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/.
Phillips reintroduces bill to lower state cigarette tax
Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket) introduced legislation that would lower the cigarette tax by $1 per pack in an effort to make the state more competitive with its neighbors, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Similar to a bill he introduced last year, the legislation (2012-H 7639) aims to draw more revenue back into Rhode Island with competitive prices. The bill will be especially helpful for “border communities,” Phillips said.
Senate OKs bill calling for audit of state's debit services firm
The Senate has approved legislation calling on the governor to request an immediate audit of JP Morgan Chase, the corporation that is under contract with the state to provide and administer debit card services. Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), who introduced the bill (2012-S 2029aa), said he called for the audit to determine the debit card fees the company is imposing and collecting for itself. Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) has introduced companion legislation (2012-H 7589) in the House.
Silva requests meeting with governor over Central Falls receiver’s chief of staff
Rep. Agostinho F. Silva (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) requested a meeting between the Central Falls delegation and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to settle matters regarding the allegations against Gayle Corrigan, the chief of staff for Central Falls receiver Robert Flanders. According to a news report, Corrigan was fired by her previous employer for “profiting from a secret scheme.”
Hull bill requires periodic inspections for electric utilities equipment
Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence) introduced a bill (2012-H 7632) that would require electric utilities to conduct periodic inspections of equipment.
Gallo introduces bill to provide more accessibility to full-day kindergarten
Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2534) that will expand the availability of full-day kindergarten. Supported by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, the bill calls on the state to offset a portion of reasonable startup costs for a few communities that provide full-day kindergarten to fewer than 50 percent of students.
Rep. Morrison bill would dissolve Turnpike and Bridge Authority
Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) has introduced legislation (2012-H 7457) to dissolve the quasi-public Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, moving all its duties and functions to the Department of Transportation. He suggested that by eliminating the authority and placing its functions within the DOT, the resulting efficiencies might eliminate the need to place tolls on the bridges, or raise the toll prices.
Rep. Azzinaro bill targets price gouging
Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) has introduced a bill (2012-H 7409) to prohibit individuals and retailers of essential commodities, such as home heating fuels, motor fuels, food and water, from engaging in price gouging during a market emergency or upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the governor or a federal disaster declaration. In the process of investigating why gasoline in his part of the state is generally more expensive than it is in the rest of Rhode Island, Representative Azzinaro discovered that Rhode Island has no law against price gouging.
Sen. Kettle proposes license plate for ‘Gold Star’ military families
Sen. Nicholas D. Kettle (R-Dist. 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2382) to allow the biological parent, step-parent, adoptive parent, spouse, sibling or child of a member of the United States armed services who lost his or her life while on active duty to obtain a specialty “Gold Star Family” license plate. Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) is sponsoring the bill (2012-H 7101) in the House.