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15,707
  
STATE HOUSE – The House and the Senate expect to reconvene to consider several bills the week of July 13. Committee hearings are being scheduled in both chambers next week.

The House is expected to reconvene for session on Thursday, July 16, and hearings will be held by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 7; the House Labor Committee on Wednesday, July 8; and the House Municipal Government Committee on Thursday, July 9. More details will be announced when agendas are posted for the committee hearings. A floor calendar will be posted ahead of the session.

Additionally, the House Finance Committee will resume its deliberations on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and related legislation on Wednesday, July 8, at 4 p.m. in Room 35. The Finance Committee will hold budget hearings over the next several weeks in anticipation of budget consideration in August. Legislators are still awaiting guidance from Congress on the level of federal support to states for budget relief. 

The Senate is also expected to post committee hearings next week, in anticipation of returning to session sometime during the week of July 13. The Senate Finance Committee has posted hearings on 2021 budget articles Tuesday, July 7, and Thursday, July 9, both at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. More hearings will be posted in the coming days.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions and hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman in the House at lberman@rilegislature.gov and Greg Paré in the Senate at gpare@rilegislature.gov.
7/2/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
6
http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statehouse_smith-street_jpg.jpgYesApproved
The House and the Senate expect to reconvene to consider several bills the week of July 13. Committee hearings are being scheduled in both chambers next week.


YesYesApproved3709797/2/2020 4:14 PMSystem Account7/2/2020 4:15 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,704
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today announced the appointment of a special legislative task force that will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The task force, created by legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate June 18, is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who will serve on the task force. “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The 13-member task force will include:
·         Senator Metts
·         Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence)
·         Sen. Gordon E. Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich)
·         Attorney General Peter F. Neronha
·         State Police Superintendent Col. James M. Manni
·         Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr.
·         Rhode Island Human Rights Commission Executive Director Michael Évora
·         NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent
·         Anthony Capezza Jr., representing the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
·         Latino Policy Institute Director Marcela Betancur
·         Providence External Review Board Executive Director Jose F. Batista
·         Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr.
·         Rev. Chontell N. Washington
          
The resolution creating the task force calls for it to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural

The task force is expected to hold its first meeting in the coming weeks. The resolution creating it sets its reporting date as Feb. 9, 2021.

6/29/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/law-enforcement_jpg.jpgYesApproved
The Senate today announced the appointment of a special legislative task force that will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
YesYesApproved3709766/29/2020 1:03 PMSystem Account7/2/2020 4:12 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,706
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) introduced a House resolution (2020-H 8027) honoring United States Army First Lieutenant Robert T. Waugh, a Rhode Island native and the recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service during World War II. 

“First Lieutenant Waugh was born in Cumberland and he received our nation’s highest military honor due to his heroic and incredible actions during World War II.  It is only fitting that his home state recognize his courageous actions that resulted in a great turning point for the Allies during the war.  First Lieutenant Waugh and all of Rhode Island’s military service members deserve all of our thanks and gratitude for their dedication and sacrifices in order to keep us safe and free,” said Representative Marszalkowski.

At a battle at the Gustav Line, a heavily fortified German defensive line in Italy that was defended by fifteen German Divisions, First Lieutenant Waugh destroyed six bunkers, two pillboxes, and was personally responsible for numerous enemy fatalities and the capture of 25 others. He was credited for inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue fighting on under dire conditions, and played a vital role in the ultimate breaking of the Gustav Line. 

For his heroic service to our nation in Italy during World War II, First Lieutenant Waugh received the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor “For his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy.”

Tragically, on May 19, 1944, Second Lieutenant Robert T. Waugh perished in service to our nation when he was hit by shrapnel. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and is buried in Italy. On the 15th Anniversary of the Gustav Line battles and the creation of this cemetery, President Bill Clinton visited First Lieutenant Robert Waugh’s gravesite.

6/30/2020RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/52-Marszalkowski_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3709786/30/2020 12:25 PMSystem Account6/30/2020 12:25 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
15,705
  
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), Speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives, and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) have announced that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, working in conjunction with National Grid will be completing the resurfacing of a portion of Potter Hill Road in Westerly.

In the last two years, National Grid has been replacing the gas lines in the road, which resulted in piecemeal asphalt patches on the road surface. While National Grid is required to resurface half the road from the center line to the curb, the lawmakers worked with them and RIDOT to pursue a more cost-effective manner of resurfacing the road.

“Senator Algiere and I worked together with DOT to get an agreement to resurface the road from the Hopkinton town line in Potter Hill to Nichols Lane before funding ran out,” said Representative Kennedy. “Since then, we have been working with DOT to identify additional funding to complete the resurfacing project from Nichols Lane to the Intersection of High and Canal streets.”

“The new funding has been approved by DOT and the remaining repaving will take place in July,” said Senator Algiere. “Whenever there are infrastructure projects, it’s important to coordinate the plans so all the different parties — the state, the town, and utility companies — are all on the same page. Having the whole road resurfaced at once instead of in a piecemeal fashion is much better economically and aesthetically.”
6/29/2020SenRep. Brian Kennedy; Sen. Dennis Algiere; #13; #84; Daniel Trafford
24
NoApproved
NoYesApproved3709776/29/2020 2:46 PMSystem Account6/29/2020 2:46 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,689
  
STATE HOUSE – A special legislative task force will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate today.

The task force is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The resolution (2020-S 2867) calls for the task force to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies.

The 13-member task force is to  include three senators, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (who plans to serve in person rather than send a designee), the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police or a designee, a police chief of a Rhode Island law enforcement agency, the executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or a designee, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Providence Branch or a designee, the President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO or a designee, the executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University or a designee, one of whom shall be the executive director of the Providence External Review Authority or a designee and two members of the public.

“I’m encouraged by the many calls I have received seeking a seat on the commission, and people’s willingness to testify and participate,” said Senator Metts.

Senator Metts said bringing the proper balance of voices is his goal. He is determined that, with many stakeholders at the table, the task force can take an honest look at the system and its effects and propose improvements.

The resolution sets a reporting date for the task force of Feb. 9, 2021.
6/18/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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http://www.rilegislature.gov/////pressrelease/Pictures/_w/law-enforcement_jpg.jpgNoApproved
A special legislative task force will review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate.


NoYesApproved3709616/18/2020 8:11 PMSystem Account6/29/2020 1:04 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,703
  
STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law a 2020 supplemental budget bill, passed by legislators last week, that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill (2020-H 7170Aaa), which passed the House 60-13 and the Senate 31-7 on June 18, makes use of additional federal funding provided to the state to help it weather the pandemic, as well as taking $120 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to make up for revenue losses approaching $300 million. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in new unemployment claims, most of which is covered by federal funds.

“The COVID crisis devastated our economy and the lost revenues placed tremendous stress on the current year budget, forcing us to make many tough choices in order to balance our books by June 30.  Despite these difficult times, however, we reconfirmed our commitment to education, ensuring local schools have nearly $10 million more in resources than they were expecting. Once we receive further guidance on additional federal assistance to all states, we will work to enact a responsible budget for the next fiscal year with the appropriate investments in education aid, municipal assistance and programs to strengthen our economy,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). 

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “This supplemental budget memorializes the spending of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funds, as well as the state’s response to help Rhode Islanders weather this pandemic. We are eagerly awaiting decisions from Congress on our federal assistance for the next fiscal year, and are optimistic that it will enable Rhode Island to maintain the progress we have made on taxation and continue investing in fundamentals like education, roads and bridges and a strong safety net while we work on fully reopening, rebuilding and strengthening our economy.”

The bill distributes $50 million of the state’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to school districts, weighted toward those with high concentrations of low-income students. This funding is in addition to $41.7 million already earmarked by Congress for schools in the CARES Act funding, which the budget assumes will replace part of the state’s obligations to local school districts.

To address the budget shortfall, the bill shifts about $35 million in personnel costs to the federal CARES Act funding for state employees whose duties shifted to pandemic response. Similarly, state higher education institutions will receive $29.5 million of CARES Act funding, allowing the state to reduce its support by $15 million.

The bill reallocated unspent funds from some agencies, including $17.8 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, $300,000 in unspent funds from Department of Environmental Management bond issues, $500,000 from forfeited assets collected by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and $15 million from the Rebuild RI tax credit program.

Part of the state’s budget gap is attributable to a billing and compliance issues at the Eleanor Slater
Hospital. From August until February, the hospital was not in compliance with federal Medicaid rules, and that other patients could not be billed through Medicaid or Medicare as expected, resulting in $50.1 million in revenue losses that had to be accounted for in the supplemental budget. Unresolved prior billing issues account for another $14.6 million. The state could face an additional $12.2 million in costs if the Executive Office of Health and Human Services does not meet a June 30 deadline to address the billing issue.

Overall, the supplemental budget increases the state budget from $9.97 billion to $11.79 billion, largely as a result of the expenditure of federal funding, most of which has already occurred.

The supplemental budget addresses the current fiscal year. Typically, lawmakers address current-year budget gaps in the budget bill for the next fiscal year, but the state is awaiting federal action on additional relief for states. Lawmakers are expected to return to the State House this summer to address the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 after the federal funding level is known.
6/24/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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http://www.rilegislature.gov///pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statehouse_night_jpg.jpgYesApproved
The governor has signed into law a 2020 supplemental budget bill, passed by legislators last week, that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
YesYesApproved3709756/25/2020 9:58 AMSystem Account6/25/2020 10:02 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,696
  
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams announced today that the General Assembly would be removing “and Providence Plantations” from official General Assembly documents. The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Governor Raimondo announcing ‘RIse Together’ actions for a more equitable and resilient Rhode Island, including the removal of references to “Plantations” from executive branch documents.

The legislators each have sponsored in their respective chambers legislation (2020-S 2902aa, 2020-H 8077) to ask the voters in November whether to change the state’s official name to simply “The State of Rhode Island.” The House leadership has announced that they plan to consider the name change resolution, and the Senate has passed it.

Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who traces his lineage on his mother’s side to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, said, “The word ‘plantations’ conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders. Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation’s racist past. ‘Plantations’ brings to mind the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans, slave sales that tore families apart, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us.”

Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) said, “The removal of this word with hateful connotations for Rhode Island’s community of color from our official state name will go a long way toward the healing process that is necessary to overcome 400 years of racial inequality, oppression and injustice.  I applaud the governor and the General Assembly for taking actions today as steps in this important process to strike a word that is associated with dehumanization and enslavement.”
 
At the Assembly, the “Plantations” language can be found on Senate and House citations, some letterhead, and even in resolutions passed by the chambers.

In a joint statement, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello said: “We both support placing on the ballot this November the decision whether to remove the word ‘and Providence Plantations’ from the state’s name.  In the meantime, we know this is an important issue to a lot of people, so the General Assembly will be removing the reference to ‘Plantations’ from Assembly documents.”
 
 

6/22/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #91; #10; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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http://www.rilegislature.gov///pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statesealelevator_jpg.jpgYesApproved
Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams announced today that the General Assembly would be removing “and Providence Plantations” from official General Assembly documents. The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Governor Raimondo announcing ‘RIse Together’ actions for a more equitable and resilient Rhode Island, including the removal of references to “Plantations” from executive branch documents.


YesYesApproved3709686/22/2020 2:51 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 10:01 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,690
  
STATE HOUSE  — The Senate voted unanimously today in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to ask voters in November whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.

Because the name change requires a constitutional change, it must be approved by the voters to take effect.

Senator Metts, along with Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), led the drive to change the state’s name a decade ago as well. In 2009, he sponsored the Senate version of the resolution that placed a similar question on the 2010 General Election ballot. The question was defeated by the voters, but Senator Metts believes the time has come to ask the public again.

 “A decade has passed since the public was asked this question. Attitudes may have changed substantially, even in the past few years — and even in the past few weeks,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation.”

He continued, “The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us. Not unlike the debate over the Confederate flag, retaining the term does nothing to memorialize history but conjures an unnecessary and painful reminder of our racist past.”

The senator noted that his own church, Congdon Street Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, was demolished by its white neighbors on Meeting Street in Providence before it was rebuilt in its current location. His own maternal lineage can be traced back to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, according his great, great aunt, Bertha Hawkins-Cooper, who lived to be 106 years old.

“Making this change would pay some respect to our ancestors who were forced into slavery, and would stop serving as a constant reminder to present-day Rhode Islanders of our painful past,” he said.

The joint resolution (2020-S 2902aa) now goes to the House of Representatives, which also must approve in order for the question to be placed on the ballot. Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) introduced companion legislation (2020-H 8077) in that chamber today.

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist 2, Providence), President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D–Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D–Dist. 1, Providence). 
 

6/18/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
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The Senate voted unanimously today in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to ask voters in November whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.
NoYesApproved3709626/18/2020 8:17 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 10:00 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,681
  
Supplemental budget, limited other bills to be voted on
 
The House and Senate are planning to hold session Wednesday and Thursday to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year as well as a limited number of other bills. 

The FY20 supplemental budget bill would address the approximately $235 million shortfall in the current-year budget that must be addressed before the end of the fiscal year June 30. The bill addresses only the budget shortfall, no new policy initiatives. The House and Senate Finance committees have held several hearings in recent weeks assessing the shortfall and potential solutions.

The House Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday to consider amendments to the supplemental budget bill (2020-H 7170), which was introduced in January. The amendments, which will be posted on the General Assembly website by Monday at 3 p.m., are to address updated budget conditions.

The House will meet Wednesday to address a limited number of other bills, and again Thursday to consider the supplemental budget bill.

The Senate has scheduled session Wednesday for consideration of appointments as well as limited other bills, and Thursday for consideration of the amended supplemental budget bill, which is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

The General Assembly is expected to return to session at a later date to address the FY21 budget. Proceedings on that bill have been delayed to account for information on federal funding related to COVID-19, expected to be known in July.

 
The schedule for the week will be:
MONDAY, JUNE 15:
  • The House Municipal Government Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in the House Lounge to consider bills. Testimony may be submitted to dhuntley@rilegislature.gov.
  • The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge for a discussion about the COVID-19 public health crisis with Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The agenda will include a resolution sponsored by Senator Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) to establish a Senate task force examining the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. Additionally, the committee will hear a pair of bills submitted on behalf of Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office related to the Hospital Conversion Act and civil investigative demands in instances of violations of civil rights, as well as routine bills related to solemnization of marriage. Testimony may be submitted to at slegislation@rilegislature.gov.
 
TUESDAY, JUNE 16
  • The House Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in Room 35 to consider the amended supplemental budget bill. Testimony may be submitted to cobrien@rilegislature.gov.
  • The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 4 p.m.in the Senate Lounge to review revisions to the supplemental budget proposal. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee will hear and/or consider legislation requested by the League of Cities & Towns pertaining to local budget operations during a state of emergency, as well as local bills and a treasury appointment. Testimony may be submitted to slegislation@rilegislature.gov.
                                                                                                                             
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17
  • The House will meet at 3 p.m. to consider bills that have been approved by the House Finance, Judiciary and Municipal Government committees.  The floor calendar will be posted on Monday. 
  • The Senate will meet at 4 p.m. to consider appointments and matters passed by the Senate committees over the past several weeks.
 
