Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly last week. For more information on any of these items, visit www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.
Bill eliminates visitation petition waiting period for grandparents
The Senate has approved legislation (2012-S 2153) that will eliminate the 90-day visitation petition waiting period currently required of grandparents seeking to visit their estranged grandchildren. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston), would also eliminate the visitation waiting period for siblings, including half-siblings and stepsiblings. An identical House bill (2012-H 7500) was introduced by Rep. Michael A. Tarro (D-Dist. 8, Providence).
Senate passes bill to increase penalty for underage smoking
Violators of the state’s underage smoking law could be penalized with either 30 hours of community service or participation in a tobacco treatment program. The Senate has approved legislation (2012-S 2413) that will make both penalties mandatory. The bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence).
Senate approves the Rhode Island Local Agriculture and Seafood Act
The Senate passed legislation that takes certain measures to ensure protection of the state’s own competitive advantages in the regional marketplace for seafood and farm products. Introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), the Rhode Island Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (2012-S 2611) directs the state Department of Environmental Management to establish a local agriculture and seafood grants and technical assistance program to promote sales of local products.
Senate approves ban on youth tanning
The Senate approved legislation to ban those younger than 18 from using tanning facilities. The bill (2012-S 2322), sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), is meant as a way to curb the intentional exposure of children to cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation, and prevent them from forming habits early in life that have a high cancer-risk. Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) is sponsoring similar legislation (2012-H 7825) in the House.
House HEW hears Naughton’s student disability bills
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare held hearings for a variety of bills, a large chunk of which are aimed at ensuring proper education for developmentally disabled students. Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), who introduced five bills (2012-H 7217, 2012-H 7218, 2012-H 7541, 2012-H 7542, 2012-H 7655) relating to student disabilities, submitted the legislation to help fill the educational gaps that exist for students who tend to face more obstacles than their peers when it comes to the learning process.
Goodwin submits legislation to ensure viability of nursing homes
Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) submitted legislation to ensure quality care and adequate staffing at all long-term facilities in Rhode Island. The bill follows a proposal from the Administration to modify state nursing home reimbursements. The legislation (2012-S 2720) establishes required guidelines to which the Department of Human Services must conform, including an incentive to maintain adequate direct nursing staff, and the consideration of the cost of caring for higher need patients.
Legislators join the Girl Scouts to celebrate century of scouting
About 20 legislators and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts became members of honorary Girl Scout Troop 2012 in a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. Led by Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence), who was a Girl Scout for 12 years, and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket), members took a pledge to support girls and were pinned by current Girl Scouts as part of a State House celebration honoring the organization’s contributions in Rhode Island.
Rep. Guthrie calls for more taxes from state’s wealthiest
Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry) has introduced four bills (2012-H 7305, 2012-H 7379, 2012-H 7382, 2012-H 7381) that propose four plans for raising additional tax revenues to help ease the state’s budget crunch. The bills propose new tax brackets for the state’s wealthiest residents, raising the current top bracket by 1 or 2 percent for those making more than $250,000 or by 1 or 2 percent for those making more than $500,000.
McLaughlin bill allows court to consider prior sex offender charges for bail
Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) has introduced a bill (2012-H 7846) allowing the court to take into account an individual’s prior sex offense indictments and arrests when determining whether or not to hold him or her for similar sexual offenses without bail.
Sen. Lombardo wants regular air testing at landfill
Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2395) to require the RI Resource Recovery Corporation to establish and operate an off-site ambient air-monitoring network to continually monitor air near the Central Landfill for the presence of odorous contaminants from landfill gas.