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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/.

 

Senate OKs legislation to create ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’

The Senate approved legislation (2012-S 2052A) to establish a “Homeless Bill of Rights” in Rhode Island, to guarantee that no person’s rights, privileges or access to public services will be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless. If enacted into law, Rhode Island will become the first state in the nation to enact such a measure. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield). An identical House bill, (2012-H 7173), has been introduced by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence). Click here to see news release.

Senate approves update to state fire code

The Senate passed legislation (2012-S 2564Aaa) to update the state fire code to increase flexibility and options for businesses that must comply with it. Sponsored by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), the bill will allow for alternative and less costly means of compliance while keeping in place exemption provisions for places of worship, funeral homes and other structures. An identical House bill, (2012-H 7959), has been introduced by Rep. Frank A. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick). Click here to see news release.

Woonsocket supplemental tax bill passes Senate

With a fast-approaching window for Woonsocket to dispense a supplemental tax bill, the Senate passed legislation to authorize the city to levy an additional tax on ratable property – including motor vehicles – for the current fiscal year. The sum of the taxes is not to exceed $6.6 million. Sen. Daniel Da Ponte (D-Dist. 14, East Providence, Pawtucket) sponsors the bill (2012-S 2872A).

Same-sex marriage, divorce, civil unions bills heard

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on bills related to same-sex marriage, civil unions and divorce. Advocates on both sides of the issue gave 3 ½ hours of testimony on legislation (2012-H 7752) sponsored by Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Charlestown, Exeter), to allow divorce regardless whether the marriage would have been legal in Rhode Island; a bill (2012-H 7753) sponsored by Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) to limit religious-objection exemptions provided in the civil unions law to churches, not hospitals or other organizations; and legislation (2012-H 7845) sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) to allow same-sex marriage in Rhode Island and recognize civil unions as marriages. Similar bills (2012-S 2337, 2012-S 2503, 2012-S 2504) have been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket), Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), respectively.

Closed-captioning access bills moving through Assembly

One week after identical legislation was approved in the House, the Senate this week passed a bill to require any place of public accommodation that provides a television for public viewing to keep closed-captioning activated on the TV (if the set is CC capable) upon request of any guest or patron of that establishment. The Senate bill (2012-S 2321) was sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston); the House bill (2012-H 7445) was sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston). Click here to see news release.

House approves bill addressing gun sentencing law incongruity. 

The House approved legislation (2012-H 7557) sponsored by Rep. Christopher Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence) to exclude involuntary manslaughter from the list of crimes that trigger a second charge carrying a mandatory life sentence if the defendant fires a gun while committing them. The law requiring that enhanced penalty was intended to target violent crime, not accidental shootings that are punishable by no more than 30 years in prison, said the sponsor. Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence) is sponsoring identical legislation (2012-S 2657) in the Senate.

Ucci proposes toll tax credit, law to keep motor vehicle fees in Rhode Island

Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) has introduced bills aimed at easing the tax burden on Rhode Island residents who use tolls and stimulating the local economy. The first bill (2012-H 7545) would provide a tax credit for tolls paid through an EZ Pass account, issued by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. The second bill (2012-H 7630) would require vehicles rented or leased in Rhode Island to be registered, insured and inspected in the state. Click here to see news release.

Serpa demands more disclosure from nonprofits doing business with the state

With the General Assembly’s move to cut $24 million from agencies servicing developmentally disabled individuals last year, Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has introduced a bill (2012-H 8020) that would prevent the director of the Department of Administration from approving contracts with nonprofit agencies until they have disclosed all forms of compensation for executives and administrators, including salary, deferred compensation and benefits. Click here to see news release.

Senate votes to pass DeVall strangulation legislation

The Senate passed Sen. Frank A. DeVall Jr.’s legislation (2012-S 2147A) that would make domestic assault by strangulation a felony punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment. If enacted, Rhode Island will join at least 30 states in the nation – including New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont – that have passed similar laws. Rep. Roberto DaSilva (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) is sponsoring the bill (2012-H 7242) in the House. Click here to see news release.

House Judiciary hears bill barring underage individuals from nightclubs

The House Judiciary Committee heard legislation (2012-H 7468) sponsored by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) that prohibits anyone under 21 years old from entering a nightclub where alcoholic beverages are served. The Attorney General’s Office supports the bill. Click here to see news release.

Assembly receives annual State of Education address

The General Assembly, meeting in joint session, received the annual State of Education address presented by Commissioner of Education Deborah A. Gist. Gist highlighted the accomplishments of the Department of Education, including the creation of new teacher evaluations and teacher training in a new set of academic standards.

 

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