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/.
House OKs changes to ‘good time’ law The House approved legislation aimed at preventing those serving jail time for serious crimes from earning time off their sentences for good behavior. Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) introduced the legislation (2012-H 7112A, 2012-S 2179A) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. The bills came in response to the potential release last year of Michael Woodmansee, who was convicted of killing 5-year-old Jason Foreman in 1975 in South Kingstown.
Senate passes bill to create Back to Work RI Program
The Rhode Island Senate has approved legislation (2012-S 2377) that will create the Back to Work Rhode Island Program, which will allow job seekers to collect unemployment while participating in job training at companies looking to hire. Under the program, workers would continue to receive benefits as employers assess and train the job candidates for up to six weeks. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick). Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced the bill in the House (2012-H 7252).
Senate votes in favor of repealing tourism tax
The Senate passed legislation (2012-S 2049), sponsored by President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed, to restore the sales tax exemption on scenic tour and transportation services. The Newport delegation promised to bring forth the legislation in August after members of the tourism industry expressed their concerns that the new tax placed them at a competitive disadvantage. Rep. J. Russell Jackson (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) sponsors the companion legislation (2012-H 7215) in the House.
Hurricane insurance legislation signed into law The governor has signed into law legislation designed to provide additional protections for Rhode Island homeowners with hurricane insurance policies. Among other provisions, the new law limits a hurricane deductible to only once per hurricane season and establishes a mediation process for claims arising from a hurricane. The House bill (2012-H 7484A) was sponsored by Rep. Brian P. Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) and the Senate bill (2012-S 2597A) was introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick).
Legislation gives bus drivers, monitors permission to administer epinephrine
The General Assembly has approved legislation to allow school bus drivers and monitors, after receiving proper training, to administer an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an EpiPen) to an affected student while in transit to or from school or a school event. Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) sponsored the Senate bill (2012-S 2173Aaa) and Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) sponsored the House bill (2012-H 7447A). Both bills have been transmitted to the governor.
Senate OKs bill for veteran-status drivers’ licenses, IDs
The Senate approved legislation (2012-S 2161Aaa) directing the Division of Motor Vehicles to make available a veteran-status driver’s license or identification card to any honorably discharged service member who presents a certificate of release from active duty or other acceptable documentation of military service. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton). A similar House bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport), passed the House and was amended in the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee. That bill (2012-H 7016B) must cycle back through the full Senate and the House.
Supporters urge restoration of lead poisoning funding Advocates, including families affected by lead poisoning, gathered at the State House to urge the restoration of funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The federal program supports Rhode Island’s lead poison prevention and treatment program, which reduced Rhode Island’s childhood lead poisoning rate from 5.8 percent in 2001 to 0.8 percent in 2011. Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) spoke at the event and has introduced legislation (2012-H 8148) urging President Barack Obama to reinstate the funding that was cut by Congress.
Ucci introduces bill package to improve standards, accountability for RIRRC
Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) introduced three bills related to the operation of the Rhode Island Resource and Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), a quasi-public agency charged with disposing of the state’s trash and recycling. The first bill (2012-H 8188) would make it unlawful for RIRRC facilities to accept construction debris for disposal, including painted, treated and coated wood or wood products. Violators would be charged a fine of between $2,500 and $5,000. Under provisions of the second bill (2012-H 8189), a trash facility could suffer a similar fine for using those same materials – with the addition of organic materials like paper, wood, food waste, leaves and yard waste – as a cover for compacted solid waste at a sanitary landfill. The third bill (2012-H 8190) imposes standards of accountability and transparency on quasi-public corporations.