic about governor’s action’s regarding UHIP
In the wake of a massive shakeup by the governor in the Department of Human Services, Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) says she will continue to monitor the progress of the problem-riddled Unified Health Infrastructure Project.

McCaffrey submits justice reinvestment legislation to overhaul state’s probation, parole system
As part of a broad scoped effort at justice reinvestment, Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has once again submitted legislation that would bring about a massive overhaul of Rhode Island’s probation and parole system.

Nicholas Mattiello reelected Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives
Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) was elected today to serve as Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives by a vote of 63 to 11.  He will preside over the House of Representatives for the 2017-2018 session.  
Metts elected Senate President Pro Tempore
The Senate today elected Sen. Harold M. Metts to serve as its President Pro Tempore for the 2017-2018 General Assembly session. 

2017-2018 General Assembly session opens Jan. 3
The 2017-2018 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 3, when the 75 members of the House of Representatives and the 38 members of the Senate are sworn into office. The membership includes 12 new representatives and four new senators.

Rep. Diaz casts vote as Rhode Island presidential elector
Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) was one of four Rhode Island presidential electors who cast a vote for president when the Electoral College met Monday, Dec. 19.

With new session will come new technological improvements for Assembly
Under the leadership of House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed, the State House rooms most often used by the public have been upgraded with new state-of-the-art equipment to better accommodate deaf or hard-of-hearing visitors, and other technological improvements have also been made in advance of the new legislative session.

House Democratic Caucus re-elects Representative Edwards as House majority whip
With the support of Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and his colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) was unanimously re-elected to the position of House majority whip at the caucus meeting on Nov. 10.

Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi tapped as new Majority Leader for House of Representatives
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) was elected by his House Democratic Caucus colleagues as the new Majority Leader of the House of Representatives at a Democratic caucus last Thursday night.  Leader Shekarchi was elected to the position with a unanimous vote of 62-0.  The Majority Leader is the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives and directs the activities of the majority party on the floor of the House of Representatives.  
New synthetic opioid ‘pink’ — U-47700 — in Representative McNamara’s crosshairs
Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has announced that he will pre-file legislation that would ban the online sales of a new synthetic opioid that has been blamed for a number of overdose deaths across the country.

House Oversight Chairwoman Patricia Serpa takes aim at management of benefits computer upgrade
“We’re not going away, so get ready,” said Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, after four hours of grilling state officials Thursday on the problem-riddled Unified Health Infrastructure Project.

Rep. Maldonado to chair commission to study Low and Moderate Income Housing Act; panel meets Wednesday
Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) has been appointed to chair a special legislative commission to study the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act and its compliance by cities and towns.  
Rep. Shekarchi and Sen. Walaska’s ‘Premium Jobs Initiative’ signed into law
STATE HOUSE – Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. William A. Walaska’s ‘Premium Jobs Initiative’ (2016-H 8058A / 2016-S 3012A) was signed into law today by Governor Gina M. Raimondo at a ceremonial bill signing in the State Room of the State House.  The legislation encourages insurance companies to create jobs in Rhode Island by linking Rhode Island’s insurance premium tax rate to the number of jobs created by the industry in Rhode Island.  Adding new jobs in the state will trigger a reduction in the tax rate insurance companies will pay.  Most importantly, the tax rate reduction is designed to be revenue-neutral by requiring that the reduction in insurance company tax rates is fully offset by the income tax generated from the newly created jobs.
Sosnowski receives EPA Lifetime Achievement Award
The Environmental Protection Agency, together with Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, have presented Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, with the 2016 EPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

New law allows retail sales by breweries and distilleries
Bill is designed to help small businesses, promote tourism niche
 Legislation passed by the General Assembly and ceremonially signed today by the governor allows breweries and distilleries to sell limited amounts of their products to visitors for sampling and off-site consumption.

Holocaust and genocide education bill signed by Governor Raimondo
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Katherine Kazarian and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin to require school districts to teach students about genocide and the Holocaust has been signed into law by Governor Raimondo at a ceremonial bill signing held at the Jewish Alliance Conference Room in Providence.  
Governor signs Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act into law
Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation sponsored by President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Joseph M. McNamara to establish the Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act.

Rep. Amore named as 2016 MADD Legislator of the Year
Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) has been honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as their 2016 Legislator of the Year for his sponsorship of legislation (2016-H 8362) that created an all-offender ignition interlock law for Rhode Island.  After Governor Raimondo signed the bill into law this summer, Rhode Island joined 27 other states in the nation to create such a law.  
Sen. Nesselbush and Rep. Shekarchi’s wage theft legislation signed into law
Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi’s legislation (2016-S 2475 / 2016-H 7628) that gives employees several ways to collect wages due from nonpaying employers and increases the penalties for offending employers was signed into law today by Governor Raimondo at a ceremonial bill signing held at the Algonquin House in Providence.

Sen. Pichardo and Rep. Barros Micro Business Act signed into law
In an effort to help Rhode Island’s smallest entrepreneurs, Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Jean Philippe Barros’ (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) legislation to establish the Micro Business Act was signed into law by Governor Raimondo today at a ceremonial bill signing at the Algonquin House in Providence.

Several bills that expand opportunity for Veterans signed into law
Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by Rep. Jan P. Malik, Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr., Director of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn, and Brigadier General Christopher Callahan, Adjutant General of the state of Rhode Island, today ceremonially signed several new bills to strengthen the state's commitment to veterans and their families. The diverse laws include measures that make it easier for businesses to hire veterans, protect reservists from discrimination related to their military service, honor the fallen at the Veterans Cemetery, and allow veterans to receive their medical records at no cost when applying for benefits.

New law requires warrants for location data
Measure protects electronic-device users’ privacy
 Legislation sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush has been signed into law, protecting citizens’ privacy by requiring law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before seeking location data collected from cellular phones and other electronic devices by service providers.