Same-sex marriage legislation becomes law
On a final House vote of 56 to 15, the General Assembly enacted legislation making Rhode Island the 10thstate in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, to cheers of advocates and citizens who have pursued passage of the legislation since it was first introduced in 1997. The governor signed the bill into law about an hour later before hundreds gathered to watch the ceremony on the steps of the State House. The legislation (2013-H 5015B, 2013-S 38 A) was sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence). Click here to see news release.
House Judiciary Committee takes testimony on gun safety bills
At a hearing that stretched late into the night, the House Judiciary Committee took testimony on the nine bills making up the House leadership’s gun safety package, as well as other bills concerning firearms. Among the more than 400 who signed up to testify was Newtown, Conn., Police Chief Michael Kehoe, who urged Rhode Island’s legislature to take action to prevent another tragedy like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his town. Click here to see news release.
Senate OKs major component of ‘Rhode Back Home’ legislative package
The Senate has approved legislation (2013-S 0479A) creating a 13-member advisory committee that will establish a statewide Veterans’ Services Strategic Plan (VSSP). Sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), the bill is a major component of the “Pave the Rhode Back Home” legislative package to address the needs of the state’s veterans and their families. The VSSP to be developed will be a regularly updated five-year plan that includes goals and measurable outcomes to ensure all departments of state government deliver comprehensive services for veterans in areas such as benefits, employment and education. The House version of the bill (2013-H 5860) was introduced by Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston). Click here to see news release.
House OKs bills to amend emergency ballot requirements
The House approved two bills (2013-H 5567, 2013-H 5568A) that will eliminate the requirement that voters provide an explanation when they apply for an emergency mail ballot. Enactment of the bills would makeRhode Island the 28th state that does not require an explanation or excuse when applying for a mail ballot. The bills were sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown). Similar Senate bills (2013-S 0445, 2013-S 0447) have been introduced by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). Click here to see news release.
Central Coventry Fire District bill heads to governor’s desk
One week after House passage, the Senate has approved and transmitted to the governor legislation (2013-H 5176A) authorizing the financially troubled Central Coventry Fire District to operate under the previous year’s budget while it works to develop a new budget and new tax assessment. The authorization expires Sept. 1. The bill was introduced by Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry). Click here to see news release.
Commissioner Gist addresses House, Senate on the State of Education
State Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist delivered the State of Education address to members of the House and the Senate in a joint session. In her speech, she touched on the topics of school safety, the state education funding formula, early childhood learning and technology in the classroom. She also addressed the many student successes achieved in connection with the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) and other endeavors throughout the state.
Kazarian speaks up in commemoration of the Armenian genocide
Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), a fourth-generation Armenian-American, had the honor of commemorating the Armenian genocide of 1915 with a resolution (2013-H 6034) among her colleagues in the House. Many from the Armenian-American community were present in support of the resolution. Later that evening, Representative Kazarian also had the honor of serving as the master of ceremonies for a special commemoration at Providence City Hall. The program included a candlelight march from Saints Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church to City Hall, a Kamancha presentation by David Ayirianand a musical presentation from vocalist Shant Eghian. Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) sponsored a similar resolution (2013-S 873) in the Senate. Click here to see news release.
Israeli consul general, RI attorney general give testimony on Iran divestiture bill
The House Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss a bill (2013-H 5620) that would divest any and all state pension funds from companies that directly or indirectly do business with Iran. Shai Bazak, consul general of Israel to New England, and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin joined Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), the bill’s sponsor, to testify on behalf of the legislation. Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) sponsors the companion bill (2013-S 0521) in the Senate. The legislation would additionally prohibit the state from entering into any contracts with companies doing business with Iran. Click here to see news release.
Valencia holds news conference on tax equity bill
Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter) held a press conference to discuss legislation (2013-H 5805) that would raise the state income tax’s top level for upper income earners to 10 percent in order to ease the burden of low-income earners and the middle class. This is the third year Representative Valencia has introduced this tax equity bill. This year’s version of the bill would require individuals to pay an additional 4 cents on every dollar of income above $200,000 and married couples to pay the same on income greater than $250,000. Click here to see news release.
Ruggiero bill lets municipalities buy their streetlights to save money
Cities and towns would be able to save on street lighting costs under a bill sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) to give them the option of owning their streetlights. The proposal (2013-H 5935) would enable cities and towns to buy the streetlights from the electric utility that currently owns them and then maintain them locally for cost control. It would also enable the use of more energy-efficient lighting. Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced the legislation (2013-S 836) in the Senate. Click here to see news release.