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.
Nine-bill gun safety package unveiled
House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and State Police Superintendent Col. Steven G. O’Donnell addressed a State House news conference to unveil a nine-bill package of gun safety legislation. The bills are intended to improve gun safety and strengthen existing laws dealing with firearms violations. Among other things, the bills call for a ban on the sale of assault weapons, require national criminal background checks and create a task force to review laws related to mental health and substance abuse issues as they pertain to firearms statutes.
Senate bill calls for long-term economic development strategy
The Senate approved legislation that is one of the primary pieces of the “Moving the Needle” package of bills intended to improve the state’s business climate. Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), the bill (2013-S 0712) requires a long-term economic development strategy for the state and requires that each new or re-elected gubernatorial administration convene a broad group of stakeholders to review, revisit and revise the long-term plan every four years.
Bill calls for electronic monitor in certain domestic violence cases
To increase protection for victims of domestic violence, Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5963) that will allow the courts, in certain circumstances, to order an individual who is the subject of a protective order or no contact order to wear an electronic monitoring device.
House Oversight Committee issues report on 2012 election study
The House Oversight Committee issued its final report on the 2012 election, listing findings and recommendations stemming from a series of hearings on problems encountered during the November balloting. While the committee said the vast majority of polling places reported no problems, the report does call for better overall election planning, more training for poll workers and the purchase of new voting machines.
Senate approves school emergency drill standards
The Senate approved legislation (2013-S 0014Aaa) sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport and Tiverton) to align state law involving school fire drills with national standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) life safety codes. The bill will require monthly fire drills for all schools through high school, plus one additional drill within the first 30 days of the school year, two lockdown drills and two evacuation drills. Similar legislation (2013-H 5152A) is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).
Pearson bill puts pressure on cities, towns to practice financial responsibility
Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) is sponsoring legislation to permit the general treasurer to withhold state aid to municipalities that don’t fully fund their annual required contribution to a locally administered pension plan. The bill (2013-S 0522) directs the general treasurer to place state aid into an interest-bearing account until the municipality presents a satisfactory plan for funding.
Bill would make distracted driver issues part of driver’s license exam
To make sure new motorists are aware of driving distractions and how to avoid them, the House approved legislation (2013-H 5655) to require distracted driver issues, including cell phone use, to be tested as part of the state’s driver’s license exam. The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston). An identical Senate bill (2013-S 0660) has been introduced by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).
Goodwin bill gets tough on graffiti
Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) would crack down on graffiti by increasing penalties and holding perpetrators responsible for the damage they cause. The legislation (2013-S 0548) would make graffiti a felony when it causes more than $1,000 in damage, makes up to a year of jail time a possible penalty, and adds several provisions requiring offenders to make restitution to victims.
Bill gives museums a way to handle unclaimed loaned items
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) have introduced legislation (2013-S 676, 2013-H 5828) to allow museums to become owners of items that have been loaned to them if they can’t find the original owners. If the owner can’t be found, the museum would list the item in the state’s “Unclaimed Property” list for at least six months. If no owner comes forward, the museum would be allowed to exhibit, conserve, transfer or dispose of items without risk of liability.