THURSDAY, JUNE 18
 
  • The House will meet at 3 p.m. to consider the supplemental budget, assuming approval by the Finance Committee on Tuesday. The House will stand ready to receive matters from the Senate.  
  •  The Senate will meet at 5 p.m. to consider the revised supplemental budget proposal and additional business from the House.
The sessions and hearing will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They are also live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Due to COVID-19, the State House remains closed to the public, so only legislators, staff, members of the news media and visitors on official business are permitted into the building.

Plexiglass enclosures are being installed to shield the front and sides of each legislator’s desk. While members are not being required to wear masks while in their desk enclosures, they are being required to wear them elsewhere in the building and are being asked to practice safe social distancing. They are also being encouraged to watch the proceedings in offices throughout the building during longer debates and to return to the chamber to vote or speak. Enhanced sanitization of work areas is being performed.

6/12/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
6
http://www.rilegislature.gov////pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statehouse_night_jpg.jpgNoApproved
Supplemental budget, limited other bills to be voted on
 
The House and Senate are planning to hold session Wednesday and Thursday to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year as well as a limited number of other bills. 


NoYesApproved3709526/12/2020 4:26 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 9:59 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,692
  
STATE HOUSE – With votes in both chambers today, legislators approved a supplemental budget that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will now go to the governor’s desk.

The bill (2020-H 7170Aaa), which passed the House 60-13 and the Senate 31-7, makes use of additional federal funding provided to the state to help it weather the pandemic, as well as taking $120 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to make up for revenue losses approaching $300 million. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in new unemployment claims, most of which is covered by federal funds.

“The COVID crisis devastated our economy and the lost revenues placed tremendous stress on the current year budget, forcing us to make many tough choices in order to balance our books by June 30.  Despite these difficult times, however, we reconfirmed our commitment to education, ensuring local schools have nearly $10 million more in resources than they were expecting. Once we receive further guidance on additional federal assistance to all states, we will work to enact a responsible budget for the next fiscal year with the appropriate investments in education aid, municipal assistance and programs to strengthen our economy,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). 

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “This supplemental budget memorializes the spending of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funds, as well as the state’s response to help Rhode Islanders weather this pandemic. We are eagerly awaiting decisions from Congress on our federal assistance for the next fiscal year, and are optimistic that it will enable Rhode Island to maintain the progress we have made on taxation and continue investing in fundamentals like education, roads and bridges and a strong safety net while we work on fully reopening, rebuilding and strengthening our economy.”

The bill distributes $50 million of the state’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to school districts, weighted toward those with high concentrations of low-income students. This funding is in addition to $41.7 million already earmarked by Congress for schools in the CARES Act funding, which the budget assumes will replace part of the state’s obligations to local school districts.

To address the budget shortfall, the bill shifts about $35 million in personnel costs to the federal CARES Act funding for state employees whose duties shifted to pandemic response. Similarly, state higher education institutions will receive $29.5 million of CARES Act funding, allowing the state to reduce its support by $15 million.

The bill reallocated unspent funds from some agencies, including $17.8 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, $300,000 in unspent funds from Department of Environmental Management bond issues, $500,000 from forfeited assets collected by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and $15 million from the Rebuild RI tax credit program.

Part of the state’s budget gap is attributable to a billing and compliance issues at the Eleanor Slater Hospital. From August until February, the hospital was not in compliance with federal Medicaid rules, and that other patients could not be billed through Medicaid or Medicare as expected, resulting in $50.1 million in revenue losses that had to be accounted for in the supplemental budget. Unresolved prior billing issues account for another $14.6 million. The state could face an additional $12.2 million in costs if the Executive Office of Health and Human Services does not meet a June 30 deadline to address the billing issue.

Overall, the supplemental budget increases the state budget from $9.97 billion to $11.79 billion, largely as a result of the expenditure of federal funding, most of which has already occurred.

The supplemental budget passed today addresses the current fiscal year. Typically, lawmakers address current-year budget gaps in the budget bill for the next fiscal year, but the state is awaiting federal action on additional relief for states. Lawmakers are expected to return to the State House this summer to address the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 after the federal funding level is known.

Legislators amended the bill today to extend the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program for another year through June 2021, and enable the Department of State to move the state archives from its current location in leased space on Westminster Street in Providence to more accessible, larger and more usable leased space on Broad Street.

6/18/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
5
http://www.rilegislature.gov////pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statehouse_smith-street_jpg.jpgNoApproved
With votes in both chambers today, legislators approved a supplemental budget that uses a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will now go to the governor’s desk.


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STATE HOUSE – The decision to remove “and Plantations” from all official state documents should be left to the voters, Senator Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), said today – and not be done by executive order.

“I support putting this question to the voters on November’s ballot,” Morgan said. “But to do this by executive order gives the impression that the governor does not trust Rhode Islanders to decide for themselves.”
Just as important, Morgan said, is the cost the state is facing by discarding all official stationery, citations, paychecks and more that have “and Plantations” on them.

“We are facing a historic deficit,” Morgan said. “I would like to see a fiscal note that explains just how much making this change immediately is costing Rhode Island taxpayers. Why are we throwing all these resources away when we can simply replace it with the name change once the supply is exhausted and we reorder?” "Wasting resources with a looming deficit is irresponsible." Morgan said.
6/23/2020SenSen. Elaine J.  Morgan; #209; Katie Haughey Cardoza
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns.

The legislation, which now heads to the governor’s desk, is meant to help eliminate weapons that skirt protect public safety protections. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has publicly indicated her intent to sign it into law.

“Ghost guns, 3-D printed guns and undetectable plastic guns can easily facilitate criminal activity because they totally bypass the safeguards that protect the public. Our state laws should be very clear that possessing, creating or selling them is a criminal act, and we should be doing everything we can to keep these dangerous weapons from proliferating here,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

Said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), “While I am a strong proponent of people’s right to bear arms, these devices simply lack the safety, reliability and accountability of conventional firearms and have become a menace to society.”

The legislation (2020-S 2004B, 2020-H 7102Aaa) prohibits anyone from manufacturing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing, possessing, or having under his or her control any firearm that is made from plastic, fiberglass or through a 3-D printing process; or a ghost gun — one that lacks a serial number under the requirements of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968; or one that would be undetectable by a metal detector after removal of all parts other than a major component, or whose major component would not generate an accurate image if subjected to the type of screening equipment used at airports and public buildings.

The bill sets a punishment for violations at up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, and is enforceable 30 days after it becomes law.

The legislation is supported by Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, the State Police, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and Rhode Island Moms Demand Action.

Regardless of lawsuits, federal decisions and restraining orders preventing their original authors from posting them online, blueprints for 3-D printed firearms remain available over the Internet, allowing those with access to a 3-D printer to create an untraceable plastic gun.

Banning 3-D printed guns was one of the recommendations made in 2018 by the Rhode Island Working Group for Gun Safety, a 43-member task force that was assembled following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

6/17/2020RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns.
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STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns was signed into law today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo.

The legislation (2020-S 2004B, 2020-H 7102Aaa), which was approved by the General Assembly Wednesday, is meant to help eliminate weapons that skirt protect public safety protections.

“Ghost guns, 3-D printed guns and undetectable plastic guns can easily facilitate criminal activity because they totally bypass the safeguards that protect the public. Our state laws should be very clear that possessing, creating or selling them is a criminal act, and we should be doing everything we can to keep these dangerous weapons from proliferating here,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

Said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), “While I am a strong proponent of people’s right to bear arms, these devices simply lack the safety, reliability and accountability of conventional firearms and have become a menace to society.”

Governor Raimondo signed the bill in a State House ceremony this afternoon.

“Today marks a meaningful step forward in our fight to end gun violence in Rhode Island,” said Governor Raimondo. “We know that untraceable guns put our community at risk. I’m proud to sign this legislation to help ensure that every gun in our state is registered, traceable, and in the hands of someone who is fit to carry the responsibility of owning a firearm.” 
 
The new law prohibits anyone from manufacturing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing, possessing, or having under his or her control any firearm that is made from plastic, fiberglass or through a 3-D printing process; or a ghost gun — one that lacks a serial number under the requirements of the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968; or one that would be undetectable by a metal detector after removal of all parts other than a major component, or whose major component would not generate an accurate image if subjected to the type of screening equipment used at airports and public buildings.

It sets a punishment for violations at up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, and is enforceable 30 days from today.

The legislation was supported by Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, the State Police, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and Rhode Island Moms Demand Action.

Regardless of lawsuits, federal decisions and restraining orders preventing their original authors from posting them online, blueprints for 3-D printed firearms remain available over the Internet, allowing those with access to a 3-D printer to create an untraceable plastic gun.

Banning 3-D printed guns was one of the recommendations made in 2018 by the Rhode Island Working Group for Gun Safety, a 43-member task force that was assembled following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

IN PHOTO: Gov. Gina M. Raimondo signs the legislation as sponsors and supporters look on. Behind the governor, from left, are Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), sponsor Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and sponsor Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

6/23/2020RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa to prohibit the manufacturing, transfer, purchase or possessing of any plastic, fiberglass or 3-D printed gun, as well as “ghost guns,” untraceable guns and undetectable guns was signed into law today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo.


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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) has issued a statement congratulating Gov. Gina Raimondo for her executive order removing the words “and Providence Plantations” from official state documents.

A member of the Rhode Island Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, Representative Diaz said she was also gratified by the decisions of House and Senate leaders to remove the phrase from legislative documents as well.

“Regardless of the historical context of ‘plantations’ in the 17th century, the plain fact is that today the word conjures hurtful images of the slave plantations of the antebellum South. I supported the ballot initiative to remove the offending word in 2010, even though voters rejected it.

“However, the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police has had a profound effect on all the communities of Rhode Island, galvanizing a movement to at long last address the disparities and injustices that have hurt communities of color for so long. Symbols are an important part of that. And when a symbol causes pain and suffering to a group of people, it’s like a scar that needs to be treated.

“I congratulate and thank Governor Raimondo for taking the step she has taken to treat those wounds. I pray that it’s just the beginning of a long-term effort to right other social, economic and judicial wrongs in this state. And I look forward to working hard to make Rhode Island a better place for communities of color.”
6/23/2020RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is urging Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission to reopen the application process for three judicial vacancies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected Rhode Island’s minority communities particularly harder than most.  The application period ended on April 30.

The three open judicial seats are for Associate Justice positions on the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Family Court.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our way of life in too many ways to count.  Included in this upheaval was the judicial nominating process due to the deadline for applications to open judicial seats landed right in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown.  This deadline on April 30, in the midst of a state-wide quarantine, has shut out numerous highly qualified applicants, especially in regard to judicial applicants of color who were occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic that hit our state’s minority communities the hardest,” said Representative Williams.

“The lack of a diverse judicial system that accurately reflects the multicultural demographics of our state has been a long-standing problem that needs to be rectified. This problem has only been exacerbated with this arbitrary deadline that affects our jurists of color the most.  If we truly wish to have a fair and diverse judiciary, the application process must be reopened so that qualified applicants who were predominantly occupied with caring for and supporting their families during the pandemic may have the opportunity to apply for these judicial positions.  Now is the time to fight back against the systematic injustices that have plagued our state for centuries and one aspect of this fight for justice is finally creating a diverse judiciary system.  This will only be possible if the application and nominating process is reopened,” concluded Representative Williams.

6/23/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The annual Single Audit of the State of Rhode Island for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019, resulted in 68 findings. Many of the findings (36) related to the state’s key operations and controls over financial reporting while the remainder (32) related to the administration of federal programs — principally human service programs such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The Single Audit Report, prepared by Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle, was recently released by the Joint Committee on Legislative Services. The annual audit is required by both state and federal law as a condition of continued federal assistance.

The state’s fiscal 2019 expenditures of federal awards totaled $4.4 billion (including component units) under a wide variety of more than 450 individual programs. Federal assistance consists of both direct cash and noncash awards (e.g., loan and loan guarantee programs and donated food commodities). Many programs are jointly financed with federal and state funding.

Financial statement related findings — The auditors previously communicated (in a separate report released in March 2020) 36 findings related to the state’s controls over financial reporting. These findings addressed issues such as the state’s need to complete a strategic plan to coordinate needed enhancements to its key statewide financial and administrative systems, accounting for Medicaid program financial activity, assessing information technology risks, and identifying the resources needed to effectively manage and administer the OPEB (retiree healthcare) system. Those financial statement related findings are also included in the Single Audit Report as required by federal regulation.

A link to that separate report, which also includes 14 management comments (not included in the single audit report), is included here: www.oag.ri.gov/reports/2019_FinStmt_FindingsMC.pdf

Federal program findings — Consistent with federal guidelines, the auditors tested 69% of the total expenditures of federal awards as major programs following risk-based criteria established in the federal Uniform Guidance.

The auditors reported material noncompliance with certain federal program requirements for the Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and Unemployment Insurance programs.

The RIBridges system is used to administer several federal programs including Medicaid, CHIP, TANF, SNAP and CCDF programs. While auditors found it to be improved in fiscal 2019, the system continued to negatively impact federal program compliance for these programs.

The auditors reported that data discrepancies between the systems used to determine Medicaid and CHIP eligibility (RIBridges) and the claims/capitation payment system (MMIS) continued to negatively impact controls to ensure that payments were made only on behalf of eligible individuals during fiscal 2019.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) lacks strong oversight procedures regarding fiscal monitoring and contract settlement for its managed care organizations (MCO’s) which represent nearly 60% of Medicaid benefit expenditures. More stringent audit and financial monitoring procedures should be employed. Further, EOHHS needs to reassess all activities considered surveillance utilization review services performed within the Medicaid program to comply with federal regulations and amend the State Plan to accurately reflect the state’s current practices.

The state is not currently in compliance with Medicaid regulations for the screening, enrollment and revalidation of providers used in MCO networks.

The RIBridges eligibility system does not currently meet all the functional requirements of an automated data processing system as outlined in federal SNAP regulations. The system is also not producing reports to allow daily reconciliation of electronic benefits authorized and disbursed and to ensure accurate and timely completion of federal reports.

The auditors found that the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospital’s administration costs were allocated to the Medicaid program through a departmental cost allocation plan that was not federally approved. Improvements in policies and procedures related to Medicaid claiming for patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital are needed to ensure compliance with federal requirements.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families did not utilize updated residential time study results when allocating payments for residential placements to Medicaid.

The RIBridges eligibility system lacked effective income validation controls during fiscal 2019 which
impacted CCDF program eligibility determinations and the amount of required parent cost-sharing amounts.       

The auditors recommended the tracking and monitoring of locally-held program income generated by Community Development Block Grant activities be enhanced by the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD). OHCD should improve procedures to ensure federal reports are retained and adequately supported by underlying records.

The Department of Environmental Management can enhance controls over time and effort reporting to ensure payroll cost allocations and reimbursements for the Performance Partnership Grants are adequately supported.

Management’s response and planned corrective actions are included within the Single Audit Report. A Summary Schedule of Prior Audit Findings, which reports the status of findings from prior audits, is also included. The state’s management has implemented corrective action on some findings previously reported. Incremental progress is noted in our findings when recommendations have not been fully implemented but corrective actions are underway.

