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.
Shekarchi bill seeks to rein in EDC authority
Legislation introduced by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) would prohibit the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation from guaranteeing any loans and obligations. The bill (2013-H 5463) would not affect the EDC’s ability to make contracts or loans but would prohibit the agency from pledging the “faith and credit of the state” for any of those loans or obligations.
Bill will prohibit property owners from requiring tenants to debark pets
Calling the surgical procedures inhumane and potentially dangerous to pets, Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0177) to prohibit property owners from requiring devocalization (debarking) or declawing of dogs and cats as a condition of occupancy. The identical House bill (20130H 5426) has been introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).
Felag proposes 5-cent cut in gas tax
A 5-cent per gallon decrease in Rhode Island’s gasoline tax is being proposed in legislation (2013-S 0085) introduced by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton). Senator Felag acknowledged the decrease would affect the state’s tax revenues but said he is more concerned about local gas stations losing business to stations in Massachusetts, where the tax is 10 cents lower. The House version of the bill (2013-H 5413) has been introduced by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland).
Pichardo bill would protect consumers from high interest rates on payday loans
Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) has submitted his consumer protection bill (2013-S 0260) to again attempt to bring payday lenders into alignment with the state’s usury law by implementing a 36-percent cap on interest rates currently as high as 260 percent. Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) has introduced the House bill (2013-H 5019).
Amore bill requires insurance coverage of oral chemotherapy treatments
Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) has introduced a parity bill (2013-H 5354) similar to the one Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law in January, requiring health plans to cover chemotherapy pills at a rate comparable to standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. Oral chemotherapy is presently treated as a prescription drug benefit, which requires patients to pay a large amount of the drugs’ cost. IV chemotherapy is treated as a medical benefit, essentially requiring insurers to issue modest patient co-pays and a limit to annual out-of-pocket expenses.
Nunes, Shekarchi introduce changes to auto excise tax system
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) has introduced a bill (2013-H 5369) that imposes an excise tax in a flat amount of $600 for motor vehicles that are less than three years old, and $360 for motor vehicles that are more than three years old. Those taxes would begin with the 2014 fiscal year. Rep. Jared R. Nunes (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) introduced an alternative reconfiguration of the motor vehicle excise tax reimbursement system. His bill (2013-H 5272) would provide cities and towns with reimbursements for the excise tax based on the percentage of assessed vehicle values in each community as opposed to current district tax rates. Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) has introduced the legislation (2013-S 0268) in the Senate.
Craven proposes increase in ‘death tax’ threshold
Saying the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” is one of the least significant sources of revenue for the state, and a burden on small businesses, small farms and owners of forest and shoreline property, Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5249) to raise the threshold above which the tax can be applied from the current $675,000 to $2 million. Similar bills have been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward J. O’Neill (I-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield) and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and in the House by Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence).
Ruggiero proposes restoration of renewable energy tax credit
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5116) to reinstate the renewable energy tax credit this year. The credit, which reimburses homeowners for 25 percent of the cost of their renewable energy generation system, ceased after 2010, when a new streamlined state income tax system eliminated it and other such breaks. Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) has introduced the bill (2013-S 0127) in the Senate.
Walaska calls for creation of Port Marketing Collaborative
To help promote and grow the state’s ports, Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0172), “The Rhode Island Port Marketing Collaborative” act, to gather together state agencies and port stakeholders to develop and maintain a strategic plan for the state’s ports, facilities and maritime trades, with a focus on job creation. Identical legislation will be sponsored in the House by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).
DiPalma bill would allow service members swift exit from auto, apartment leases
Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) has introduced legislation (2013-S 0042) to allow a service member who is moved to a different base or is deployed for a period of more than 90 days to break a housing rental agreement, effective 30 days after notice, and terminate a motor vehicle lease if the move is for more than 180 days. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) has introduced the bill (2013-H 5165) in the House.