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 http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.
General Assembly passes redistricting bills, transmits them to governor
The General Assembly passed both the House and Senate redistricting bills (2012-H 7209Aaa, 2012-S 2178Aaa), and sent them to Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) introduced the bills in their respective chambers. They also served as co-chairmen of the Special Commission on Reapportionment, which was charged with overseeing the public hearing process and leading discussion on map alternatives of House, Senate and congressional district lines.
2013 state budget process begins
House Finance Committee Chairman Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) introduced Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s proposed 2013 state budget (2012-H 7323). The $7.9 billion proposal includes $39 million in additional aid to education, $44 million in cuts to state spending and $88 million in increased revenue, including taxes on restaurant meals, cigarettes, clothing items over $175, bed-and-breakfast stays and vacation rentals, as well as higher driver’s license and registration fees. The House and Senate finance committees will vet the plan in hearings over the next several months.
Pichardo, Diaz reintroduce immigrant in-state tuition bill
Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) introduced twin bills (2012-S 2279, 2012-H 7340) that would grant all students, regardless of immigration status, the opportunity to go to college at in-state tuition rates. The legislators joined members of the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities at a news conference to shed light on their proposal.
Serpa aims to crack down on Medicaid fraud
The House Finance Committee has recommended the passage of a resolution requesting Gov. Lincoln Chafee to implement programs and methodology to improve the program integrity of both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the state. Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) introduced the bill (2012-H 7235A), calling for a crackdown on Medicaid fraud and pointing out potential savings in the millions.
House, Senate bills call for funding to fight homelessness
Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to address Rhode Island’s growing problem of homelessness. The bills (2012-H 7265, 2012-S 2203) call for $12.5 million in funding for the Neighborhood Opportunities Program in the next fiscal budget, and also for a bond issue on the November ballot to provide $75 million for housing programs. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and the Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield).
Senate Majority Leader introduces bill to ban animal devocalization
Calling it inhumane to take away an animals voice for any reason other than medical urgency, Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2193) that would allow animal devocalization (also called debarking) only if a licensed veterinarian has deemed it a medical necessity for the animal.
Legislation would create Return to Work program
Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2012-H 7252) to establish a Return to Work program overseen by the Department of Labor and Training. Under the bill, unemployed residents would be allowed to continue receiving benefits while involved in an approved job training program with a Rhode Island employer.
House committee hears teacher collective bargaining bill
The House Committee on Labor heard testimony on legislation (2012-H 7250) that provides that if a successor collective bargaining agreement for teachers has not been agreed to by the parties, the terms and conditions of the old contract would remain in effect until a new agreement is reached. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston).
Bill seeks to strengthen fight against computer crime, increase Internet safety
Rep. Peter Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport) has introduced legislation, in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General, dealing with online crime and Internet safety. The bill (2012-H 7042) would create four new crimes addressing online conduct, including online impersonation and dissemination of indecent material, and would revise existing statutes dealing with cyberstalking and cyberharassment.