The state’s Single Audit Report was submitted to a federal clearinghouse for such reports —this data is then made available to all federal funding agencies. The Single Audit Report and related Audit Summary are available on the Auditor General’s website – www.oag.ri.gov.

6/23/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Dennis E. Hoyle, CPA
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today gave her wholehearted support to efforts throughout state government to improve racial bias sensitivity and education, increase inclusion and eliminate hurtful symbolism.

At the same time, these efforts must be backed up by real progress in addressing the poverty and inequities that disproportionately hurt and hinder the Black and Brown communities, she said.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) said she strongly supports the executive order being signed today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to remove the phrase “Providence Plantations” from gubernatorial orders and citations, executive agency websites, official correspondence and state employee paystubs. Representative Ranglin-Vassell has long advocated for removing “and Providence Plantations” from the official state name, will be actively supporting pending legislation to put the official name change on the ballot this November, and will enthusiastically promote public approval of the question.

 “For Black people and people of African descent, this is a good symbolic step to help to ease the pain and hurt caused by centuries of oppression. This enslavement and oppression began when a group of people were forced to leave their homeland to the Americas. This is a good first step; the greater work lies ahead which is to ensure that Black Americans in Rhode Island have equitable social and economic resources to change the trajectory of their lives,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell welcomed the governor’s related announcement today of her “RIse Together initiative to increase implicit bias and equity training within state government, improve State Police engagement with Rhode Islanders and accountability and comprehensively study state contracting practices to ensure that minority-owned businesses truly have an equal opportunity at procurement.

She is also grateful to her colleagues in the House for passing a resolution (2020-H 8074) she sponsored recognizing and honoring African-American history in Rhode Island and urging the adoption of African-American education in K-12 public schools statewide. The House passed the resolution Thursday, calling for schools to use a curriculum distributed by the Department of Education beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

But all these efforts will ring hollow, she said, without substantial change, particularly economic change, she said.

To actually improve the lives of Black and Brown people and create equity, there needs to a commitment to addressing poverty and inequities in public health, education and safety, she said. Among the next steps she called for are passing bills she has sponsored for years to institute a $15 living wage (2020-H 7570) and to (2020-H 7587) to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs, which would help address higher maternal mortality and complications rates for Black mothers. She said she is anxiously awaiting information about the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget to see whether it will still include nearly $95,000 for doula reimbursement, as it did when originally proposed in January.

“Investments into Black and Brown communities are what’s really needed to improve the trajectory of people’s lives and bring about real equality,” she said. 

6/22/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Senators have been advocating for changes included in governor’s plan
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra C. Cano and Sen. Ana B. Quezada today thanked Gov. Gina M. Raimondo for efforts she announced today to institute training on implicit bias and equity within state government and study state contracting practices to ensure that minority-owned businesses truly have an equal opportunity at procurement – two efforts for which the senators have been advocating.

“I applaud and thank the governor for her leadership in instituting change in state government. Rhode Island is a richly diverse place, and our government should represent, support and include Rhode Islanders of every race, ethnicity and background. These steps, as well as the other parts of the RIse Together vision the governor announced today, are positive and welcome developments that will help move us toward a more inclusive state government,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).

Legislation (2020-H 2759) sponsored by Senator Cano and cosponsored by Senator Quezada would develop and institute cultural competency training for all state employees to ensure they understand how institutions and individuals can respectfully respond to people of all races, languages, economic backgrounds and genders, and veterans and those with disabilities. The Senate passed the bill last year, and the senators are working to achieve full passage of this year’s bill when legislators return to session this summer. Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) introduced companion legislation (2019-H 5423) in the House last year, and intends to introduce it again when the General Assembly returns this summer.

 
The RIse Together plan announced by the governor today directs the Department of Administration to institute mandatory implicit bias training for all Executive Branch employees and to create a plan for more comprehensive equity training.

“While it’s important to enact cultural competency training requirements in state law to ensure compliance into the future, we are so encouraged that the governor is taking this action today to put this training in place now. We’re glad there’s agreement about the importance of all Rhode Islanders being able to feel understood and valued every time they interact with state offices,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

The governor also announced that the Department of Administration is currently undergoing a comprehensive study of all state contracting practices to ensure that minority-owned businesses have an equal shot at procurement opportunities.

As a member of the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force, Senator Cano called into question the state’s failure to include any minority-owned businesses in the $34 million in contracts for surge hospitals. Senator Quezada also supports ensuring fair opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

“I look forward to being part of the solution to achieve equity for minority business enterprises so they have a fair opportunity to participate in the procurement process,” added Senator Cano.
6/22/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #245; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would permit Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to hold meetings during a declared disaster emergency.

The bill (2020-H 8080) would provide that mental health and substance use disorder services provided by the organizations to be considered an essential health benefit.

“The services provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not only essential, they are necessary for the public health,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “During the pandemic, AA meetings were designated as a social gathering rather than an essential service, while liquor stores were considered essential and permitted to remain open. AA is no more a social gathering than rehab, especially when many of the members are court-ordered to attend meetings.”

The bill would mandate that adequate measures be implemented to provide the services safely within whatever guidelines may be established to address the issues relative to the declared disaster emergency.

“AA meetings are therapeutic for individuals who face the challenge of addiction,” said Representative Wilkinson. “To consider this service as non-essential when the results can be devastating is not only absurd, it’s reckless. This bill would permanently designate those services as essential for future emergencies.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) and Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence).
6/22/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) has introduced legislation (2020-H 8036) that would amend the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to provide greater accountability in the disciplinary process over law enforcement officers.  The legislation would also be renamed to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act.  The bill is in response to years of failed justice for victims of color who have continuously been harassed, beaten, and killed at the hands of bad police officers.  The murder of George Floyd and the massive movement to shine light on police abuse throughout the country and the world proves now is the time to enact these crucial reforms.

“Due to this outdated law from over 40 years ago, if the murder of George Floyd occurred here in Rhode Island, none of those officers would have been held accountable for their monstrous actions.  With the whole world finally standing up, recognizing, mobilizing, and protesting against the trials and tribulations that people of color suffer on a daily basis at the hands of unfit law enforcement officers, now is the time to reform our state’s law so that rogue law enforcement officers can no longer hide behind a system of protection while also dragging down good and honorable cops who truly do protect and serve our communities without prejudice and bigotry in their hearts.  Transparency, accountability, and justice will finally be present in our state’s law enforcement system with this bill and I thank both my colleagues of the House and the Senate, and the many other allies of fairness and justice, who are standing beside me in support of this essential transformation and I urge the rest of my colleagues and all of the Rhode Island’s citizens to rally around this most necessary and long overdue vital reform,” said Representative Williams.

“This bill is a timely and essential reform of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.  This legislation restores rightful managerial authority to Rhode Island’s police chiefs, empowering them to impose swift and meaningful employment discipline, up to and including termination, while also preserving ample layers of due process protections for officers accused of misconduct,” said Vincent F. Ragosta, Jr., an attorney with over 40 years of experience prosecuting offending police officers.

House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) is a cosponsor of Representative Williams’ legislation.

The bill would amend the current law by increasing the amount of days an officer can be suspended without pay to 30 days by their police chiefs if they are found to have committed infractions against policy.  The hearing committee responsible for discipline would also increase to five members, with one member selected by the police chief or highest ranking officer of the department, one member selected by the accused law enforcement officer, and three members recommended by the presiding justice of the Superior Court, the RI Commission on Human Rights, and the RI League of Cities and Towns.  Currently, the committees are made-up of three members, all being either current or retired law enforcement officers.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

6/19/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate has approved legislation to permanently require health insurers to comprehensively cover telemedicine visits.

An executive order put in place March 18 required insurers to cover telemedicine visits as a means to allow Rhode Islanders to access health care without having to leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation (2020-S 2525A), approved yesterday and sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), would make the requirement permanent.

“Telemedicine is an excellent option for patients. It makes medical and behavioral health care access more convenient for providers and patients, which will encourage people to seek care when they need it. It’s effective and affordable for both patients and doctors, and it can cut down on the transmission of illnesses because it means sick people don’t have to venture out to see their doctor. It has undoubtedly been a lifesaver here in Rhode Island during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chairman Miller. “Our experience with telemedicine during the pandemic shows that it is practical and useful to Rhode Islanders. Offering it as an option permanently would improve our medical and mental health care delivery for both providers and patients.”

The legislation, which now heads to the House of Representatives, would expand access to telemedicine services by:
  • allowing patients to receive telemedicine services at any location;
  • permitting the delivery of telemedicine by audio-only telephone;
  • requiring that all telemedicine services be reimbursed at rates not lower than the same services would have been had they been delivered in-person;
  • prohibiting health insurers from imposing cost sharing and prior authorizations requirements for telemedicine services;
  • requiring that the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) apply for any federal waivers necessary to ensure that individual Medicaid beneficiaries have access to telemedicine services; and
  • authorizing the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner and EOHHS to promulgate telemedicine rules and regulations.

6/18/2020SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate has approved legislation to permanently require health insurers to comprehensively cover telemedicine visits.


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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee voted 13-3 today to approve legislation to use a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill (2020-H 7170A), which will be brought before the House of Representatives Thursday, makes use of additional federal funding provided to the state to help it weather the pandemic, as well as taking $120 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to make up for revenue losses approaching $300 million. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in new unemployment claims, most of which is covered by federal funds.

“The COVID crisis devastated our economy and the lost revenues placed tremendous stress on the current year budget, forcing us to make many tough choices in order to balance our books by June 30.  Despite these difficult times, however, we reconfirmed our commitment to education, ensuring local schools have nearly $10 million more in resources than they were expecting. Once we receive further guidance on additional federal assistance to all states, we will work to enact a responsible budget for the next fiscal year with the appropriate investments in education aid, municipal assistance and programs to strengthen our economy,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). 

The bill distributes $50 million of the state’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to school districts, weighted toward those with high concentrations of low-income students. This funding is in addition to $41.7 million already earmarked by Congress for schools in the CARES Act funding, which the budget assumes will replace part of the state’s obligations to local school districts.

To address the budget shortfall, the bill shifts about $35 million in personnel costs to the federal CARES Act funding for state employees whose duties shifted to pandemic response. Similarly, state higher education institutions will receive $29.5 million of CARES Act funding, allowing the state to reduce its support by $15 million.

The bill reallocated unspent funds from some agencies, including $17.8 million from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, $300,000 in unspent funds from Department of Environmental Management bond issues, $500,000 from forfeited assets collected by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and $15 million from the Rebuild RI tax credit program.

Part of the state’s budget gap is attributable to a billing and compliance issues at the Eleanor Slater Hospital. From August until February, the hospital was not in compliance with federal Medicaid rules, and that other patients could not be billed through Medicaid or Medicare as expected, resulting in $50.1 million in revenue losses that had to be accounted for in the supplemental budget. Unresolved prior billing issues account for another $14.6 million. The state could face an additional $12.2 million in costs if the Executive Office of Health and Human Services does not meet a June 30 deadline to address the billing issue.

Overall, the supplemental budget increases the state budget from $9.97 billion to $11.79 billion, largely as a result of the expenditure of federal funding, most of which has already occurred.

The supplemental budget passed today addresses the current fiscal year. Typically, lawmakers address current-year budget gaps in the budget bill for the next fiscal year, but the state is awaiting federal action on additional relief for states. Lawmakers are expected to return to the State House this summer to address the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 after the federal funding level is known.

6/16/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Larry Berman
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The House Finance Committee voted 13-3 today to approve legislation to use a combination of new federal funding, the state’s rainy day fund and unspent funds throughout state agencies to address a budget gap of about $250 million in the current fiscal year caused largely by revenue losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives, which is expected to take it up Thursday.


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STATE HOUSE, Providence – Senator Harold M. Metts today introduced a resolution in the state Senate that, if passed, would place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.
 
Senator Metts led the drive to change the state’s name a decade ago as well. In 2009, he sponsored the Senate version of the resolution that placed a similar question on the 2010 General Election ballot. The question was defeated by the voters, but Senator Metts believes the time has come to ask the public again.
 
“A decade has passed since the public was asked this question. Attitudes may have changed substantially, even in the past few years – and even in the past few weeks,” said Senator Metts (D – Dist. 6, Providence). “Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation.”
 
He continued, “The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us. Not unlike the debate over the Confederate flag, retaining the term does nothing to memorialize history but conjures an unnecessary and painful reminder of our racist past.”
 
The senator noted that his own church, Congdon Street Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, was demolished by its white neighbors on Meeting Street in Providence before it was rebuilt in its current location. His own maternal lineage can be traced back to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, according his great, great aunt, Bertha Hawkins-Cooper, who lived to be 106 years-old.
 
“Making this change would pay some respect to our ancestors who were forced into slavery, and would stop serving as a constant reminder to present-day Rhode Islanders of our painful past,” he said.
 
Because the name change requires a constitutional change, it must be approved by the voters.
 
The Senate is expected to consider the resolution tomorrow.
 
It is co-sponsored by Senators Sandra Cano (D – Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Ana B. Quezada (D – Dist 2, Providence), President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D – Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D – Dist. 1, Providence).
6/17/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Greg Pare
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Senator Harold M. Metts today introduced a resolution in the state Senate that, if passed, would place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether to change the official state name. The proposal would eliminate “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” because the outdated reference conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely accepted.
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts creating a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. The bill has been scheduled for consideration by the full Senate tomorrow.

The task force is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”

The resolution creating the task force has been placed on the calendar for consideration by the full Senate on Wednesday. The session will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV

The resolution calls for the task force to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies.

The 13-member task force is to  include three senators, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (who plans to serve in person rather than send a designee), the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police or a designee, a police chief of a Rhode Island law enforcement agency, the executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or a designee, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Providence Branch or a designee, the President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO or a designee, the executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University or a designee, one of whom shall be the executive director of the Providence External Review Authority or a designee and two members of the public.

Senator Metts said bringing the proper balance of voices is his goal. He is determined that, with many stakeholders at the table, the task force can take an honest look at the system and its effects and propose improvements.

The resolution sets a reporting date for the task force of Feb. 9, 2021.
6/16/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage of legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts creating a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly Thursday approved legislation to allow communities and fire districts to continue their operations and conduct public hearings virtually during a state of emergency.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state this spring, many local cities and towns were left in a quandary because their annual budget-setting process requires a public meeting that they could not hold.

The bill, which is sponsored by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), would be applicable in all future states of emergency and makes the change retroactive to March 9, the date of the Rhode Island’s emergency declaration.

“This unprecedented shutdown left cities and towns at a loss for a legal way to move forward with their obligations. They need a route they can take in an emergency to keep paying their bills and their employees,” said Representative Edwards. “This legislation gives local leaders the flexibility they need, within limits, to keep their towns operational during an extended emergency like the one we’ve experienced this year.”

The bill (2020-H 8015, 2020-S 2864), which now moves to the governor’s office, is enabling legislation that would, during a state of emergency that prevents a municipality or a fire district from passing its annual appropriation measure and tax levy, allow its governing body to pass a resolution or an ordinance to continue its prior budget past the end of its fiscal year, or to adopt a new one. In either case, the town would need to hold a public hearing with public input, which could be held virtually. The legislation would also allow the chief executive officer of municipalities and fire districts to order, move or continue budget adoption procedures as necessary until an emergency declaration expires.

