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 hurricane insurance bill with more protections for homeowners
The House has approved legislation (2012-H 7484A) intended to provide additional consumer protections for Rhode Island homeowners with hurricane insurance. Sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), the bill limits a hurricane deductible to only once per hurricane season, provides a mediation process for claims and directs the Department of Business Regulation to set rules regarding the declaration of a catastrophe in the state. An identical Senate bill (2012-S 2597) was introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick).
House Judiciary committee hears marijuana decriminalization bill
The House Committee on Judiciary heard testimony on legislation (2012-H 7092) to decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, making it a civil offense with fines starting at $150. The House bill was introduced by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth); a Senate version of the bill (2012-S 2253) has been sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday.
Senate bill enables municipalities to assess tax on exempt properties
Legislation (2012-S 2786) has been introduced in the Senate to allow municipalities to assess a reduced tax on currently exempt institutions (educational institutions, hospitals) at a rate of 25 percent of the taxes that would have been charged had the property been fully taxable. The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) and co-sponsored by other members of the Senate’s Providence delegation.
Bill sets safety guidelines for children’s jewelry
Despite a federal ban on the use of certain toxic metals in children’s charms and jewelry, potentially dangerous materials such as cadmium, lead and nickel are still being found in those items. Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2482) to require any jewelry intended for children under 12 that is sold in Rhode Island to conform with American Society for Testing and Materials safety standards.
Sen. Metts bill aims to give ex-offenders a chance
Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) has introduced legislation (2012-S 2490) to establish a certificate of good conduct to be awarded to parolees who meet certain eligibility requirements. The certificate is intended to help ex-offenders in their efforts to seek employment, housing and other services.
Task force recommends keeping DCYF children from switching schools often
The Joint Task Force on the Education of Children and Youth in the Care of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families issued its final report, recommending that the state work harder to prevent students in DCYF or other state custody from being moved from school to school. Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Rep. Eileen Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) have introduced legislation in the Senate (2012-S 2711) and the House (2012-H 7831) that clarify the right of every child to remain in one school district throughout their time in foster care, as long as remaining there is in his or her best interest.
Nunes, Tanzi want to open farmers markets to local beer, wine vendors
Representatives Jared R. Nunes (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) and Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) want to make room for local brewers and winegrowers to sell their products at farmers markets, something that has been at least partially implemented in other New England states like Massachusetts and Vermont. The bill (2012-H 7301) also calls for increasing the amounts of ingredients that may be imported to produce double the amounts of wine currently allowable during the first years of operation and the creation of a farmer brewer’s license.
Senate Commission on Sustainable Transportation Funding holds first meeting
The Senate Study Commission on Sustainable Transportation Funding held the first in a series of meetings to discuss the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). The Senate Commission on Sustainable Transportation Funding, co-chaired by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), was created in 2010 to develop and outline recommendations to replace or supplement the gas tax as the principle source of state funding for transportation. The commission’s goal is also to provide viable options to strengthen transportation financing and to ensure the state maintains and invests in its infrastructure.
DeSimone joins call for restoring YESS funds
Legislators, advocates and youth came together at a press conference and called for the restoration of funding to the YESS voluntary aftercare program, which serves youth ages 18-21 who have aged out of Rhode Island’s foster care system. Among those legislators was Rep. John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence), who asked his fellow lawmakers to consider how many children planning to exit foster care could face the possibility of homelessness. Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s proposed budget for the State Fiscal Year 2013 includes a 19 percent cut to the YESS program.
Morgan wishes to rescind Caruolo Act
Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has submitted a bill (2012-H 7757) that would repeal the Caruolo Act and give city and town councils the ability to ratify collective bargaining agreements negotiated by School Committees. The Caruolo Act, enacted in 1995, allows school districts to sue their municipalities for more money if it believes the schools are being underfunded.