This Week at the General Assembly
Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week. For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.
Legislation introduced to prohibit sale of ‘e-cigarettes’ to minors
Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0622) to prohibit the sale of “e-cigarettes” to minors. Electronic cigarettes, which look like the real thing, are battery-powered nicotine delivery systems, heating a nicotine liquid and delivering it to a user in vapor form. The bill would expand the statutory definition of “tobacco products” to include “vapor products.” Click here to see news release.
Serpa Medicaid fraud bill takes aim at waste, abuse of health care system
Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) sponsored a bill (2013-H 5734) allowing the state to use technology to identify fraudulent activity in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before payment is made. Click here to see news release.
Senate Commission recommends changes to speed DMV waits
The Special Senate Commission to Study the Division of Motor Vehicles, led by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton), issued several recommendations, including that the DMV post current waiting times for its Cranston headquarters and all its branches on its website to help customers plan for or avoid long lines. Click here to see news release.
‘Storm preparedness’ tax-free weekend proposed
Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5647) calling for a sales tax-free weekend for the purchase of emergency storm preparedness supplies. Proposed for the August Victory Day weekend, tax-free items would include such things as portable generators, self-powered light sources, batteries, coolers or ice chests for food and even non-electric can openers. It is patterned on tax-free programs in several states. Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, EastProvidence) has introduced the bill in the Senate (2013-S 0526). Click here to see news release.
Bills would institute early voting
Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74,Jamestown, Middletown) introduced two different proposals to institute in-person early voting in Rhode Island elections. Representative Blazejewski’s bill (2013-H 5565) would allow voting seven days a week beginning three weeks before general elections and two weeks before primaries. A similar bill (2013-S 0553) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston). Representative Ruggiero’s bill (2013-H 5683) would allow early voting Monday through Friday for three weeks before all elections. Click here to see Rep. Blazejewski’s release. Click here to see Rep. Ruggiero’s release.
Legislation seeks to further promote renewable energy, keep costs in check
Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0641) that would make changes to the state’s Distributed Generation Program that was established in 2011 to promote the development of local sources of renewable energy. Among other changes, the bill proposes expanding the requirement for competitive pricing to drive down the cost of the renewable energy being produced by the smallest projects. Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) has introduced the bill in the House (2013-H 5803). Click here to see news release.
Lombardi wants school safety plans not made public
Rhode Island school officials say work is ongoing to determine what laws may need to be strengthened to improve school safety plans. Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0369) that proposes to exclude from the definition of open public records any safety plans used by individual school districts or implemented statewide. Click here to see news release.
Bill requires Senate advice, consent for Parole Board appointees
The Senate has approved legislation (2013-S 0288aa), sponsored by Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8,Pawtucket), that will require the advice and consent of the full Senate on all future gubernatorial appointments to the Parole Board. The legislation also will limit future Parole Board members to a maximum of three three-year terms. Click here to see news release.
Pearson bill offers student tax credit to plug brain drain
Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) introduced a bill (2013-S 0393) that would establish the “Stay Invested in Rhode Island Tax Credit,” which would authorize a tax credit against Rhode Island personal income tax for graduates who remain a resident of and work in Rhode Island for up to 10 years after graduation from an institution of higher education. The credit would be calculated based upon the principal balance of the person’s student loans. Click here to see news release.
International Women’s Day comes to the State House
In celebration of International Women’s Day – recognized by the United Nations as March 8 – Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) hosted an event at the State House to honor eight women from the three branches of government. Those honorees were: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Speaker Pro Tempore Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Supreme Court Associate Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney, Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian and District Court Chief Judge Jeanne E. Lafazia. Click here to see news release.