“It’s imperative that cities and towns around the state be able to conduct their business during an emergency in whatever way works best for them,” said Senator Conley, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance. “Our communities have reached out to us asking what they can do, and this will enable them to keep operating in a way that they determine suits their needs.”

According the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, there are 17 municipalities in the state whose budget adoption relies on approval through a financial town meeting or a financial town referendum, including Representative Edwards’ hometown of Tiverton. Without the ability to have an open public meeting, they are without a way to send out the next quarter’s tax bills.
6/18/2020SenRep. John Edwards; Sen. William Conley; #144; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE –The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted today to approve legislation that would permanently require health insurers to comprehensively cover telemedicine visits. 

An executive order put in place March 18 required insurers to cover telemedicine visits as a means to allow Rhode Islanders to access health care without having to leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation (2020-S 2525A), sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), would bring back the requirement permanently.

“Telemedicine is an excellent option for patients. It makes medical and behavioral health care access more convenient for providers and patients, which will encourage people to seek care when they need it. It’s effective and affordable for both patients and doctors, and it can cut down on the transmission of illnesses because it means sick people don’t have to venture out to see their doctor. It has undoubtedly been a lifesaver here in Rhode Island during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chairman Miller. “Our experience with telemedicine during the pandemic shows that it is practical and useful to Rhode Islanders. Offering it as an option permanently would improve our health care delivery and make it more user-friendly.”

The legislation expands access to telemedicine services by:
  • allowing patients to receive telemedicine services at any location;
  • permitting the delivery of telemedicine by audio-only telephone;
  • requiring that all telemedicine services be reimbursed at rates not lower than the same services would have been had they been delivered in-person;
  • prohibiting health insurers from imposing cost sharing and prior authorizations requirements for telemedicine services;
  • requiring that the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) apply for any federal waivers necessary to ensure that individual Medicaid beneficiaries have access to telemedicine services; and
  • authorizing the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner and EOHHS to promulgate telemedicine rules and regulations.
The bill will now be forwarded to the full Senate for consideration.
5/27/2020SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has voted to approve legislation that would permanently require health insurers to comprehensively cover telemedicine visits. 



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STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello today announced the formation of a Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force. The first meeting is expected to be scheduled Thursday, April 30, with further details to be announced in the coming days.

The task force will be examining the Raimondo Administration’s commitment of more than $100 million in emergency spending. This would include a review of process and contracts involved in the establishment of field hospitals and the extensive purchases of medical equipment and supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

President Ruggerio appointed the following senators to the task force: Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. (D–Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket); Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston); Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who is also the Senate Democratic Caucus Policy Chairman; Senator Thomas J. Paolino (R–Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield); and Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman V. Susan Sosnowski (D–Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Speaker Mattiello appointed the following House members: Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) and Oversight Committee Chairwoman Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

President Ruggerio said, “I think that Governor Raimondo has been doing an exemplary job in her handling of this public health crisis. At the same time, it is our obligation to provide appropriate oversight of the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief aid being expended to address the pandemic. This approach, which is limited to overseeing the federal emergency assistance, fulfills a crucial check and balance role of the Assembly while ensuring that the governor has the flexibility she needs to swiftly direct relief funds where they are needed.”

Speaker Mattiello said, “While the Finance Committees will be doing the comprehensive work of putting the budget together in the coming weeks, this group will be narrowly focused on the details of the spending decisions that have been made during this emergency. We have a responsibility to ensure that even in a crisis, proper light is shed on the expenditure of public funds.”
4/21/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello today announced the formation of a Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force. The first meeting is expected to be scheduled Thursday, April 30, with further details to be announced in the coming days.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is praising Beacon Mutual Insurance for their announcement that they would be helping and protecting frontline workers and essential personnel by considering any COVID-19 infections suffered by these employees work-related, providing the worker with labor protections resulting from the work-related infection.

“I am grateful that Beacon Mutual is stepping up during these extremely stressful and trying times to help our frontline workers and essential employees who are putting themselves and their families at risk everyday so that others may remain safely in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bravery and selflessness being exhibited by these employees deserves this designation and these employees have truly earned these crucial employee protection benefits.  I would also like to thank the governor for recognizing the importance of ideas and solutions coming from outside of her administration, such as the executive order I proposed earlier this week to make those still working in our new economy a priority.  But most importantly, I’d like to thank all those still braving this crisis and working so that the rest of us may continue to live with the necessary goods and services we require on a daily basis.  Today’s announcement is a perfect example of the real meaning of ‘we are all in this together’ and I thank Beacon Mutual and all of Rhode Island’s essential employees from the bottom of my heart,” said Representative Williams.

On Monday, Representative Williams proposed an executive order that would designate any COVID-19 infection suffered by any employee deemed “essential” to automatically be considered a work-related injury. 

Although not all of the workers specified in Representative Williams’ request will be eligible due to having access to unemployment and TDI benefits, she is grateful that Beacon Mutual will be helping all essential employees who are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.

The executive order would apply to first responders and anyone designated by the Director of the Department of Labor and Training and the Director of the Department of Administration as an essential employee. This would include any public safety official, including but not limited to, police, fire, EMS, medical facility workers, correctional officers, dispatchers, paramedics, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical technicians. The order would also apply to grocery or retail workers, essential state and municipal employees, janitorial staff, public transportation employees, parcel and freight delivery employees, truck drivers and utility workers, whether the workers are citizens, documented or undocumented immigrants. Any worker who contracts, has symptoms of or otherwise becomes affected with COVID-19, during the time period in which the  state, federal government or any municipality declared a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that results in a period of hospitalization, quarantine, or require self-quarantine measures as a result of being infected or coming into contact with someone who is infected with the COVID-19, shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related.

The amount of time any public safety official or employee is incapacitated or unable to perform their duties as a result of the COVID-19 infection or exposure and the required time of hospitalization, time of quarantine or time of self-quarantine shall be considered as on duty time, and said public safety official shall not be required to use their sick time, vacation time, or personal time or any other contractual time-off to cover said period of incapacitation or inability to perform regular duty work. The time of incapacitation or inability to perform their duties shall be considered as emergency hazard health duty.

No claim or report of injuries, or the identity of the claimant, relative to any claim filed pursuant to the workers’ compensation laws of this state shall be reported by any state agency or employer to any federal law enforcement authority, including but not limited to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
4/17/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is praising Beacon Mutual Insurance for their announcement that they would be helping and protecting frontline workers and essential personnel by considering any COVID-19 infections suffered by these employees work-related, providing the worker with labor protections resulting from the work-related infection.


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STATE HOUSE – As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state this spring, many local cities and towns were left in a quandary because their annual budget-setting process requires a public meeting that they could not hold.

Legislation introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards and approved by the House today on a 71-0 vote would allow communities and fire districts to continue their operations and conduct public hearings virtually during a state of emergency.

The bill would be applicable in all future states of emergency and makes the change retroactive to March 9, the date of the Rhode Island’s emergency declaration.

“This unprecedented shutdown left cities and towns at a loss for a legal way to move forward with their obligations. They need a route they can take in an emergency to keep paying their bills and their employees,” said Representative Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth). “This legislation gives local leaders the flexibility they need, within limits, to keep their towns operational during an extended emergency like the one we’ve experienced this year.”

The bill (2020-H 8015) is enabling legislation that would, during a state of emergency that prevents a municipality or a fire district from passing its annual appropriation measure and tax levy, allow its governing body to pass a resolution or an ordinance to continue its prior budget past the end of its fiscal year, or to adopt a new one. In either case, the town would need to hold a public hearing with public input, which could be held virtually. The legislation would also allow the chief executive officer of municipalities and fire districts to order, move or continue budget adoption procedures as necessary until an emergency declaration expires.

According the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, there are 17 municipalities in the state whose budget adoption relies on approval through a financial town meeting or a financial town referendum, including Representative Edwards’ hometown of Tiverton. Without the ability to have an open public meeting, they are without a way to send out the next quarter’s tax bills.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr.  (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-S 2864).
6/17/2020RepRep. John Edwards; #144; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3709576/17/2020 5:59 PMSystem Account6/17/2020 5:59 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) has written to Rhode Island’s congressional delegation urging them to sponsor legislation marking “Juneteenth” as a national holiday.  “Juneteenth” is celebrated on June 19 and recognizes the day that Union Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 to inform slave owners and the populace that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were to be set free. 

“I am respectfully requesting that you introduce legislation that would recognize June 19, also known as “Juneteenth”, as a Federal holiday, enabling generations of black families and friends to gather and celebrate this monumental day of celebration, reflection, education and most importantly, unity,” wrote Representative Williams in the letter.

“As we are witnessing across the country and the world, the voices of the community of color and its true allies will no longer be silenced and the injustices that continue to be perpetrated against us will not be tolerated, brushed aside, or simply dismissed as unimportant any longer.  Now is the time to step-up and demonstrate to us that we are valued and that we are truly part of this country by declaring ‘Juneteenth’ as a national holiday, affording us the opportunity to celebrate our freedom, culture, and our values,” added Representative Williams.

“It is ironic that this righteous date, a day commemorating our total freedom, is often unable to be properly celebrated because unless it falls on a weekend, employers will not give their employees the day off from work since it is not a Federal holiday.  Your record and accomplishments speak for themselves.  Now is the time to show that you are a true ally of the community of color and to become an instrument of change by introducing legislation to end this dark period of history and give our country’s African-Americans the day of remembrance and celebration that they so rightfully deserve,” concluded Representative Williams.

6/17/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3709566/17/2020 4:50 PMSystem Account6/17/2020 4:50 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force will meet Tuesday, June 9, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge.

The task force is scheduled to review emergency spending on the COVID-19 response, including Administration testimony on updated expenditure and encumbrance data, including items not included likely to be incurred, and hear detailed reviews of nursing home COVID-19 support including personal protective equipment and surge hospital expenses including future estimates and disposition of equipment. Members will also ask questions on prior hearing responses.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61 and in high definition on Cox Channel 1061; on Full Channel on Channel 15; and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

Most task force members will be attending in person, with a few meeting remotely. Representatives of the Raimondo Administration will offer testimony remotely. No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/covid/SitePages/jlc19.aspx.

Media members should contact Greg Pare or Larry Berman to make arrangements for coverage.
The task force is co-chaired by House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). Members include Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield), Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).

6/2/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #199; #202; Larry Berman
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The Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force will meet Tuesday, June 9, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge.
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FY21 budget bill on hold; Committee hearings scheduled week of June 8
 
STATE HOUSE – The House and Senate are tentatively planning to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year the week of June 15. 

The bill would address a major shortfall in the current-year budget that must be addressed before the end of the fiscal year. The House and Senate Finance committees have held several hearings in recent weeks assessing the shortfall and potential solutions.

Upon passage by the House Finance Committee, the supplemental budget bill will be brought to the House floor for consideration. Unlike the FY 2021 budget, this legislation does not require a seven-day review period before consideration by the full House. After passage by the House, the bill can go to the Senate for consideration by its Finance Committee and then the full chamber.

The House and Senate are working collaboratively with the Administration and the Department of Health to ensure that the appropriate precautions are being taken to safely hold sessions.

The General Assembly expects to address a limited number of other bills when members return for consideration of the supplemental budget bill. Legislative leaders plan to return to session at a later date to address the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

Meanwhile, committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly the week of June 8.

All the hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. Each will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.
  • The Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force will meet Tuesday, June 9, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge. The task force is scheduled to review emergency spending on the COVID-19 response, including Administration testimony on updated expenditure and encumbrance data, including items not included likely to be incurred, and hear detailed reviews of nursing home COVID-19 support including personal protective equipment and surge hospital expenses including future estimates and disposition of equipment. Members will also ask questions on prior hearing responses. The meeting will be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/covid/SitePages/jlc19.aspx.
  • The Senate Labor Committee will meet Monday, June 8, at 4 p. m. in the Senate Lounge for hearings on the appointments of Stan Israel and Harry Winthrop to the State Labor Relations Board. Members of the public wishing to testify may submit written testimony via email to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov.
  • The House Small Business Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 9, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to discuss help for small businesses, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industries. The committee will hear from Mark S. Hayward, Rhode Island District Director of the Small Business Administration; Rhode Island Small Business Development Center State Director Ed Huttenhower; R.I. Hospitality Association President and CEO Dale J. Venturini; R.I. Hospitality Association Vice President of Advocacy and General Counsel Sarah Bratko; David LaHousse, owner of Kay’s Restaurant in Woonsocket and The Lodge Pub & Eatery in Lincoln; and Kristin Gennuso, co-owner of Chez Pascal in Providence. Written testimony may be provided via email to the committee clerk at ddepina@rilegislature.gov. It will be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HSMB.aspx
  • The House Finance Committee, and other House committees, are also expected to meet next week. Details will be announced.
 
For viewing arrangements or access to committee members, members of the media are asked to contact Larry Berman at (401) 447-2655 for the House committees, or Greg Paré at (401) 255-1532 for the Senate committees.

The State House remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no legislative session in either chamber the week of June 8.
 

6/5/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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FY21 budget bill on hold; Committee hearings scheduled week of June 8
 
The House and Senate are tentatively planning to consider a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year the week of June 15. 


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STATE HOUSE – State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has expressed support for the police departments in Coventry, East Greenwich and West Greenwich today, highlighting the vital work they do to serve and protect their communities.

“As someone who owned a small business in Coventry for decades, I know how important it is to have a reliable and responsive police department to keep us safe and respond in time of crisis,” said Raptakis. “I’ve always had a good relationship with these departments and I am grateful to the leadership and individual officers who help make our communities special.”

Senator Raptakis made his comments amid a growing national debate about “defunding police.” Raptakis said he is against simply stripping local police departments of funding, but understands the need to enact fundamental changes in the way troubled police departments consider such issues as hiring and training their officers and whether officers are held accountable for mistreating citizens or improperly using force.

“We have seen police departments like the one in Minneapolis, where inappropriate and dangerous behavior by officers is ignored, until it leads to death and community outrage,” he said. “We need to take a much more proactive approach to implementing community-based policing standards such as the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ standards that were developed after the Ferguson riots responding to the shooting of Michael Brown,” concluded Senator Raptakis.
6/12/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet next week to hear an update on COVID-19 response and pandemic planning from the Department of Health.

The meeting will take place Monday, June 15, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the House Lounge. All testimony will take place remotely as the State House remains closed to the public.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, is expected to give the committee an update on pandemic planning and vaccine preparedness.

“We want to make sure the state is prepared once a vaccine becomes available,” said Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston). chairman of the committee. “Do we have the capacity to vaccinate the population of the state? I also anticipate that the members of the committee will have several questions about where we stand with the response to COVID-19.”

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed on the Rhode Island General Assembly website.

TO THE MEDIA: An area will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

6/11/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Municipal Government is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear and consider several bills related to the operation of cities and towns.

The meeting will take place Thursday, June 11, at 5 p.m. in the House Lounge. All testimony will take place remotely as the State House remains closed to the public.

