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.
Finance Committee OKs budget, bill headed to House
The House Finance Committee approved an amended $8.1 billion budget bill (2012-H 7323A) for the 2013 fiscal year that substantially restores previous cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled, accelerates implementation of the new school aid formula and assists Central Falls retirees, while avoiding many of the tax increases Governor Chafee proposed, including the expansion of the meals tax.
Compassion centers compromise bill becomes law
With General Assembly approval and the governors signature, legislation developed to address concerns that stalled licensing of Rhode Islands medical marijuana compassion centers is now law. The legislation (2012-S 2555A, 2012-H 7888A), sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), adds security measures and oversight, and limits the number of plants each facility can have at one time.
Bills introduced to set state share from Twin River, Newport Grand
Legislation has been introduced to maintain the success of the states two gaming facilities and preserve the revenue they generate, if voters approve allowing the venues to become full casinos. The legislation (2012-H 8213, 2012-S 3001) establishes the states share of table game proceeds at 18 percent at both facilities, although it lowers that rate to 16 percent at Twin River should that venue experience a sustained drop in revenue, and increases Newport Grands share of VLT revenues by 1.5 percent. Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) are the bill sponsors.
Assembly OKs changes to good time law
The General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) aimed at preventing those convicted of particularly serious crimes from earning time off their sentences for good behavior. The legislation (2012-H 7112A, 2012-S 2179A) was introduced in response to the potential release last year of Michael Woodmansee, convicted of killing 5-year-old Jason Foreman in 1975 in South Kingstown.
Senate OKs Davisville Port dredging bond, port marketing bills
The Senate passed two pieces of a five-bill package recommended by a commission that studied the potential economic benefits of future development of Rhode Islands ports and port facilities. Passed was a resolution (2012-S 2873) approving plans of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation to issue bonds for maintenance dredging at the Port of Davisville, and legislation (2012-S 2436Aaa) to establish a port marketing collaborative to develop a strategic plan for the states ports, facilities and maritime trades. Both Senate bills were introduced by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick). A House dredging bill (2012-H 7730A), already passed by the House, was sponsored by Rep. Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence); a House version of the port marketing bill (2012-H 7699A) was sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).
Mortgage conciliation legislation approved in House
The House has approved legislation (2012-H 7842), requested by the Office of the Attorney General, aimed at protecting homeowners by requiring mortgage service providers to participate in a conciliation process, with a goal of reaching an agreement between the parties that will avoid a foreclosure. Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) sponsored the House bill. A companion Senate bill (2012-S 2684) was introduced by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket).
House passes Hearn bill to increase penalties for leaving scenes of accidents
The House has passed a bill (2012-H 7467A) sponsored by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) to institute a mandatory suspension of an operators license in the instance that a driver is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily harm to an individual. This bill is among a few introduced during this legislative session after Providence City Council member Terry Hassett became the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
House OKs Edwards bill protecting rights of tenants in foreclosed properties
The House passed legislation sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) to essentially provide greater protection for tenants in danger of eviction in foreclosed properties for just cause. The bill (2012-H 7136A) clearly defines just cause needed for foreclosing property owners to evict tenants, and it also lays out a fair and distinct notification process which serves to protect tenants from unjust treatment and abrupt evictions by fully detailing their limitations and rights under the law. Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) sponsored the Senate companion bill (2012-S 2212).
Jobs Match Program passes Senate
Legislation to establish an easy-to-use, computer-based program to efficiently identify and address skills gaps among job seekers has been approved by the Senate. Sponsored by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), the bill (2012-S 2693A) calls for interagency collaboration to help businesses find competent employees and to help job seekers obtain necessary resources, training and skills development.
Legislation to create veteran-status licenses, IDs heads to governor
The General Assembly has given final approval to legislation that will allow Rhode Islanders who served in the military to have their veteran status displayed on state-issued drivers licenses and ID cards. Passed this week by the House and sent to the governor was (2012-S 2161Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton). The House bill (2012-H 7016B) was introduced by Rep. Peter Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport).