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Weekly Roundups  

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Senate advocacy results in new partnership to prepare students for GED
As of this morning, students preparing to take their high school equivalency exam in Rhode Island have a new and innovative way to prepare for the test. As a result of an outcry in the Senate about the increased cost of the General Educational Development (GED) test implemented in January and the simultaneous elimination of fee waivers based on economic hardship, GED Testing Services began working with the Senate President’s office and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to pilot a new service for potential test takers. The software-based instructional program is being provided to potential test-takers at no cost to them or the state. It includes the use of preparation software and the official practice test for the new GED.

Governor gives green light to ‘just cause’ bill, protecting tenants’ rights
Legislation working to prevent foreclosing owners from evicting tenants in one- to four-family units without just cause has been signed into law this week. Sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), the measure clearly delineates the circumstances in which an eviction can take place. Prior to the enactment of this legislation, tenants living in foreclosed homes had 90 days before the foreclosing lender could evict them without cause.

Governor OKs ‘child safe zones’ to protect youth from sex offenders
With his signature, the governor has authorized a bill designating the first-ever “child safe zones” in Rhode Island, which aim to shield children from sexual predators. Sponsored by Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, the bill (2014-H 7764Aaa) prohibits any facility that provides programs or services intended primarily for minors from employing a registered sex offender.

Chafee authorizes Governor’s Workforce Board to streamline state’s workforce development efforts
A central component of the Senate’s “Rhode To Work” legislative action plan has been signed into law, repositioning and empowering the Governor’s Workforce Board to administer and coordinate all workforce development in the state.

New Twin River laws aim to boost gaming facility’s appeal, competitive advantage
Several measures concerning Lincoln’s Twin River gaming facility became law this week with the addition of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s signature.

Change in teacher evaluation process becomes law without action from governor
The new process for teacher evaluations in Rhode Island schools has been etched in state law without the governor’s signature. The change aims to accomplish all of the evaluation program’s goals while saving time and money for cities and towns.

Governor signs bill benefitting burgeoning effort to mitigate, cope with climate change
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee officially backed legislation creating a nine-member Climate Change Council with his signature this week. The new council is charged with coordinating efforts to ensure the state is doing everything in its power to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while advancing the public’s understanding of changes in sea level, severe weather events and critical infrastructure vulnerability.

Governor signs off on measure to prevent elder abuse in long-term care facilities
The governor signed legislation (2014-S 2652, 2014-H 7413) this week requiring a criminal background check of individuals applying to be routine contact patient employees or providers in long-term care facilities and hospitals. The background checks, which are a requirement of the federal Affordable Care Act, add another layer of protection for vulnerable seniors who take advantage of an adult day care program, home nursing care or a long-term facility.

Governor signs bills redirecting resources to job training
Exemption provides over $1.2 million to target skills gap in RI

The governor has signed legislation that will stop the state from taking a 10 percent cut from the employer-paid Job Development Fund, or JDF. The JDF, which provides money for workforce training, is subject to a 10 percent indirect cost recovery charge that most of the state’s restricted receipt accounts pay to the general fund. Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham and Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), the legislation creates an exception for the JDF so it would not be subject to indirect cost recovery. The initiative is part of the Senate’s “Rhode To Work” legislative package and is featured in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Expanded distributed generation program becomes law
Growth will bring green jobs as well as clean energy

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) to expand a program that encourages the development of renewable energy projects around the state is now law.

Bill to divert organic waste from landfill becomes law
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton, West Greenwich) to require institutions that are large producers of food scraps to dispose of them in a more environmentally friendly manner than tossing them in the landfill has been signed into law.

"Master lever" eliminated from RI ballots beginning in 2015
The governor has signed into law legislation approved by the General Assembly that will eliminate the “master lever,” or straight-party voting option, on all non-primary Rhode Island elections that will be held after January 1, 2015.
Bills banning sale of e-cigarettes to minors signed into law
Legislation approved by the General Assembly to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors has been signed into law by the governor. Sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Helio Melo, the new law will also require an annual license for anyone selling or distributing the products in Rhode Island.

Governor signs bills raising minimum wage to $9 in 2015
Rhode Island’s minimum wage will be increased to $9 per hour beginning Jan. 1. Legislation approved by the General Assembly, sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch  and Rep. David A. Bennett was signed into law this week by Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The new law will provide minimum wage workers a $1-per-hour raise over the current state minimum wage, $8.

Three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing becomes law
Hoping to give teachers a chance to adjust curricula and properly prepare students to achieve new standards in education, lawmakers voted to place a temporary hold on high-stakes testing in June. As of this week, the legislation has become law without the governor's signature. The bills (2014-S 2059Aaa, 2014-H 8363aa), sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) and Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), state that no standardized assessment can be used to determine a student’s ability to graduate from high school prior to the Class of 2017.

Governor lends final approval to ignition interlock systems in Rhode Island
With Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s signature this week, judges and magistrates now have the authority to prohibit individuals adjudicated of driving under the influence from operating vehicles that are not equipped with ignition interlock systems.

Governor signs DNA collection legislation passed by General Assembly
Legislation approved by the General Assembly to allow the collection of DNA samples from individuals arrested for violent crimes has become law. Signed by the governor was legislation sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy and Sen. David E. Bates will require the collection of DNA samples from any person arrested for a crime of violence, with the assurance that the sample will be expunged if the person is found or proven innocent.
2015 state budget signed into law
With Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s signature this afternoon, the 2015 state budget bill is now law. The $8.7 billion budget closes an unexpected $67 million gap, fully funds education aid while averting bridge tolls and tax increases, establishes a steady source for transportation funding, promotes economic development and reduces the corporate and death taxes.

New law expands practitioner, pharmacist access to electronic prescription database
The governor this week signed into law legislation passed recently by the General Assembly to expand the categories of individuals authorized to access and use the Department of Health's Prescription Monitoring Program database and requiring all practitioners to register with the DoH database as a condition of the initial approval of or renewal of the practitioner’s authority to prescribe controlled substances.

'Dense Breast Notification, Education Act' signed into law
The governor this week signed into law legislation intended to improve Rhode Island women’s health and safety by requiring facilities that perform mammograms to provide their patients with more information on the subject of breast density and more complete reporting on the results of their tests. The new law will require health care facilities that perform mammograms to notify their patient of any finding of dense breast tissue and basic information about breast density.