The committee will take up a number of pieces of enabling legislation, giving state approval to ordinances or charter changes passed by city and town councils. Legislation approved by the committee is expected to be taken up next week as the General Assembly reconvenes.

Among the legislation is a bill (2020-H 7051) introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown) that would allow the South Kingstown Town Council to create a municipal court and housing court.

The committee will also hear several other bills, including legislation authorizing the town of Burrillville to establish an ordinance to stabilize tax assessments, allowing the town of Foster to enact ordinances permitting the dog officer to issue citations, authorizing the city of Woonsocket to adopt tax amnesty periods during its 2021 fiscal year, authorizing the town of Jamestown to issue $1,500,000 bonds and notes to finance improvements to the town’s library, and enabling the Portsmouth Town Council to transfer land to the Prudence Island School Foundation to be used for educational purposes.

The meeting will be live streamed on the Rhode Island General Assembly website. The Municipal Government Committee is chaired by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).

TO THE MEDIA: An area will be set aside for the media to watch the hearing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

6/10/2020RepRep. Joseph J. Solomon; #214; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting tomorrow, Thursday, June 11 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on four pieces of legislation.

The committee will hear the following four bills:
  • 2020-H 7246, sponsored by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), repeals the sunset provision which ends historic preservation tax credits by June 30, 2020 or upon the exhaustion of the maximum aggregate credits, whichever comes first.
  • 2020-H 7532, sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), expands the definition of sales to include any license, lease, or rental of prewritten or vendor-hosted computer software and specified digital products. This act would also define "end-user" for specified digital products.
  • 2020-H 7620, sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), amends the definition of "state agency" for purposes of the chapter on "state purchases" to provide for an exemption for the URI Board of Trustees when making purchases funded by restricted, sponsored, or auxiliary monies, from the provisions of the chapter.
  • 2020-H 8007, also sponsored by Representative Abney, this Joint Resolution would authorize a lease agreement for exhibition, office and vault storage space for the Department of State.
The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No in-person public testimony will be taken nor will the meeting be open to the public.

The committee is taking public testimony two different ways.  Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:
http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HFIN.aspx.

Written testimony is encouraged and should be submitted to cobrien@rilegislature.gov.

For those who would prefer the option to provide verbal testimony please send an email to cobrien@rilegislature.gov with the following information:

Bill # you are testifying on
For/Against
Your Name and Phone number (to be reached for your testimony)
Affiliation: (if any)

*Deadline to request verbal testimony is Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 11am.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the hearing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

6/10/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Small Business Committee will be meeting today, Tuesday, June 9 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear presentations on the state of Rhode Island’s small businesses and the hospitality industry.

Mark S. Hayward, Rhode Island District Director of The Small Business Administration and Ed Huttenhower, State Director Rhode Island Small Business Development Center will testify to the state of Rhode Island’s small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dale J. Venturini, President & CEO of RI Hospitality Association and Sarah Bratko, Esq., Vice President of Advocacy and General Counsel at RI Hospitality Association will also appear before the committee.  They will be joined by David LaHousse, Owner of Kay's Restaurant in Woonsocket and The Lodge Pub & Eatery in Lincoln and Kristin Gennuso, Co-owner of Chez Pascal in Providence.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105aE
No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public.  Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HSMB.aspx

Written testimony may be provided via email to the Committee Clerk:  ddepina@rilegislature.gov.
TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

6/9/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10 at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge of the State House to consider three bills relating to firearms and to hear a piece of legislation that concerns election signatures.

The committee will consider legislation (2020-H 7102Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), which would provide certain definitions relative to undetectable firearms and would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings, including 3D printed firearms.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7103Baa / 2020-S 2154Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), which would provide that applications to purchase certain firearms be sent by the seller of the firearm to the Rhode Island State Police and the police department of the city or town in which the purchaser resides, or to the State Police if the purchaser resides in Exeter or in another state, and would provide for the use of electronic mail in forwarding the application to the police department.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7901), sponsored by Rep. Joe Serodio (D-Dist. 64, East Providence), which will be amended to change the number of signatures needed for candidates seeking Federal office in Rhode Island.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public.  Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HJUD.aspx

Written testimony may be provided via email to the Committee Clerk:  rdimezza@rilegislature.gov.
TO THE MEDIA: Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for viewing arrangements and access to committee members.



6/9/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts has announced he plans to work on legislation to overhaul the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.

Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) said he plans to meet with stakeholders and consider their suggestions to shape a proposal to reform the law.

“Due process is one thing, however, it should not take video footage months later to expose brutality and murder. The law should not be for a special process of discipline that results in hiding crime and protecting wrongdoers that ultimately also taints the image of good officers,” said Senator Metts. “The Bill of Rights for our citizens is paramount. The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights must compliment and not undermine this.”

The senator said he is hopeful that worldwide protests that erupted following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — including one that drew an estimated crowd of 10,000 to the Rhode Island State House Friday — indicate that public pressure might finally achieve reform of the law, which has been stymied in the past.

“The struggle for justice here is universal. And the protest for justice is universal. The protestors, especially the youth, are people from all backgrounds, all colors. The mix of people who are standing up for justice and equality today is not only heartwarming, but will lead to positive change, and will lead to the healing that our country needs,” he said.

He said he is also optimistic that leaders are listening to the protesters, in particular that Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has met with the leaders of Black Lives Matter in Rhode Island.
6/8/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island named Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) as Legislator of the Year recently for advancing mental health reforms through legislation.

“Representative McNamara has been a terrific champion for the mental health community,” said Laurie Marie Pisciotta, the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island. “I know mental health is something that is dear to his heart. He’s a very empathetic representative who has helped many constituents who have mental health issues. He has worked for mental health parity, social workers in schools, and co-sponsored legislation that would codify some of the protections of the Affordable Care Act into Rhode Island state law. He really understands the issues facing people who live with persistent mental illness.”

Most recently, Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, has advocated for legislation that would make school social and psychological services eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

“I’m proud and overwhelmed that the Mental Health Association would give me this award,” said Representative McNamara. “I’ve always had a passion for mental health reform, and the need for it has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. I think it’s put tremendous pressure on families — particularly children — and I look forward to building upon our mental health reforms in the future.”

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island is the watchdog of the mental health community. Through systems change, the organization promotes mental health, increases consumers’ access to treatment and services, and improves the lives of people touched by mental illness.
6/8/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Terri Cortvriend led the General Assembly in the number of public constituent meetings she held in 2019, according to a recently released ranking by a local public accountability organization, RI Rank.

Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) held 13 public constituent meetings, which she titles “Talks with Terri,” over the course of 2019, more than any other legislator who responded to the organization’s request for information about constituent meetings.

RI Rank verified legislators’ responses through research of local media and social media announcements. For more information about the ranking, visit rirank.com.

“I believe the only way to truly represent my district is to meet with and listen to as many constituents as possible, as often as I can. Conversations with my constituents help me gauge local opinions about the issues facing our state and our community, provide me with a variety of perspectives and keep me informed about our district’s concerns,” said Representative Cortvriend. “Constituent meetings are also one of the best parts of my job as a representative. I love talking face-to-face with my neighbors, meeting new people and learning from a broad spectrum of people from the area. I’m proud to be recognized for holding constituent meetings, but these meetings are really their own reward.”
6/8/2020RepRep. Terri Cortvriend; #258; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly for the week of June 1 through 5.

All the hearings will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. Each will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday, June 3, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge to hear a review from Commissioner of Education Angélica M. Infante-Green on the progress of remote learning in grades kindergarten through 12. Written testimony may be submitted via email to lcataldi@rilegislature.gov.

The House Corporations Committee will be meeting on Thursday, June 4, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge to hear a presentation from Department of Business Regulation Director Elizabeth Tanner on the planning to reopen Rhode Island’s economy. Written testimony may be submitted via email to LMansolillo@rilegislature.gov.

The House Finance Committee also plans to meet. Details will be announced.

In the Senate, the Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight Committee will be meeting on Monday, the Housing and Municipal Government Committee on Tuesday, the Environment and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, and the Commerce Committee on Thursday. All of the Senate committee meetings will be at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. Agendas will be forthcoming.

Members of the public wishing to testify on any of the matters before the Senate committees may submit written testimony via email to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov.

For viewing arrangements or access to committee members, members of the media are asked to contact Larry Berman at (401) 447-2655 for the House committees, or Greg Paré at (401) 255-1532 for the Senate committees.

The State House remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no legislative session in either chamber.

5/29/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE — In the wake of both peaceful protests and violent looting, the General Assembly’s Pawtucket delegation has released a statement in support of the state’s protestors while at the same time decrying the violence that has occurred.

The Pawtucket delegation includes Representatives Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61), Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60), Mary Duffy Messier (D-Dist. 62), Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59), Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58) and John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46), and Senators Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8), William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18), Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16) and Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15).

“We are not only supportive but heartened by the peaceful protesters who have labored so hard to shine a brighter light on racial injustices that still pervade so many facets of our society in institutions both private and public. Four hundred years of abuses should make every citizen of this country stand up and demand more from our government, our institutions, and — most of all — from ourselves. We mostly hope that people will continue to protest and that the passage of time will not once again make people complacent. We therefore publicly decry racism in any and every form, support the state’s protestors, and condemn as misguided the violence that has occurred.

“While standing up to demand justice is the right and duty of every American, violence is not. Wholesale destruction in the very neighborhoods that have been the biggest victims of those injustices is a travesty. We must not allow looters and opportunists to pervert what protesters are trying to accomplish. Violence only distracts from the message the protesters are trying to get across: that justice and equality needs to be the priority of everyone.

“The Pawtucket Police Department has maintained a good relationship with our communities of color by focusing on community policing and community building. While this moment in history is a difficult and frustrating one, perhaps we can use it to further build on that strong relationship.”

Cities around the country have faced both peaceful protests and unrest in the wake of the killing by police in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man. Black Lives Matters organized a peaceful protest last weekend in Providence. The following evening saw rioting and looting in downtown Providence.

The Pawtucket delegation is proud of the diversity of the city and looks forward to working together for social equality.
 
                 

6/5/2020SenRep. Raymond Johnston, Jr.; Rep. Karen Alzate; Rep. Mary Messier; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; Sen. Sandra Cano; Sen. Elizabeth Crowley; Sen. William Conley; Sen. Donna Nesselbush; #174; #255; #154; #222; #221; #253; #245; #148; #202; #179; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) is saying his legislation (2020-H 7050) that would mandate public school classroom sizes be limited to 20 students for kindergarten through grade two classes is more important now than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on our state’s school systems.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this was already an important bill that benefited our children in over-stuffed classrooms and the dedicated teachers struggling to effectively educate too many of their students in one classroom setting.  Now that we have entered a world where social distancing is vitally important and the exact nature of the upcoming school year is being debated, this legislation is a necessity to ensure that our children receive the proper and safe education that they rightfully deserve and to protect the teachers who may be more susceptible to COVID-19 infections,” said Representative Millea.

According to the legislation, exceptions to the class size limit could be made for emergencies and temporary situations that do not exceed more than three days.  Mid-year enrollments when it would be impractical, educationally unsound, or disruptive to student learning to not assign the student to an existing class of maximum size are also classified under exceptions to the proposed legislation.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Finance.

6/5/2020RepRep. Christopher T. Millea; #248; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is congratulating the North Providence Honor Society graduating class of 2020.  Representative O’Brien is a member of the North Providence High School Honor Society Class of 1987.

“I’d like to congratulate the 2020 Honor Society graduates for achieving this great milestone in their lives.  I know they all envisioned a much different end to their high school careers, but they have all persevered and have made our community extremely proud.  I wish them all the best in their future endeavors and I know all of these students will be successful as they begin their adult lives,” said Representative O’Brien.

“The National Honor Society students act as ambassadors of our school and our active leaders in the community.  The group hosts four blood drives over the year resulting in 100 or more saved lives.  The students help organize all NPHS Community events such as 8th Grade Open House, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and Freshman Orientation.  The students also volunteer at the elementary schools and at various town events to give back to the community.   At a minimum students complete 35 hours of individual volunteer work.  Students act as role models and leaders who exemplify good character and exceptional scholastic ability,” said Jill Usenia, M.Ed., National Honor Society Advisor at North Providence High School.

The North Providence High School Honor Society Class of 2020 is Sara Alani, Spendylove Apaloo, Robert Autiello, Nicholas Barrow, Hope Bourne, Samantha Bras, Raffaella Brunetti, Isabella Bruzzese, Eva Burchfield, Madison Caldarone, Christian Campbell, Helin Can, Gianna Carbone, Nicholas Conte, Ashley D’Ambra, Alyssa DaPonte, Audrey Dionne, Molly Kate Donnelly, Hannah Doorley, Nadia Engenheiro, Jiwan Engin, Karla Espino, Joseph Faioli, Mary Catherine Fornaro, Viannely Francisco, Nicole Gaspar, Ethan Gemma, Ryan Giammarco, Adrianna Gianquitti, Kamila Guerra, Juliana Hall, Kathleen Henry, Adrianna Houde, Julia Jasper, Sophia Jeter, Christopher Loranger, Joshua Masood, Taylor McDonald, Erin McKeen, Jacob Medeiros, Talya Moitoso, David Neves, Gifty Osei, Hunter Palazini, Riley Kate  Pappas, Andres Perez, Heaven Perez, Ashley Picard, Sal Piccirillo, Gabriella Picerno, Salvatore Rossi, Stephanie Saucier, Tyler Scetta, Skylyn Senghor, Carla Serrate, Satrina Shannon, Marie Sinyan, Ashley Siravo, Nicholas Symmes, Jalen Thorp, James Tiner, Malaciah Turnipseed, Anthony Votta, and Victoria Wrage.

IN PHOTO: Rep. William W. O’Brien delivering a $3,000 legislative grant to the North Providence High School National Honor Society in March.  Joining Representative O’Brien is Jill Usenia, M.Ed., National Honor Society Advisor at North Providence High School and several members of the National Honor Society.

6/5/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) will be joined by several other legislators and elected officials at a press conference on Thursday, June 4 at 11 a.m. on the State House steps (Gaspee Street side) to announce several areas of systematic racism in Rhode Island government that need to change in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

“The killing of George Floyd was a wake-up call to many about the systematic racism that permeates our society, but these injustices of been long known to Rhode Island’s community of color.  The persecution, harassment, and violence against the community of color must end and if our leaders are truly committed to ending these continuous injustices, the areas that we will discuss at the press conference must be changed immediately and permanently,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams will present several key areas in Rhode Island governance that need to be addressed and changed in order to eliminate systematic racism in Rhode Island.  These changes include:
  • The lack of diversity reflective of our state in the Rhode Island judicial system and the lack of judges of color on the bench. 
  • The lack of diversity within our state’s public safety system and the lack of promotions for people of color serving in our police and fire departments.
  • The lack of people of color from the urban core working in Rhode Island’s suburban communities and governments.
  • Changing the make-up of boards and commissions, especially paid board positions, to properly and accurately reflect the diverse population of Rhode Island.
  • The stopping of outsourcing our taxpayer dollars to out of state individuals for government positions when there is a wealth of in-state talent within the community of color.
  • A raising of the 10 percent quota for minority businesses applying for state contracts to 25 percent.
  • Greater minority representation in the bidding of state contracts.
  • Changing the state contract bidding process that is particularly onerous for minority owned businesses and removing the barriers that are currently in place.
  • Changing the state’s civil service exam that discriminates against people of color when applying for state jobs.
  • Licenses for undocumented residents.
  • Increased funding for school and after-school programs.
  • The creation of a state and local police community reform task force.
  • Increased emphasis on youth employment, particularly within Rhode Island’s urban core.
  • Instituting the use of body cameras for all Rhode Island police departments.
  • Sweeping reforms to current police conduct polices, including a three-strike system to officers with numerous verified conduct complaints against them.
  • Increased minority access to healthcare and financial institutions and the services they provide.
  • The creation of a true living wage for the hard-working members of the community of color.

