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.
Primary offense for seatbelt violations in Rhode Island remains in place
With the 2011 seatbelt law set to expire on June 30, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the sunset provision so that failure to wear seatbelts by adults will remain a primary offense in Rhode Island. The House passed the bill (2013-H 5140), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) sponsors the Senate companion bill (2013-S 0352).
Senate OKs Crowley bill to use technology to catch Medicaid waste and fraud
The Senate approved legislation (2013-S 29A) sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) to require the state to use technology to screen Medicaid, RIte Care and RIte Share claims to prevent them from being paid to unlicensed, sanctioned or deceased providers and to detect other forms of potential Medicaid fraud. Similar legislation (2013-H 5303, 2013-H 5371) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph A. Trillo (R-Dist. 24, Warwick).
‘Kelsey Smith Act’ passed by House
The House of Representatives approved legislation (2013-H 5456A) to require telecommunications companies to provide mobile device location (ping) information to police in an emergency situation that involves the risk of death or serious physical harm. The measure – which has been enacted in several other states – is named for Kelsey Smith, an 18-year-old Kansas woman who, in 2007, was abducted and later found murdered. Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) introduced the House bill. The Senate has already passed its version of the bill (2013-S 0284Aaa) which was sponsored by Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).
Miller bill eliminates barriers to care by advanced
practice registered nurses
The Senate passed legislation (2013-S 614A) sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) allowing nurses with advanced degrees to practice to the fullest extent of their qualifications, without requiring doctors’ supervision for actions they are trained to perform. House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph S. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is sponsoring the bill (2013-H 5656A) in the House.
O’Grady bill would dedicate DMV fees to highway projects and public transit
Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) has introduced legislation aimed at transitioning Rhode Island toward a more predictable and reliable source of funding for transportation costs, road and bridge maintenance and public transit. The legislation (2013-H 5073) aims to stabilize the funding stream of both the Department of Transportation and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority by moving away from the current reliance on gasoline taxes, a revenue source that is steadily declining relative to inflation and in absolute terms as increased fuel efficiency leads to fewer gallons purchased at the pump, and dedicating license and registration fees to highway maintenance and public transit.
Goodwin sponsors ‘Made in Rhode Island’ bill
At a time when small businesses need all the help they can get, Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) has proposed legislation (2013-S 809) that would capitalize on Rhode Island pride by creating the “Made in Rhode Island” collaborative to help promote locally made products. Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) is sponsoring the legislation (2013-H 6030) in the House.
Shekarchi bill offers incentives for companies to hire
Legislation (2013-H 5302) introduced by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) would create the “New Qualified Job Incentive Act of 2013” to provide tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire “qualified” workers earning at least $55,000. Under the bill, large companies would receive a .25 percent credit against their corporate tax for every 50 hires, and small and medium sized business could receive a .25 percent income tax credit for every 10 hires.
Diaz, Metts praise Gov. Chafee’s executive order to encourage minority hiring
Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) lauded Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee for signing an executive order that calls for increased minority hiring and a bigger push to issue contracts to minority businesses. In the past, Representative Diaz and members of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus have met with the governor’s office to discuss the underrepresentation of the minority community in government and business.
Senate passes bill creating Joint Committee of the Repealer
The Senate approved legislation (2013-S 0682) to create a legislative Joint Committee of the Repealer, whose job it would be to comb through Rhode Island’s laws and suggest outdated statutes, such as those that may be hindering business development, to be repealed. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston). A companion House bill (2013-H 5207) was introduced by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth).
New RI scup fishing regulations address urban community interests
The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) approved an experimental shore-mode, scup fishery program for Rhode Island that increases fishing opportunities for all recreational fishermen and fisherwomen, particularly those from urban communities in the northern part of the state. The program allows people to fish for and retain smaller-sized scup from shore at the following three locations: India Point Park, Providence; Conimicut Point Park, Warwick; and Stone Bridge, Tiverton. Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) advocated for the policy change on behalf of the R.I. Legislative Black and Latino Caucus.