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, Senate judiciary committees approve redistricting plan
The Senate and House judiciary committees each gave their approval to new boundaries for the state’s congressional and state legislative districts that reflect population shifts detected by the 2010 census. The legislation (2012-H 7209, 2012-S 2178), sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) and Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), who headed the Special Commission on Reapportionment, is expected to come before the full House and Senate next week.
Bills call for statewide policy prohibiting texting in school
Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that calls on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a statewide policy restricting students from texting during school hours. The House bill (2012-H 7167) was introduced by Rep. Peter John Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield) and was heard by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. The Senate bill (2012-S 2079) was introduced by Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield) and had a hearing before the Senate Committee on Education.
Senate Judiciary Committee recommends passage of ‘good time bill’
The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage of the “good time bill,” which would prevent anyone serving one or multiple sentences for certain violent crimes from being eligible to earn time off for good behavior. Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) introduced the bill (2012-S 2179) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
House committee hears bill dealing with teacher layoffs
The House Committee on Labor this week heard testimony on legislation (2012-H 7116) to amend the situations under which a school board could lay off teachers. Sponsored by Rep. Scott Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry), the bill specifies that a school board may suspend teachers as a result of a decrease in pupil population, program reduction or elimination, or budget reduction, provided that any layoffs are based on seniority.
O’Grady bill would remove roadblock for unemployed drivers
Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) has introduced legislation (2012-H 7214) to protect unemployed Rhode Islanders from a provision of state law that can prevent them from renewing their driver’s licenses or registrations if they fall behind on income taxes. The bill would allow a driver whom the Division of Taxation seeks to block from renewal to receive it as long as he or she provides proof of involuntary unemployment and evidence that he or she is seeking employment.
Special House Commission on R.I. Resource Recovery hears RIRRC executive
Michael J. OConnell, executive director of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, appeared at the most recent meeting of the Special House Commission on Rhode Island Resource Recovery. Led by commission Chairman Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Cranston, Johnston), the panel is charged with investigating ways to put an end to the strong odor at the landfill in Johnston. Also on hand to make presentations were Broadrock Gas Services, which currently operates the landfill’s gas collection system, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the state Health Department.
Legislative leaders talk business
House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed both addressed Rhode Island’s business community at two separate events, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon and the Small Business Association’s Economic Summit.
Rep. Diaz takes a stand against racial profiling
Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) held a press conference to showcase her new comprehensive racial profiling bill. If enacted, the legislation (2012-H 7256) would require police to meet a basic standard of reasonable suspicion before conducting searches on juveniles and others, while continuing detailed traffic stop data collection on highway searches. It would also mandate the state Department of Transportation to review annual reports for at least four years after the completion of the data collection period. Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) has also introduced a bill (2012-S 2252) in the Senate.
Reps. DaSilva, Hearn take on full-day kindergarten issue in the House
Representatives Roberto DaSilva (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) are looking to enact legislation (2012-H 7127) that would make full-day kindergarten mandatory, with a school day consisting of at least five-and-one-half hours of actual work.
Sen. Kettle introduces teachers’ ‘right to work’ bill
Sen. Nicholas D. Kettle (R-Dist. 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate) has introduced a “right to work” bill that would make union membership and dues optional for Rhode Island’s teachers. The bill (2012-S 2162) would put the issue before voters as a non-binding referendum question on the November election ballot.