6/3/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) today released the following statement:

“I am among the Americans and Rhode Islanders who are saddened and enraged by the cruel murder of George Floyd and by the racism that has always polluted our structures. I recognize and share the incredible frustration that people are feeling that — after centuries of promises and demands for change — black people are still suffering from a system that not only treats them as ‘less than,’ but endangers them on a daily basis.

“All leaders, myself included, must work much more diligently to dismantle systematic racism. Our call is for constructive work with activists and everyday people to rid our system and our society of indefensible, insidious, dangerous discrimination. Every single person has a responsibility to be part of this change,
because only when we do can America truly fulfill its pledge of liberty and justice for all.”

6/2/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Legislative leaders today approved an emergency measure to borrow up to $300 million to shore up cash flow problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and allow the state to continue to provide vital services.

Meeting at Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s request in their capacity as the Disaster Emergency Funding Board, House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney and Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. voted unanimously to approve the funding.

“The steps taken today are necessary, prudent and limited in scope. These are extraordinary circumstances. We didn’t take this action lightly, but the potential consequences of inaction would be too great,” said House Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Chairman Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).    

With many businesses as well as all gaming facilities shuttered, workers laid off and the tax filing deadline postponed until July 15 — after the end of the current fiscal year — the state has experienced significant reductions and delays in expected revenue as a result of the outbreak.

The board’s vote does not authorize any spending that was not already budgeted this fiscal year; it only provides liquidity so the state can meet its obligations while revenues are delayed.

“This board has never met before – and hopefully will never have to meet again.  It was created for extraordinary times such as these. Action is necessary to ensure that the administration has the tools it needs to manage the state’s cash flow. It is prudent for this board to grant this authority to the governor during these extraordinary times to ensure the state’s liquidity,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Chairman Conley (D-Dist.18, East Providence, Pawtucket),

The vote will allow borrowing for cash flow purposes that must be paid back by the end of the next fiscal year, June 30, 2021. In their remarks today, Governor Raimondo and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner indicated their intention to borrow only what the state needs to offset the cash crunch.

The vote would allow the state to open a line of credit with lenders and borrow as needed.

The state has lined up private sources for the funding, but the loans could also come from federal sources if available. While the federal relief package that passed the U.S. Senate last night includes money to help states in their efforts to contain and treat the outbreak, whether the funding can be used to make up for lost revenue or when it would become available for that purpose is not clear.

Projections compiled by the Office of the General Treasurer, the Department of Revenue and the Office of Management and Budget estimate that the state’s weekly cash balance will dip from $110 million this week to $14 million next week. (The treasurer’s target is to maintain at least $40 million in cash.) Those projections show the state dipping into negative territory by the week of April 17 and hitting a negative balance of $206 million by the end of the fiscal year.

The cash flow problem indicated by those projections necessitated the first-ever meeting of the Disaster Emergency Funding Board, which was established by a 1973 sstate law to approve funds for emergency response. The governor declared a state of emergency in Rhode Island on March 9.
 

3/26/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #120; #85; #199; #202; Larry Berman
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Legislative leaders today approved an emergency measure to borrow up to $300 million to shore up cash flow problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and allow the state to continue to provide vital services.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-District 9, Providence) is issuing the following open letter to the community and Rhode Island’s leaders regarding the murder of George Floyd and the unrest in Rhode Island and across the country.

“The unrest and anger resulting from witnessing the open and public lynching of George Floyd seen worldwide is serving for each and every one of us as a daily reality of what has been continuing to occur by the hand of those in power.  At the same time, you have those in power conveniently stepping out and claiming to denounce these cases of systemic racism, equality racism, and every other injustice our society faces for their own political convenience.  Don’t be fooled and don’t be roped in with these empty platitudes.  While many are still in denial, there are many more that can clearly see what continues to happen on our streets across the country.  For as Malcolm X once said, ‘You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.’

“If your heart is pure in seeking justice and freedom, fear will not deter you.  If you truly believe in equality for all, you will do the right thing for the right and moral reason.  But, if you are just a chameleon, taking advantage of this horrendous tragedy and the loss of yet another innocent life, be fearful because we still see you and your motivations.  This day is a time for mourning another innocent individual cut down by the nefarious and violent hands of racism, bigotry, and intolerance.  Every city, town, state, and country in the entire world is plagued by this same disease and we must realize the cure is already in our hands, but, we must just have the courage and conviction to embrace and execute the solution to our societal woes.  Hate will not eradicate hate and in the words of Dr. King, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ 

“The time is now.  This is not a moment in history, but, the movement of history that we, the people of the United States and beyond, stand in unity for justice for all in the name of George Floyd and the countless other African-Americans who have been taken from their families and communities by ending police brutality perpetrated by bad actors with badges who have unilaterally self-appointed themselves as judge, jury, and executioners while utilizing their police emblems to terrorize and destroy the black community. 

“Malcolm X said, ‘You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.’  For the African-American community, we speak of the freedom to walk down the street without being murdered.  We speak of the freedom of encountering a law enforcement officer without the possibility of ending up in a body bag while being handcuffed.  We speak of the freedom to have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, not the American Nightmare too many of us currently face.

“If our Rhode Island and congressional leaders truly desire change and unity as they claim, we need to make our institutions reflective of the society that they serve.  Our dedicated state police officers of color need the promotions that they deserve and earned rather than being consistently passed over.  Our community of color needs to stop being victimized by our court system and we need more than token representation on our judicial benches.  We need to stop appointing judges with connections to those in power rather than the qualified and excellent candidates of color who continue to apply to open positions on the judiciary, only to be rejected in favor of those with deep pockets and influence. We need to stop outsourcing jobs to those out of state, forcing our children to leave their homes in order to find work, because we have capable and outstanding talent within in our own borders who are simply starving for a chance at a successful and prosperous life.

“We are done being the window dressing to disguise the mess that you have made.  We are done falling on your sword to then be tossed aside in favor of others with more clout or pull with the decision makers.  Do not only seek us when you need us.  We are all in this together in Rhode Island, even if our state still suffers from the plantation mind-set set in motion centuries ago.  We cannot let hate win.  I am a member of the solution, as are so many others, are you?  What are you going to do and contribute without the fear we deal with, prepare for, look out for, and suffer from on a daily basis?  What actions will you take and when will you step up to fight for equality?

“We are tired of our brothers’ and sisters’ last breathe being televised across the world to foment more fear, division, distrust, and hate.  We are tired of being passed over, left aside, and set against each other for the sake of our own survival.  We are tired of being seen as criminals and lower-class citizens.  And we are tired of being beaten while handcuffed, being stopped and frisked, of being profiled, and living in a constant state of fear from government officials.  Dr. King said, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.’  I hope our Rhode Island and congressional leaders heed his words wisely, for if they truly believe what they say when in front of news cameras, true systematic change should be imminent and permanent, while demonstrating to the undervalued, the oppressed, the forgotten, and the persecuted that we truly do live in a state where justice for all remains supreme.

The governor stated, ‘The state has always stood for freedom.’  To her I say, prove it.”

6/2/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Thursday, June 4 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a staff briefing on Eleanor Slater Hospital billing and compliance issues.  This hearing will focus on the federal billing and compliance issues affecting the state budget for Eleanor Slater Hospital. The hearing will include a discussion of potential options for addressing the issues.

There will be a staff briefing followed by invited testimony from representatives of the Administration only; no live public testimony. Public input is welcome in written form and can be provided through the committee clerk a cobrien@rileglislature.gov.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/housefiscalreport/Pages/Home.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

6/2/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – Committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly for the week of May 25-29.

The House Finance Committee plans to meet. Details will be announced.

The Senate has scheduled three committees to meet on separate days, each televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers, and live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

The State House remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the public wishing to testify on any of the matters before the Senate committee may submit written testimony via email to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov.

The Senate has scheduled the following committee meetings:
  • Tuesday, May 26, 4 p.m. — The Senate Committee on Judiciary will meet in the Senate Lounge to take up the appointment of Lara Montecalvo as the public defender. The committee will also take up the appointment of East Providence Police Chief William Nebus to the State Traffic Commission as well as the appointments of Christopher Little and Jonathan Roberts to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
 
  • Wednesday, May 27, 4 p.m. — The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will meet in the Senate Lounge to take up the appointment of A. Kathryn Power as the director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. The committee will also hold a hearing on a bill (2020-S 2525) sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to have the health insurance commissioner adopt a uniform set of medical criteria for prior authorization and create a required form to be used by a health insurer.
 
  • Thursday, May 28, 4 p.m. —The Senate Committee on Finance will meet in the Senate Lounge to take up the appointment of Brett Smiley as the Director of the Department of Administration.
 The Senate Lounge will be disinfected nightly by a professional cleaning company and will be sealed off until 4 p.m. the next day to ensure the room remains clean. Only committee members and committee staff will be allowed in the Senate Lounge.  All nominees will participate remotely via WebEx.

There will be no legislative session in either chamber.

5/22/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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Committee hearings have been scheduled in both chambers of the General Assembly for the week of May 25-29. There will be no legislative session in either chamber.


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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61), a longtime advocate of youth sports, has called for the safe reopening of Rhode Island’s youth sports leagues within guidelines established by the Department of Health.

In a letter to Janet Coit, the director of the Department of Environmental Management, who is overseeing the youth sports guidelines, Representative Johnston has particularly called for the graduated reopening of Little League baseball.

“Youth sports are an essential and time-tested way to keep children occupied,” the letter reads. “Now more than ever we have the need to bring children together in a safe and organized way. Perhaps this can happen gradually with practices and mini-scrimmages to begin with. Maybe we could even have a fall season.”

Representative Johnston, a longtime past president of the Pineview Little League in Pawtucket, has spoken repeatedly to Bob Walker, who serves as district administrator for District 2 of Rhode Island Little League, as well as the state coordinator, about reopening baseball in a safe way, complying with all the safety rules and social distancing protocols.

“Little League baseball is very proactive when it comes to safety, and the COVID-19 crisis is no exception,” the letter goes on to say. “The organization has been extremely diligent in providing the leagues with the tools and materials to reopen in a safe way, such as publishing and distributing best practices guides, and producing resumption guide webinars.”
5/29/2020RepRep. Raymond Johnston, Jr.; #174; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House Corporations Committee will be meeting on Thursday, June 4 at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge of the State House to hear a presentation by the Department of Business Regulation on the planning to reopen Rhode Island’s economy.

DBR Director Elizabeth Tanner will deliver the presentation to the committee.  Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) requested DBR’s presence at the committee to explain how the agency plans on assisting the reopening of Rhode Island’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/pages/hcorp.aspx.

Written testimony may be submitted via email to LMansolillo@rilegislature.gov.
TO THE MEDIA: Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for viewing arrangements and access to committee members.

5/29/2020RepRep. Robert Jacquard; #62; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet next week to hear a review from the Department of Education on the progress of remote learning in grades kindergarten through 12.

The meeting will take place Wednesday, June 3, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge. All testimony will take place remotely as the State House remains closed to the public.

Commissioner of Education Angélica M. Infante-Green is expected to give an update to the committee on the challenges facing families and schools.

In early March, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the committee, called for the Department of Education to establish remote learning protocols as Rhode Island began to develop its strategy in fighting and containing coronavirus.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed on the Rhode Island General Assembly website.

Written testimony may be provided via email to the committee clerk: LCataldi@rilegislature.gov No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/pages/hhew.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.
5/27/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), chairwoman of the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care since 2008, has announced that Child Care Awareness Day will take place online tomorrow due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Care Awareness Day will take place virtually on Wednesday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to noon. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook Live on the Capitol TV Facebook page (@RICAPITOLTV)

In years past, Child Care Awareness Day has been an opportunity for child care advocates to highlight various organizations in the state that work to improve the lives of children, youth and families. Events would begin with a Strolling Thunder march from the Rhode Island Convention Center to the State House, which mirrored the child advocacy march that took place in Washington, D.C. 

This year, the event organizers will gather in solidarity to push for policies and funding that address the challenges faced by parents of young children during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, including the need to have an adequate supply of child care that is healthy, safe, and high-quality.

Child Care Awareness Day will bring legislators, early care and education providers, parents, policymakers and members of the public together to discuss challenges and advocate for resources to meet the needs of children and families.  The WebEx videoconference will begin with remarks from Representative Diaz and Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), who will speak on behalf of the commission.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor of ZERO to THREE, an organization dedicated to ensuring that toddlers have a strong start in life. As the chief policy officer at ZERO to THREE, Dr. Jones-Taylor leads the development and implementation of the organization’s policy agenda, priorities and strategies; oversees the Policy Center, which includes federal and state policy, advocacy and federally-funded technical assistance units; and serves as the principal spokesperson and point of contact for the organization on public policy matters with policymakers, the media, funders, and partner organizations.

Invited to speak are Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73 (Newport, Middletown), House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins.

The event will also feature remarks from parents Andrew and Fernanda Poyant; child care providers Alexandra Flores, owner of Happykids Home Child Care, and Mary Varr, executive director of Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association; along with closing remarks from Marcela Betancur, director of the Latino Policy Institute, on behalf of the RIght from the Start.

5/19/2020RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), chairwoman of the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care since 2008, has announced that Child Care Awareness Day will take place online tomorrow due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.


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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a staff review of Rhode Island Capital Plan funds and the projects currently funded from them, as well as revisions proposed in the Governor’s budget.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/housefiscalreport/Pages/Home.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.
5/26/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Thursday, May 14 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a staff briefing on Federal Relief Programs and the May Revenue & Caseload Estimates.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/housefiscalreport/Pages/Home.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

5/12/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Larry Berman
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The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Thursday, May 14 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a staff briefing on Federal Relief Programs and the May Revenue & Caseload Estimates.


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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is imploring Governor Raimondo and Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott to release data on how the COVID-19 virus is disproportionately affecting Rhode Island’s minority communities.  Currently, no data has been released by the administration showing how the virus is affecting different groups of Rhode Islanders. 
 

“We are seeing across the country that COVID-19 is hitting minority communities particularly hard compared to other racial groups.  We are asking Governor Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott to release the data on how this virus is affecting Rhode Island’s minority residents so that we may develop a course of action on how to stop its spread and effectively treat those affected by the virus.  Whether this is due to economic factors, lack of medical resources, non-access to proper nutrition, or underlying conditions that affect minority communities more than others, it is becoming clear that COVID-19 is ravaging minorities more than any other group.  The public and its leaders need this data in order to stop this troubling pattern and this is why we are urging Governor Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott to release this important data so that we have the whole picture of the impact of COVID-19, particularly on Rhode Island’s minority residents,” said Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), Chairman of the RI Legislative Black and Latino Caucus. 
 

