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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.

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/

State revenue picture brightens

The Revenue Estimating Conference – composed of fiscal advisers from the House, Senate and administration – has released the outlook for this year’s state revenues, which are expected to be about $62 million higher than expected. The group, which meets twice per year, also projects state revenue to be almost $18 million higher next year. The extra revenue will help ease next year’s projected $120 million budget deficit.

Senate approves compassion center amendments

Legislation developed to address concerns about Rhode Island’s medical marijuana compassion centers passed the Senate, moving the state one step closer to allowing patients to safely purchase the drug. The legislation (2012-S 2555 A), sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), is a compromise developed through talks among the sponsors, legislative leaders and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, who last year halted the issuing of compassion center licenses. The bill limits the amount of marijuana the centers can possess and creates additional security requirements. The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee approved similar legislation (2012-H 7888 A), sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10,Providence).
Click here for news release.

Bill protects active duty service members from foreclosures

The Senate passed legislation (2012-S 2533A) that will allow a stay of foreclosure proceedings on the home of any member of the military if the notice to foreclose is received during active duty, deployment, or within nine months of its completion. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10,Warren, Bristol, Tiverton). The identical House bill (2012-H 7225A), sponsored by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), has already been approved by the House.
Click here to see news release.

Senate OKs bill to require air testing at Central Landfill

The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation would be required to institute an off-site ambient air monitoring network under legislation passed by the Senate. The bill (2012-S 2395A), introduced by Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), calls for three monitoring sites in Johnston and one in Cranston – all near the Central Landfill – to monitor for the presence of odorous contaminants from landfill gas. A companion House bill (2012-H 7910), sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston,Cranston), has been approved in committee.
Click here to see news release.

McLaughlin bill could designate Woonsocket monument as secular property

Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) introduced a bill (2012-H 8143) that would provide a special designation for certain memorials with secular or community value. The legislation is directed at the white cross displayed in front of the Woonsocket Fire Department headquarters, which has been a source of controversy ever since the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote a letter last month asking the city to take the memorial down because of its religious connotation. The monument is a dedication to those who served in World War I and II. Click here to see news release.

Senate passes changes to RI Works program

The Senate OK’d a bill (2012-S 2764) sponsored by Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) that looks to increase workforce participation in the RI Works program by eliminating the two-tiered time limit of 24-month maximums, streamlining the process for developing an appropriate employment plan and increasing program accountability by requiring the state Department of Human Services to produce an annual report. The 48-month lifetime limit still remains in place. Rep. Maria E. Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence) sponsors the companion bill (2012-H 7374) in the House. 
Click here to see news release.

Senate OKs pilot program to care for those with substance abuse problems

The Senate approved legislation (2012-S 2561), sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick), to create a pilot program to divert people with substance abuse problems away from emergency rooms to centers where they will be steered toward a continuum of care for treatment and recovery.Companion legislation (2012-H 7877) has been introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19,Warwick, Cranston).
Click here to see news release.

Bill passes House, aims to boost donations to charities

The state law banning expiration dates on gift cards is negatively affecting charitable organizations, which have seen a drop in the number of gift cards they are receiving from donors for fund-raising purposes. To try to help increase charitable giving, the House passed legislation (2012-H 7523) to exempt gift cards donated for charitable fundraising from the expiration date prohibition. The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly). A Senate bill (2012-S 2433) has been introduced by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Cumberland, Woonsocket).
Click here to see news release.

Senate passes bill to allow animal advocates in court proceedings

Legislation has passed the Senate to give animals a voice in the courts, allowing the state Department of Environmental Management to designate a department veterinarian or a representative of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to act as an animal advocate and make recommendations to any court before which the custody or well-being of an animal is at issue. Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22,Smithfield, North Smithfield) sponsored the Senate bill (2012-S 2034A). A House bill (2012-H 7139) was introduced by Rep. Peter John Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield).
Click here to see news release.

Anti-price gouging bill passes House

Legislation (2012-H 7409A) has been passed by the House to prohibit individuals and retailers of essential commodities (home-heating fuels, motor fuels, food, water, etc.) from engaging in price gouging during a market emergency, state of emergency declared by the governor or federally-declared disaster. Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) sponsored the House bill. Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown) introduced a companion Senate bill (2012-S 2606A). Click here to see news release.

Valencia’s ‘civic responsibility plan’ calls for sacrifice among high earners

The House Finance Committee heard legislation, sponsored by Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Charlestown, Exeter), which would adjust the state income tax to require upper income earners to help their fellow taxpayers shoulder the burden of a turbulent economic climate. In an effort to reverse the 2003 Bush tax cuts, the bill (2012-H 7454) changes the tax code so married couples pay 4.1 cents of income tax on every dollar of their income above $250,000 and individuals do the same for income more than $200,000.  
Click here to see news release.

Senate OKs bill setting safety guidelines for children’s jewelry

The Senate approved legislation (2012-S 2482), introduced by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), to prohibit the sale of any jewelry intended for children under 12 that does not conform to American Society for Testing and Materials standards on the use of potentially toxic materials such as cadmium, chromium and nickel, which have been linked to cancer as well as organ, nervous system and skeletal problems. Click here to see news release.

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