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.
Assembly OKs bill to make distracted driving part of license training program
The House and Senate passed legislation that will require driving students to be educated and tested on the issue of distracted driving, especially on the risks posed by making phone calls or sending text messages while behind the wheel. Transmitted to the governor for his action were the Senate bill (2013-S 0660), sponsored by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), and the House bill (2013-H 5655), introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).
Legislation passes allowing all in line by poll closing time to vote
The General Assembly approved legislation that will allow any voter who is in line at a polling place at the time the polls close (8 p.m.) to cast a ballot, regardless of whether or not they are inside the building in which the voting is being held – something that is required under current law. Passed and transmitted to the governor were the House bill (2013-H 5771), sponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), and the Senate bill (2013-S 0626), sponsored by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).
Senate OKs bill to increase tax credit transparency
The Senate approved legislation (2013-S 0827) that will increase transparency and accountability regarding the state’s various tax credit programs by requiring the entities that benefit from the credits to report their value to the Division of Labor. Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) sponsored the Senate bill. A companion House bill (2013-H 6130) was introduced by Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston).
CPR, defibrillator training to be required for high school graduation
The House has approved legislation (2013-H 5376) that will require high school students to be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) in order to graduate. Sponsor Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) said the goal is to quicken response to potentially life-threatening situations and to help students learn how to save lives. A companion Senate bill (2013-S 0318), sponsored by Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), has passed the Senate and awaits House action.
Senate OKs municipal advisory council for statewide permitting reform
The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) to establish a municipal advisory council on statewide permitting to increase feedback from cities and towns. The legislation (2013-S 0757A) is part of the Senate’s “Moving the Needle” economic development package and calls for the council to consist of five elected or appointed officials, chosen by the governor. The purpose of the council would be to develop recommendations to establish a statewide process for electronic plan review and encourage full participation of each city and town in the state.
House approves compensation change to protect victims of violent crimes
The House passed a measure (2013-H 5969), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), that would allow innocent victims of violent crimes to receive funds for relocation purposes as part of the Crime Victim Compensation Program. Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush is the sponsor of the Senate companion bill (2013-S 0909).
Senate passes Biodiesel Heating Oil Act of 2013
The Senate has passed a bill (2013-S 0816A), sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), that would require all No. 2 distillate heating oil sold in the state to contain a specified percentage of a bio-based product. Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) sponsors the House companion bill (2013-H 5802).