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/.
House Finance takes testimony on developmental disability funding
As hundreds of demonstrators gathered inside and outside the State House, the House Committee on Finance heard four hours of testimony on bills to address the $24 million in funding for the developmentally disabled that was cut from the current year’s budget. Among the bills heard were those calling for full restoration of funds, restoration of $12 million, and restoration of reimbursement rates for agencies that help residents with developmental disabilities.
House Finance continues hearings on governor’s municipal aid package
The House Finance Committee continued its hearings this week on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s municipal aid package, which aims to provide financial relief to struggling cities and towns. The governor testified before the committee on the bills, many of which are acts related to education and towns and cities.
Senate Finance OKs bill authorizing Woonsocket to impose supplemental tax
The Senate Finance Committee will be sending a bill (2012-S 2872A) to the Senate floor that would allow Woonsocket to levy an additional tax on ratable property for the current fiscal year in order to resolve an emergency cash shortage. Without approval from the General Assembly, the city only has enough money to sustain operations until the end of May. The taxable property includes motor vehicles and trailers, and the sum of the tax is not to exceed $6.6 million.
Temporary tax revenue boost bill gets hearing
The House Finance Committee heard legislation (2012-H 7729) sponsored by Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence) to temporarily raise the state income tax for the highest earners to pay for the state’s increased costs during this economic downturn. The increase would put the tax rate on income over $250,000 back to 9.99 percent, where it was before it was reduced to 5.99 percent in 2011. The rate would be reduced as the unemployment rate goes down, until it returns to 5.99. Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) is sponsoring the bill (2012-S 2622) in the Senate.
Wyatt Commission issues report
The Special Joint Legislative Commission on the Wyatt Detention Facility recommended a forensic audit of the Central Falls federal corrections facility run by a nonprofit corporation to determine whether the jail’s financial problems are caused by mismanagement, and recommended legal action if that is the case. The commission, chaired by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket, Cumberland), was created last year to conduct a comprehensive study of Wyatt with a focus on its failure to pay its annual impact fees to the city. Click here to see report.
Hearing held on bills for and against in-state tuition for immigrants
The House Finance Committee held hearings on legislation (2012-H 7340) sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) to allow students who attended a Rhode Island high school for at least three years and obtained a diploma to qualify for in-state tuition at Rhode Island’s public higher educational institutions, regardless of immigration status. Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) is sponsoring the companion bill (2012-S 2279), which had a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. At the same meeting, the committee heard a bill (2012-H 7266) sponsored by Rep. Doreen Costa (R-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) to prohibit anyone who cannot prove U.S. citizenship or permanent residency from receiving in-state tuition rates and fees at public higher education institutions. Sen. Glenford J. Shibley (R-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) is sponsoring the legislation (2012-S 2143) in the Senate.
Wheelchair-accessible taxis on road as result of 2010 legislative action
Using funding secured by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Freedom Program, RIPTA recently unveiled and put on the road the first few of what will be 13 wheelchair-accessible cabs available in the state. The “John J. MacDonald Jr. Transportation Initiative,” enacted into law in 2010, called on RIPTA, the Public Utilities Commission and the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities to secure available federal funds to develop a plan for better transit services for wheelchair-bound citizens. The initiative was sponsored by Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick). Click here to see news release.
Senate OKs bill for cameras at night deposit boxes
The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) to require security cameras at bank night repository areas, prompted by a 2010 robbery and murder outside a bank in his district. The bill (2012-S 2072) would require all financial institutions and credit unions in the state to install and maintain cameras that record their night deposit repositories. Rep. Donald J. Lally (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown, North Kingstown) is sponsoring identical legislation (2012-H 7587) in the House. Click here to see news release.
House approves bill requiring warrants for portable electronics searches
The House approved a measure (2012-H 7110) sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 3, Providence) that would require police to obtain a search warrant before looking for evidence or other information on a person’s cellular phone or other electronic device. Click here to see news release.
Assembly proclaims ‘Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day’
The Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives, in separate actions, proclaimed April 24 as “Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day” to commemorate the genocide of 1915 to 1923. More than 1.5 million men, women and children of Armenian descent were slaughtered under the Ottoman Empire during the genocide. Each chamber passed a resolution noting the day with (2012-S 2889) introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) and (2012-H 8077) introduced by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). Haiganush R. Bedrosian, Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Family Court, addressed both chambers. Click here to see news release.