The member of the caucus are Representative Barros; Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown); Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence); Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket); Rep. Lianna Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence); Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence); Rep. Raymond Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence); Rep. Mario Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston); Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence); Rep. Carlos Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket); Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence); Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket); Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence); and Sen. Ana Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence). 


4/16/2020RepRep. Jean Philippe Barros; #222; Andrew Caruolo
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The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is imploring Governor Raimondo and Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott to release data on how the COVID-19 virus is disproportionately affecting Rhode Island’s minority communities. 
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is releasing the following open letter to Governor Gina Raimondo regarding the composition of the governor’s Equity Council during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dear Governor Raimondo,

When you publicly stated that the “Latino population was your top priority,” while all of us in the urban core are facing the same threats to our health and livelihoods, a statement that ignores the total diverse representation of Rhode Island’s communities of color, you effectively utilized the tried and true tactic of dividing communities of color and pegging their livelihoods and health against one another, while today boasting about this Equity Council and moving into Phase 2 in our recovery on June 2. 
Due to your actions, the community of color has two significant and additional obstacles to overcome – the improper composition of your initial appointments to this very-much lacking task force and more importantly, the need to catch up to the rest of the state in regard to their COVID-19 protections and remedies.

The Equity Council is charged with an opportunity to guide, represent, and execute the priorities of our state’s communities of color.  Especially those that are deemed essential workers without fair support and representation during this COVID-19 crisis. The Equity Council must represent a critical opportunity and address the difficult and structural racism and injustices our communities of color face.

Taking into consideration that the broadening of the council is a good thing at this point of you reopening the state for its second phase and in light of the community of color still facing the beginning stages of this pandemic, testing, tracking, quarantine shelter, food, financial assistance such as access to capital etc., I am requesting that the following organizations and individuals be appointed immediately: Dr. Luis Daniel Munoz,  Omar Bah, of The Refugee Dream Center,  Kiah Bryant, of DARE, and Roberto Gonzalez, of Steam Box.  These additions shall also represent a better spectrum of our communities’ cultural ethnicity and linguistic needs.

As you well know,  Rhode Island is extremely diverse, and in fairness, the Equity Council should correctly reflect and properly represent that as well, and not doing so would be a disservice to the communities of color and the principles of Rhode Island and its founders.  And as the great Dr. King once said, “It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.”

I witness on a daily basis the direct impact of COVID-19 on families, individuals, and our entire community of color.  Without our continued participation and input, you will continue to fail thousands of Rhode Islanders from the community of color for whom are also all of your constituents. 

I urge your immediate attention and action to the above vital appointments so that the community of color does not continue to needlessly suffer due to lack of proper representation, consideration, and assistance during this global health crisis.

Respectfully submitted,
Anastasia P. Williams
RI Representative – District 9
Providence”
 

5/22/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – House and Senate sessions have been canceled for the week of May 18-22. 

The House Finance Committee is expected to hold a hearing to review the administration’s third-quarter spending report. The Senate Finance Committee also expects to meet. More details about both meetings will be announced.

5/15/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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House and Senate sessions have been canceled for the week of May 18-22. 

The House Finance Committee is expected to hold a hearing to review the administration’s third-quarter spending report. The Senate Finance Committee also expects to meet. More details about both meetings will be announced.
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STATE HOUSE — Congressman David Cicilline is scheduled to present a federal legislative update to the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee when it meets on Thursday.

The committee will also hear an overview of federal stimulus bills by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Additionally, the Department of Administration will present a review of the Coronavirus Relief Fund spending plan and potential budget availability.

The meeting will take place Thursday, May 21, at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge at the State House. All invited testimony will take place remotely. The State House remains closed to the public.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed on the Rhode Island General Assembly website.

Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/SFD/default.aspx.  
 

5/19/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – After a request of Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty, the Department of Transportation is accepting applications from restaurants to allow them to use sidewalks on state roads outside their establishments for outdoor dining space so they can better serve customers while complying with new social distance requirements.

“Our goal is to allow this for a short term to provide our business community the opportunity to catch up on some of the lost opportunities they have suffered over these last seven weeks, and calm some fears over the uncertainty of the future,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “While we realize this will not make any of our entrepreneurs whole, we do know that every creative opportunity we can provide offers hope for them to stay afloat.”

Restaurants that wish to submit an application can find it on the front page of DOT’s website, dot.ri.gov. Approved applicants must also get local approval and comply with certain conditions, which include maintaining pedestrian rights of way that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The approval will expire when the new limits on indoor restaurant dining put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.

The legislators had made the request for specific roads in their district on behalf of the businesses there, and urged the DOT to adopt a statewide policy on all low-speed, two-lane roads. 

The original request also sought to allow the use of on-street parking spaces as well, for retail establishments as well as restaurants. While DOT’s application allows only restaurants to use sidewalk space, it does also allow restaurants to apply for extra on-street parking in areas where it is not normally allowed, if they are already using their own parking lots for outdoor dining. The representatives hope the application could be expanded to retail establishments if possible later in the reopening plan to help those businesses recoup some of their losses as well.

“We recognize that this is an extraordinary request, but this is an extraordinary time. We are very grateful to the DOT’s willingness to respond with flexibility, because helping local businesses comply with new space requirements will help them stay afloat during a very challenging time. Virtually every local business needs help right now. Efforts like this will make a difference to what our Main Streets look like on the other side of this,” said Representative Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).

5/21/2020RepRep. Teresa Tanzi; Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty; #166; #217; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, May 20 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear a staff briefing on the FY 2020 Third Quarter Report and a budget status update.  This will be a staff briefing followed by invited testimony from the Administration.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken at this meeting nor will it be open to the public. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website:  http://www.rilegislature.gov/housefiscalreport/Pages/Home.aspx.

TO THE MEDIA: An area outside Room 35 will be set aside for the media to watch the briefing, with committee members available afterwards. Contact Larry Berman at 401-447-2655 for details.

5/18/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Larry Berman
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House Finance Committee expected to resume budget hearings Thursday
 
House and Senate sessions have been canceled for next week, May 11-15. 
The House Finance Committee is expected to resume hearings on the FY20 and FY21 budgets Thursday. More details will be announced next week.

5/8/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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House Finance Committee expected to resume budget hearings 
 
House and Senate sessions have been canceled for the week of May 11-15. 
The House Finance Committee is expected to resume hearings on the FY20 and FY21 budgets Thursday. 
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) are advocating for the release of monies owed by Twin River casino to the Town of Tiverton in order to bolster the upcoming town budget which will be voted on in the coming months.

According to the host agreement signed between the town and the casino, Tiverton receives a $3.1 million annual payment from the casino, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the casino since March, the payment is in question, leaving Tiverton with a sizable hole in its budget.

“Twin River has been a wonderful town partner since opening the casino’s doors and the town has financially benefited from their presence.  But, due to these truly unprecedented times, the annual payment which the town counts on is uncertain.  As the town’s budget process continues, it is imperative that they know what the town has to work with in regard to finances and this $3.1 million payment is integral to our budget.  Whip Edwards and I are working with Rhode Island Lottery and the administration to ensure that Tiverton receives the money that it is due and that the current budget is not further devastated by a $3.1 million budget shortfall, causing harm to the town services and projects that the residents of Tiverton rely upon on a daily basis,” said Representative Canario.

“After a number of discussions with the town of Tiverton, we’ve come to understand that the town would be open to a prorated payment plan as long as it’s by quarter and not the whole course of the year,” said Representative Edwards.

Representative Canario and Whip Edwards are exploring many options, including possible various payment methods over the course of the year. Both representatives are working in conjunction with the town administrator and solicitor to get some resolution before Tiverton’s budget vote this summer.
5/14/2020RepRep. Dennis Canario; Rep. John Edwards; #197; #144; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61) has penned a letter to Gov. Gina Raimondo, asking her to alter an executive order to allow Massachusetts residents to play golf at Pawtucket Country Club.

While the governor’s executive order allows the state’s golf courses to remain open, it limits the fairways to Rhode Island residents only. The rule has put a unique burden on Pawtucket Country Club, since 15 of its 18 holes lie in Massachusetts. Since the commonwealth has recently reopened its golf courses, the country club has allowed Massachusetts residents to play on all holes except those that lie in Rhode Island, the first, 10th and 18th.

In his letter, Representative Johnston has asked the governor for a variance of her executive order, one that would allow Massachusetts residents — at least those from Seekonk or a predetermined distance from the course — to play.

“Pawtucket Country Club is an important and longtime Pawtucket institution,” wrote Representative Johnston. “It caters to — as the owners put it — blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth types. They have also adhered closely to all the rules and regulations relating to COVID-19. It’s also in a unique position of straddling the border of two states. This coupled with the fact that the very nature of golf lends itself to social distancing with ease, perhaps an arrangement can be made to make an exception for the Pawtucket Country Club.”

Representative Johnston also mentioned the precautions the country club’s owners have taken to secure the safety of the public: “The owners of the country club have been very diligent about following the rules, they have taken every health and safety precaution, have established hand sanitizing stations and have adopted a rule of one to a cart. The owners have also indicated that they are willing to test the golfers, to go above and beyond the requirements.”
5/14/2020RepRep. Raymond Johnston, Jr.; #174; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a financial impact on Rhode Island small businesses, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is calling upon the Department of Environmental Management to allow the state’s shellfishers to sell their product directly to the consumer.

“Giving these shellfishermen permission to do this would be a service to the community,” said Representative McNamara. “Especially at a time when people are looking for sustainable, nutritious foods that they can get directly from the harvesters. This is an invaluable opportunity to fulfill a need of the populace as well as help an industry that’s facing a cutback in demand at a time that is traditionally their busiest season.”

Representative McNamara, in a letter to DEM Director Janet Coit, wrote, “Lobstermen have been granted permission to sell their products at retail. I believe that this disparity between lobstermen and shellfishermen are based on a negative perception that commercial shellfishermen somehow do not handle their products safely. This prejudice is totally unfounded, today’s shellfishermen are extremely careful and knowledgeable about the handling and storage of shellfish. It is for this reason I believe that an equitable solution that would allow these professional fishermen to sell their product to the public, should be allowed.”

5/13/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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Conversation will cover how to vote by mail or in person
 
STATE HOUSE –Rep. Deborah Ruggiero will moderate a conversation for voters Friday with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Board of Elections Vice Chairman Steve Erickson on the process for mail voting and in-person voting for the presidential primary on June 2.

The virtual event, called “Voting in the Presidential Primary: Process and Security,” will take place on Zoom Friday May 15, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

“This conversation is to help people better understand the mail ballot process and the security standards,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “In light of COVID-19, voting by mail is safe and secure and it’s how many of those serving in the military vote. However, if someone wants to vote in person, they will be able to do so. There will be 47 polling places across the state. In my district, the Town Hall in Jamestown will be open as a polling place and in Middletown the Gaudet School will be a polling place.”

The conversation will cover:
  • How mail voting works, and the May 19 mail ballot application deadline
  • In-person voting at polling places on June 2
  • The emergency mail ballot process
  • How to check your voter information, view your ballot, find your polling location and other election information and
  • How to disaffiliate after voting by mail
To participate, visit https://tinyurl.com/ycmtnxqg. The Zoom meeting ID is 911 2548 1389 and the password is 786054.

5/11/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is releasing the following statement regarding the reopening of Rhode Island’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 

COVID-19 has devastated our state, as well as the rest of the country and the world.  Whether it has impacted those who have been infected, families who have lost loved ones, or healthy Rhode Islanders who have lost their jobs and businesses, this virus has truly changed our lives.  But, as imperative as it is to continue to protect our population from this virus, it is equally as important to reopen our economy as much as possible, because the economic fallout is only continuing to grow everyday we remained locked down, breeding a situation where many more lives are threatened due the economic depression brewing in our state,” said Representative O’Brien. 
 

“I commend our leaders for all that they have done during this crisis, but I believe this lock-down has lasted long enough.  My constituents are continually crying out for our economy to reopen so that they may provide for themselves and their families.    As a member of the House Finance Committee, I look forward to getting back to work for the people of Rhode Island next week when we begin to craft a budget for our state, perhaps the most important budget we have ever created in light of the enormous economic impact COVID-19 has had on Rhode Island.  Our front line workers and essential employees have sacrificed so much so that many of us can stay safely in our homes.  Now is the time for us to repay their selflessness by getting back to work, so that when this pandemic does end, there will be a functioning economy to return to and a budget that protects our most vulnerable citizens while also beginning our path to recovery,” concluded Representative O’Brien. 


5/8/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference to continue
 
STATE HOUSE – House and Senate sessions have been canceled for next week, May 4-8. 

The Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference will continue to meet next week, concluding on Friday. Due to the restrictions on public gatherings imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance by the public will not be permitted. Click here for further information on the Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference.

The House Finance Committee is expected to resume budget hearings the week of May 11.



5/1/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference to continue
 
House and Senate sessions have been canceled for next week, May 4-8. 

The Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference will continue to meet next week, concluding on Friday. The House Finance Committee is expected to resume budget hearings the week of May 11.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Justine Caldwell has announced that the Department of Environmental Management has awarded the town of East Greenwich a $137,600 matching recreation grant for new universally accessible playground equipment at Fairfield Playground.

The grant will help fund the installation of new universally accessible playground equipment at the Fairfield Avenue site, as well as a bench, playground safety surfacing, an access walkway and new fencing.

“At a time when we’ve been staying at home for weeks, it feels good to think about this project and the way it will improve the opportunities for kids of every ability to enjoy the outdoors. We will be able to safely enjoy resources like playgrounds again soon, and I find hope in knowing how much our community will appreciate the new, improved Fairfield Playground. I look forward to enjoying it with my own kids,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).
 

5/8/2020RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislators encouraged program is ready to launch

STATE HOUSE – Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley and House Small Business Committee Chairman Gregg Amore today urged the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to prioritize deployment of the Small Business Development Funds (SBDF) to provide critical capital for local small businesses.

“Rhode Island small businesses, the engines of our local economy, are facing financial peril due to COVID-19. We do not yet know how deep the chasm is and how prolonged this battle will be to emerge from this crisis. To put it mildly, the budget outlook is dire. Last year, we adopted a mechanism to provide access to up to $65 million in capital for Rhode Island’s small business. I’m pleased the Commerce Corporation revised regulations in March, and encourage them to work with applicants to launch the program without delay,” stated Senator Conley (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

“Now more than ever our small businesses need access to capital. It is our duty to use all the tools in our kit to support Rhode Island jobs. I’m encouraged that applicants stepped up to the plate and continue working through the rigorous regulatory framework. But as economic devastation looms large, we should not sit idle while COVID-19 devastates local jobs – it’s time to act. I urge the Commerce Corporation to prioritize deployment of the SBDF program so struggling small businesses can get critical access to capital and save local jobs,” said Representative Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

The General Assembly included in this year’s budget the Small Business Development Fund (SBDF), a program to provide underserved Rhode Island small businesses access to up to $65 million in private capital to support and create local jobs. The program provides flexible financing through both venture investment and growth capital lending to accelerate the expansion of existing and new small businesses.

