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 OKs casino bill for Newport Grand table games
The House passed a bill that would allow table games at Newport Grand, subject to the approval of the voters of the state and the city of Newport at the next general election. The legislation (2012-H 7543), introduced by Rep. J. Russell Jackson (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), has been referred to the Senate for consideration. The legislation (2012-S 2695) is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
House bill calls for Casino Impact Task Force
Saying Rhode Island decision-makers should have a handle on what impact Bay State casinos will have on the revenues the Ocean State derives from its two gaming facilities, Rep. Joseph A. Trillo (R-Dist. 24, Warwick) and Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) have proposed creation of a commission to study the impact of casino development in Massachusetts. The bill proposes a five-member panel to study and develop a strategy for minimizing any negative impact on Rhode Island’s gambling venues.
Senate OKs bill requiring collection of DNA from violent crime suspects
The Senate has approved legislation to require the collection of DNA samples from any person arrested for a crime of violence. The state already collects DNA from those convicted of violent crimes. Modeled on Katie’s Law, which has been enacted in 25 other states, the bill (2012-S 2061) was sponsored by Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol). An identical House bill (2012-H 7056) has been introduced by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly).
Senate passes bill to speed building permitting
The Senate passed legislation to stop delays in the issuance of local building permits when cutting into curbs. Introduced by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick), the bill (2012-S 2289) is a component of the Senate’s 2012 Making It Easy to Do Business in Rhode Island package of legislation. The identical House bill (2012-H 7767), introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Warwick, Coventry), is before the House Committee on Municipal Government.
Rep. Carnevale eyes municipal payments from nonprofits
In an effort to provide financial relief to communities that house institutions of higher learning or other nonprofit organizations, Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) has introduced three bills. One (2012-H 7450) will allow municipalities to seek reimbursement for essential services provided to tax-exempt properties. Another (2012-H 7722) will allow municipalities to assess private colleges and universities a $150-per-semester fee for each dormitory in the municipality. The third (2012-H 7915) will exclude from tax exemption any property, income or profits of an educational institution from activities not involving education.
Finance Committees take testimony on increased meals tax
The House and Senate finance committees heard testimony from many Rhode Islanders and those in the restaurant industry about Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s budget proposal (2012-H 7323) to add an additional 2 percent to the current 8-percent meals and beverages tax to raise revenues.
Rep. Morrison fights for diplomas for all graduates
Concerned that children with disabilities or involved in an individualized education plan may not be eligible for a diploma because of new rules going into effect in 2014, Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) has introduced a bill (2012-H 7826) to provide that students who complete graduation requirements of an IEP approved by a school district will be awarded a diploma and not just a certificate of achievement.
Senate passes bills in favor of promoting advanced placement class training
The Senate approved bills from Senators Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) and Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) to provide more supports for individuals teaching advanced placement courses. Senator Gallo’s bill (2012-S 2356) establishes an AP teacher training program in the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to prepare teachers for AP courses in four core academic subjects, including English, mathematics, science, and social science, in high schools that do not have at least one AP course available in each of those subjects. Senator Pichardo’s legislation (2012-S 2275) would direct the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education to establish clear training guidelines for those teaching AP courses, as well as those who are preparing students for AP classes.
Cimini bill would allow Medicaid expansion for family planning
Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence) has introduced legislation (2012-H 7710) aimed at bringing Rhode Island in line with 22 other states that provide Medicaid coverage for family planning to low-income women who would qualify for Medicaid if pregnant. The legislation is aimed at helping low-income Rhode Islanders plan their families responsibly and prevent unintended pregnancies that are costly both to those families and to taxpayers. Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket) is sponsoring the legislation (2012-S 2553) in the Senate.
Senate gives nod to CRMC restructuring to coincide with separation of powers
The Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that would change the composition of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to comply with the separation of powers constitutional amendment. The bill (2012-S 2190) would change the membership from 14 to 12 members and allow municipal appointed members who no longer hold their elected or appointed positions to continue to serve on the CRMC. It would also increase the governor’s appointments from the general public from three to seven.