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.
In historic vote, House passes same-sex marriage bill
The House voted 51-19 in favor of legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) to allow same-sex couples to marry in Rhode Island. The bill (2013-H 5015 A) will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush is sponsoring similar legislation (2013-S 0038).
Senate holds economic summit
The Senate held an economic summit, entitled “Improving Rhode Island’s Business Climate,” taking a deeper look into Rhode Island’s economic competitiveness and business rankings. The forum was divided into three portions: “Moving the Needle – State Rankings and Policy Recommendations,” “A Shared Agenda for Economic Competitiveness” and “Business Reaction to ‘Moving the Needle.’”
School safety, emergency measures under review
School safety and preparedness and emergency response plans were the focus of both the Senate and House last week. The Senate Committee on Education, chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), held an oversight hearing on the subject, receiving testimony from the state’s top school and safety officials. Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee, held an informational discussion on the subject, also attended by school and law enforcement officials.
Gallo bill seeks to resolve school dance ‘discrimination’ issue
When the Cranston school superintendent canceled father-daughter and mother-son dances last year to comply with gender-discrimination laws, the School Committee called on lawmakers to address the issue. Legislation (2013-S 0012) sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) aims to resolve the issue by amending state law to permit schools to offer activities for students of one gender if comparable activities are offered for students of the other gender.
Shekarchi bill would repeal tax on pet care services
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5117) to repeal the 7 percent sales tax that was imposed on pet care services as a result of the state budget approved last year. The sales tax, which went into effect in October, applies to such pet care services as boarding, grooming, sitting and training.
Palumbo bill would bar pets on drivers’ laps
Calling it a matter of public safety for humans and their pets, Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5101) to prohibit drivers from operating motor vehicles in Rhode Island with a pet sitting in their lap. The bill calls for a fine of $85 for a first offense.
Majority Leader Ruggerio’s bill targets copper theft
With prices for various metals high and rising, copper remains an attractive target for thieves, with abandoned or foreclosed residences and unsecure construction sites easy prey. Legislation (2013-S 0079) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) creates a “Copper Theft Prevention Act” to require licensing of secondary metal recyclers for the purchase of certain types of ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Bill would move teacher layoff date from March to June
Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) have introduced legislation to move the layoff notification date for teachers from March 1 to June 1. The legislation (2013-S 0049, 2013-H 5066) is aimed at preventing schools from having to issue as many unnecessary layoff notices to teachers by allowing them to wait until more information about the following year’s budget is available.
Bill would make military status bias an unlawful housing practice
Legislation (2013-H 5109) sponsored by Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) and heard this week by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs would make military status discrimination an unlawful housing practice in the state, barring property renters or sellers from inquiring about an individual’s military status.
Newberry calls for higher percentage of casino revenue
House Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry (R-District 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville) introduced legislation (2013-H 5156) to increase the amount of revenue the state receives from Twin River’s table games from 18 to 20 percent. In 2012, the General Assembly passed the 2012 Revenue Protection Act, which established a tax rate of 18 percent for table game receipts.