This Week at the General Assembly

Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week.

House approves 2013 state budget

The House approved an $8.1 billion state budget bill (2012-H 7323Aaa) that substantially restores previous cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled, accelerates implementation of the new school aid formula and assists Central Falls’ retirees, while avoiding many of the tax increases Governor Chafee proposed, including the expansion of the meals tax. The bill is now awaiting Senate action.
Click here to see news release. 

Assembly approves bills to improve conditions for small business growth

The legislature has approved several small business bills that are part of the Senate’s “Making It Easy to Do Business in Rhode Island” package. Included in the House’s passage of the state budget was an initiative to establish a restricted receipt account to fund the purchase and operation of a web-accessible software system for the state and municipalities. Originally in the form of bills (2012-S 25702012-H 7718) sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), the software provides for a statewide uniform plan review, permit management and inspection system. The General Assembly also passed legislation (2012-S 22892012-H 7767), sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), to stop delays in the issuance of local building permits when cutting into curbs. Additionally, the governor signed legislation (2012-S2753Aaa,2012-H7534Aaa), sponsored by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Agostinho F. Silva (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), to decommission antiquated “Stage II” technology that collects gas fumes when refueling a vehicle.

Marijuana decriminalization legislation heads to governor’s desk 

The House version of the marijuana decriminalization legislation has been transmitted to Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s office for consideration. With the governor’s signature, Rhode Island would become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana. The legislation (2012-S 2253Aaa2012-H 7092Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), eliminates the criminal charge for carrying 1 ounce or less of marijuana and instead impose a civil penalty of a $150 fine, plus forfeiture of the drug. A third offense within 18 months of the previous offense would still be treated as a misdemeanor.
Click here to see news release.

‘Good time’ changes become ‘Jason’s Law’

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed legislation passed by the General Assembly to prevent those serving time for particularly serious crimes from earning time off their sentences for good behavior, and the legislation was renamed “Jason’s Law,” in honor of Jason Foreman. The legislation (2012-S 2179A2012-H 7112A), sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, was introduced in response to the potential release last year of Michael Woodmansee, convicted of killing 5-year-old Jason Foreman in 1975 in South Kingstown. 
Click here to see news release.

Davisville Port dredging bond bills transmitted to governor

The General Assembly passed and transmitted to the governor resolutions approving the RI Economic Development Corporation’s plans to issue $7.5 million in bonds for maintenance dredging at the Port ofDavisville. Legislative oversight and approval is required for bonding by the state’s quasi-public agencies. Not relying on federal funding for the dredging will avoid a federal tax on port users, which will be a competitive advantage for the port and the state. Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) sponsored the legislation (2012-S 28732012-H 7730A).
Click here to see news release.

Veteran licenses, stay of foreclosure bills signed into law

The governor has signed into law two veteran-related pieces of legislation. Effective Sept. 1, Rhode Islanders who have served in the military will be able to have their veteran status displayed on state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs. The law is based on bills (2012-S 2161Aaa2012-H 7016Baa) sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and Rep. Peter Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport). Effective immediately, service members will be able to get a stay of foreclosure proceedings on their home during active duty or deployment and up to nine months after. The bills (2012-S 2533A2012-H 7225A) were sponsored by Senator Felag and Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).
Click here to see LICENSE news release.
Click here to see FORECLOSURE news release.

Senate OKs bill to hike minimum wage to $7.75

The Senate has approved legislation (2012-S 2374A) to increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from the current $7.40, where it has been since 2007, to $7.75, beginning Jan. 1, 2013. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick). An identical House bill (2012-H 7306) has been introduced by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick).
Click here to see news release.

Senate passes legislation to ensure nursing home viability 

The Senate has passed legislation (2012-S 2720A), sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, calling for a new reimbursement system for nursing homes and outlining the parameters for the system. Responding to a proposal last winter by the Administration to modify state nursing home reimbursements in a manner that had raised serious concerns, Senator Goodwin submitted the legislation to ensure quality care and adequate staffing at all long-term care facilities – including nonprofit and for-profit facilities – as the state adopts its new reimbursement methodology.
Click here to see news release.

House OKs ignition interlock bill 

The House approved legislation (2012-H 7849Aaa) sponsored by House Majority Whip J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) to increase use of the vehicle ignition interlock system for those convicted of driving under the influence or refusing a chemical test. Similar legislation (2012-S 2838A) has been introduced in the Senate by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
Click here to see news release.

House passes bill aimed at disclosure in political spending 

The House approved legislation (2012-H 7859Aaa) sponsored by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence) to require disclosure by those who raise and spend money on political messaging in Rhode Island. The Transparency in Political Spending Act (TIPS) is aimed at the “super-PACs” that formed following the Supreme Court Citizens United decision. Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2,Providence) is sponsoring the legislation (2012-S 2569) in the Senate.
Click here to see news release.

Legislation OK’d to allow advocates for animals in court

The General Assembly has approved legislation to allow the director of the Department of Environmental Management to designate a department veterinarian or SPCA representative to act as an animal advocate and make recommendations to any court before which the custody or welfare of an animal is at issue. The House bill (2012-H 7139A) was sponsored by Rep. Peter John Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston,Smithfield) and the Senate bill (2012-S 2034B) was introduced by Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22,Smithfield, North Smithfield).
Click here to see news release.


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