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/
‘Good time bill’ passes Senate, goes to House Judiciary Committee for hearing
The full Senate passed legislation referred to as the “good time bill,” introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin in January. The Senate voted 32-2 in favor of the legislation (2012-S 2179), which prevents inmates who are serving one or multiple terms for murder, kidnapping of a minor, first-degree sexual assault, or first or second-degree child molestation from earning a reduced sentence as a result of good behavior. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Rep. Teresa Tanzi’s (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) companion bill.
Committees hear hospital conversions bill
The House Corporations Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee held hearings on legislation (2012-H 7283, 2012-S 2180) sponsored by House Majority Leader Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) to lift limits on the purchase of hospitals in Rhode Island by for-profit companies. The bill was filed at the request of Steward Health Care System, the company that has applied to purchase Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket.
Finance committees begin work on 2013 state budget
The House and Senate Finance Committees began their meetings on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s 2013 budget proposal (2012-H 7323). The Senate began hearings on individual articles, while the House held a staff briefing on the bill and will begin hearings next week.
House approves addition of gender identity to hate crimes law
The House approved legislation (2012-H 7111) sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 3, Providence) to include gender identity and expression in the definition of motivations for hate crimes tracked by state law.
Naughton, Metts introduce bills to ease pressure in state education assessments
Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) introduced the Paul W. Crowley Rhode Island Investment Initiative in the form of two bills (2012-H 7413, 2012-S 2274) mandating that no state assessment or standardized testing would be used to determine a student’s eligibility to graduate from high school. If enacted, it would also mandate that parents and guardians receive written notifications if their child is performing below the standard on any state assessments.
Ferri, Pichardo want end to high-interest payday loans
With the support of two-thirds of the General Assembly and a broad community coalition, Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) renewed their push for legislation (2012-H 7257, 2012-S 2307) to strip lenders of payday loans of a special exemption to usury laws that allows them to charge annual interest rates as high as 260 percent. The legislation would make them subject to the same 36-percent limit that applies to other lenders.
Comprehensive sex offender bill introduced in House
Legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to set sex offender registration and notification requirements, move the responsibility of sex offender registry to the State Police and replace the current offender tier assessment system with an offense-based system. The bill (2012-H 7075), the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), was sponsored by Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston).
House, Senate bills aim to crack down on deadbeat parents
Bills have been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives to lower the amount of money, from $10,000 to $5,000, a parent can fall behind in child support payments before facing a criminal, felony charge. The Senate bill (2012-S 2152) was introduced by Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield) and the House bill (2012-H 7174) was sponsored by Rep. Peter John Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston).
McLaughlin introduces reckless driving bill with harsher penalties
Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) submitted a bill titled the “Medeiros/Carpenter Safe Driving Act” (2012-H 7207), which would ultimately enable the court system to consider the condition of an operator’s motor vehicle when he or she is charged with driving to endanger, resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
Legislative Black History Month celebration held in House chamber
The third annual Legislative Black History Month Celebration was held in the House chamber, jointly sponsored by the General Assembly and the Rhode Island Black & Latino Caucus of State Legislators. Emceed by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), chairwoman of the caucus, the event’s keynote speaker this year was Corey D. B. Walker, associate professor and chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University.