Vetted by legislators over two years of extensive committee hearings, the program leverages private capital through a delayed at-risk stream of tax credits. Using experienced, federally licensed fund managers, investment decisions are made free from political interference. Taxpayers are protected under the program: no credits can be claimed until funds are fully invested; tax credits are clawed back for noncompliance; failure to meet job projections triggers financial penalties; state receives bonus profit sharing for exemplary fund performance; funds are subject to comprehensive oversight and reporting requirements.
 
5/7/2020RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Gregg Amore; #202; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) called on the General Assembly to pass the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Act (2020-H 7624) as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages nursing homes and further exacerbates staffing levels.

“I have heard from frontline heroes, families with loved ones in nursing homes and from the industry that there was a years’ long staffing crisis in our nursing homes even before the pandemic. I will honor the bravery of frontline nursing home staff by listening to their call and fighting to pass nursing home staffing legislation this year,” said Representative Slater.

Rhode Island, according to the latest publicly available Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Service staffing data, ranks 42nd in the nation and worst in New England for the average number hours of care residents receive in nursing homes.  Moreover, Rhode Island is the only state in New England, and one of eleven in the country, that does not have a minimum staffing standard in nursing homes.

“More than ever before nursing home residents are relying on frontline caregivers, and not just for their daily care but for comfort and friendship during the state’s non-visitation policy.  Everyone calls these caregivers heroes, so, let’s treat them like heroes by reinforcing them on the frontlines,” added Representative Slater.

Currently between 75 to 80% of coronavirus deaths in Rhode Island have been nursing home residents. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) affirms that that levels of infection rates are exacerbated by nursing homes with less staffing.

On February 5th of this year, Representative Slater was joined by House colleagues, members of the Rhode Island Senate, community groups, faith organization, frontline nursing home caregivers, and unions to urge passage of the Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act.

Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) is the sponsor of the Senate companion legislation (2020-S 2519).

There are 46 House co-sponsors of the Representative Slater’s legislation including, House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. David A. Bennett, R.N. (D-Dist. 20, Cranston, Warwick), and  Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick).

Currently, the legislation is before the House Finance Committee.
 

5/6/2020RepRep. Scott Slater; #155; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), along with the other members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, have petitioned Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to advocate for federal healthcare workers in the Veterans Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We would like to emphasize the critical care provided to active duty military and veterans by federal healthcare workers at the VA Hospitals and clinics, including mental healthcare provided at the Vet Centers,” reads the letter, which was sent to Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Representatives David Cicilline and James Langevin. “We ask your advocacy in adding these essential workers to the next stimulus package. It is imperative that we work to ensure the well-being of the entire military community, as well as our veterans who are counting on us to provide them with safe and well-equipped facilities.”

The letter, which has the support of House leadership and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was signed by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston), Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Rep. James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick), Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls), Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), Rep. Justin K. Price (R-Dist. 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter), Rep. David J. Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Representative Vella-Wilkinson.
 

5/4/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – East Providence’s Senate delegation today announced that the Department of Environmental Management has awarded a $100,000 matching grant to the city to construct a splash park at Pierce Memorial Field.

“A splash park will be such a welcome addition to Pierce Field, which is already a great recreational resource enjoyed by our community. This will make it an even better place for families, and provide an opportunity to cool off when it gets hot without making a trip the beach. So many Townies, including myself, have fond memories at Pierce Field, and the splash park is likely to become a highlight of summer and childhood in East Providence,” said Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence).

Said Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, East Providence, Bristol), “We are so happy to share the news about this exciting new project. Splash parks are a safe and tremendously joyful way for kids to cool off, and we can’t wait for the pleasure this will bring to the community.”

Added Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), “Particularly now, when we’ve been social distancing and staying at home for weeks on end, the news that this splash park is going to become a reality provides some welcome hope to our community. We’re all dreaming about getting outside and enjoying our neighborhoods again, and a new splash park is really something to look forward to.”

5/4/2020SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; Sen. William Conley; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #260; #202; #208; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts today urged Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to appoint a person of color to the Rhode Island Supreme Court – the state’s highest bench, which has never had a minority justice.

In a letter sent today, Senator Metts asked the governor to make history by appointing a person of color to the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia, who announced earlier this year that he would step down in June.

“To my knowledge there has never been a person of color on the Rhode Island Supreme Court. This is a gross injustice and travesty. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied,’” wrote Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).

“The minority community still feels the pain from 2004, when then-governor Donald Carcieri said that he was not interested in making history, when the highly qualified O. Rogeriee Thompson, now on the federal bench, was a candidate for the Rhode Island Supreme Court and was denied the opportunity.  Many from my community felt it was a slap in the face.

“As I have written to you before, the shortage of minority judges on the entire judiciary is troubling. Never having had any on the state’s highest court is entirely unacceptable. The numbers of minority judges was woefully low because of past discrimination. I appreciate your recent appointments, however, more needs to be done than replacing the one minority judge who retired and the two who passed away.

“More than making history, Rhode Island needs to do the right thing. Now is the time to correct this injustice and I urge you to appoint a person of color to this vacant Supreme Court judgeship.”

Senator Metts has been a vocal proponent of greater minority representation in the state’s courts, and has previously publicly urged the governor to select minority candidates for other judgeships.

5/1/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – House and Senate sessions have been cancelled for next week, April 27-May 1. The Joint Legislative Task Force on COVID-19 Emergency Spending will hold its first meeting next Thursday, April 30, afternoon at the State House, with a time and more details to be announced. 
 


4/24/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – House and Senate sessions have been canceled through May 1. The Joint Legislative Task Force on COVID-19 Emergency Spending will hold its first meeting next Thursday, April 30, afternoon at the State House, with a time and more details to be announced.


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STATE HOUSE – The Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force will hold its first meeting on Thursday, April 30, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge.

The 12-member task force will conduct a review of emergency spending on the COVID-19 response, including administration testimony on the emergency declaration timeline and executive emergency authority, expenditure and encumbrance data, and prioritization process and distribution of resources.

President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello appointed the task force last week, and have announced that the co-chairs will be House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

President Ruggerio also appointed the following Senate members: Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket); Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston); Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence); Sen. Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield); and Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Speaker Mattiello also appointed the following House members: Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).

Most Task Force members will be attending in person, with a few meeting remotely.  Representatives of the Raimondo administration will offer testimony remotely.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.  It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a.

No public testimony will be taken.  The State House is currently closed to the public during the pandemic. Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/covid/SitePages/jlc19.aspx

NOTE TO MEDIA – Media members should contact Greg Paré or Larry Berman for information regarding coverage.

4/28/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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The Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force will hold its first meeting on Thursday, April 30, at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge. The 12-member task force will conduct a review of emergency spending on the COVID-19 response, including administration testimony on the emergency declaration timeline and executive emergency authority, expenditure and encumbrance data, and prioritization process and distribution of resources.


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STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello today announced two additional members of the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force.  They have appointed Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).

The task force, which will have its first meeting on Thursday, April 30, will be examining the Raimondo Administration’s commitment of more than $100 million in emergency spending.  This would include a review of process and contracts involved in the establishment of field hospitals and the extensive purchases of medical equipment and supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The minority community is being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in a disproportionate manner. Upon learning of the magnitude of the impact on minority communities in Rhode Island, and particularly the Latino community, we wanted to make sure they were more actively represented on the task force,” said President Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello.

President Ruggerio previously appointed the following senators: Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. (D–Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket); Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston); Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who is also the Senate Democratic Caucus Policy Chairman; Senator Thomas J. Paolino (R–Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield); and Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman V. Susan Sosnowski (D–Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Speaker Mattiello previously appointed the following House members: Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. John W. Lyle Jr. (R-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) and Oversight Committee Chairwoman Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

4/22/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello today announced two additional members of the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force.  They have appointed Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).


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STATE HOUSE — As many Rhode Islanders continue to struggle financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) is calling upon Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island to hold off on premium increases for the duration of the crisis.

“I’ve heard from a large number of constituents who are worried about their ability to pay the rate hikes,” said Senator Lombardi. “I’m calling on Blue Cross and other health insurance carriers to hold off on those premium increases until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Everyone is making sacrifices during this pandemic, and I don’t think a delay in the increases is too much to ask, especially if it helps Rhode Islanders who are in dire financial straits to feed their families.”

Other companies and government agencies have delayed certain payments because of the pandemic. The state income tax deadline was pushed off until July 15, and many municipalities have followed suit. Also, the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission has approved temporary stops on utility shutoffs and collection efforts.

5/1/2020SenSen. Frank Lombardi; #205; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Edith H. Ajello has announced that the Department of Environmental Management has awarded a $100,000 matching grant to the City of Providence for improvements to the trails at Blackstone Park.

The grant will be used for trail restoration with bank stabilization, new fencing, trail maps, interpretive signage and trail markers at the 45-acre woodland along the bank of the Seekonk River in Providence.

“Blackstone Boulevard and Blackstone Park have always been greatly appreciated by those who love a peaceful spot to walk, run or relax in the city. They’re a valuable resource that people have truly missed while they’ve been closed for the last several weeks during the pandemic,” said Representative Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), whose district includes much of the park. “This grant provides those who miss the parks with a bit of hope. The parks will reopen, and soon they will be even better and easier to access.”

4/30/2020RepRep. Edith Ajello; #21; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Barrington legislators Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne, Rep. Jason Knight and Rep. Liana Cassar today announced that the Department of Environmental Management has awarded Barrington a $230,745 matching grant for shoreline improvements at Walker Farm, the kayak and rowing launch area on the Barrington River.

“We are so fortunate to have a beautiful place like Walker Farm here in town where the community can go anytime to enjoy our pristine waterways. This funding will help make an incredible resource even more useful and accessible, and will encourage people to get outdoors and on the water for some healthy, refreshing recreation,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

The grant will be used to expand the gravel parking lot, build a new accessible walkway to a new boat launch, build a new floating dock and platform and improve shoreline access for kayaks and rowers. Additionally, it will provide for benches, educational signs and plantings.

“We know that as the weather gets warmer, kayaking and canoeing will be especially popular as people look for safe ways to get out and spend time together. They’re naturally social distanced activities, and getting out on the water has the calming effect we could all use after the weeks of isolation we’ve been experiencing. These improvements to water access will no doubt be put to good use,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence).

Said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), “The improvements at Walker Farm will make it even easier for more people to try out paddling and rowing, with boats you can rent nearby. This investment is one more way to encourage people to be active and to get outside and enjoy fresh air and our beautiful environment.”
 

4/30/2020RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. Liana M. Cassar; Rep. Jason Knight; #208; #267; #241; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. June S. Speakman and Rep. Jason Knight today announced that the Department of Environmental Management has awarded a $400,000 grant to the town of Warren for improvements to Burr’s Hill Park and the town beach.

The matching grant will help replace and relocate an existing building to develop a new activity center with accessible bathrooms, a concession stand and a storage area. The project will also include replacing existing playground equipment, adding a connecting pedestrian path from the East Bay Bike Path to the Burr’s Hill parking lot and the installation of overhead lighting.

“Burr’s Hill is a beautiful spot that provides valuable recreational opportunities to the people of Warren. We are already very fortunate to have a park and beach like this in town, and these exciting improvements will make it more usable, accessible and inviting to everyone,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol). “Thanks to Warren Town Planner Bob Rulli and Parks and Recreation Director Tara Thibaudeau for their work on the grant application.” 

Said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), “At a time when state recreation facilities are closed and our recreational opportunities are limited to what we can enjoy while social distancing, it provides some refreshing hope to think about the improvements in store for Warren’s beach. After so much isolation, I’m sure people will really appreciate and take advantage of the new and improved facilities.”

4/29/2020RepRep. June Speakman; Rep. Jason Knight; #268; #241; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) has announced the awarding of a recreational grant by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to make several improvements at Oakland Beach.

“Oakland Beach is one of Warwick’s greatest treasures and one that’s frequently utilized by city residents,” said Representative Solomon, whose House district includes Oakland Beach. “I’m grateful to DEM for including this spot in its list of recreational grants, and I look forward to seeing the improvements. I also congratulate the city of Warwick Planning Department for submitting such an innovative and forward-thinking grant application.”

The $400,000 grant will be used by the city of Warwick to construct a splash park at the beach, along with a new boardwalk and enhancements to the playground. The grant money will also be used for coastal buffer improvements, low impact bioswales, which are used to remove debris and pollutants from stormwater runoff, and improvements to the entry of the pedestrian plaza.

Planning for the project is anticipated to start in the late summer or early fall, with construction of the project anticipated to start the following year.
 

4/28/2020RepRep. Joseph J. Solomon; #214; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and several leaders of Rhode Island’s minority community are releasing the following open letter to Governor Gina Raimondo concerning the effects COVID-19 is having on Rhode Island’s minority population.

“Dear Governor Raimondo,

This crisis has shed light on many issues within our society that need to be further addressed, and systematically changed, as evidenced by the disproportionate infection rate of COVID-19 throughout the state’s minority population. We are writing this letter to recognize the strides that have been made to confront this crisis, but also to acknowledge the additional steps that we must take to protect vulnerable communities who, due to social, economic, and healthcare inequities, are highly susceptible to the ravages of this disease. In order to properly address these issues, it is essential that our communities be engaged and empowered, so that our life experiences and unique perspectives can be synthesized into actionable measures that can effectively combat today's pandemic, and any future crisis that may arise.  

Rhode Island is among 15 states in the nation with the highest percentage of immigration from a variety of countries with diverse social and cultural backgrounds, yet these integral members of our state are being left behind, which also includes our state’s homeless population and residents with disabilities.

Recent reports have highlighted that Latinos represent 46% of all confirmed cases of COVID-19, despite the fact that they only represent 16% of Rhode Island’s total population, and the numbers continue to rise with each passing day. There is also significant social devastation resulting from COVID-19 which is being felt throughout Rhode Island's Southeast Asian and Asian communities, manifesting as discrimination and racism. This malignant environment has more seeded fear in members of our very connected community. That fear stretches beyond the corporeal and into the heart of their economic future, and the uncertainty of whether their families and businesses will confront even greater barriers to the American Dream.

Information is power when it is met with a path toward effective change. Our diverse communities of color, along with other vulnerable populations, have been unable to access crucial public health information. There have not been sufficient efforts expended on the accessibility and delivery of translation and interpretation services, which has left many within our community wondering, whether anyone is truly looking out for them. The lack of inclusive outreach efforts in various languages has predisposed our communities to widespread transmission, as a result of not providing timely information about the disease and necessary preventive measures. This has predisposed families within our communities to access challenges as it relates to essential resources, which include, but are not limited to, financial support services.

It is also important to recognize that throughout the country, we have also seen a disproportionate number of African Americans affected by this virus, yet, data for Rhode Island’s African American population has not been released by your administration. It is important to recognize that our communities of color are diverse, representing African Americans, Cape Verdeans, Haitians, and many others. In order to protect our communities and to ensure equitable care, it is essential that all available information and testing datasets be immediately released to the public. Our communities have advocates and strategic alliances that can support our efforts to interpret that information for our communities. This information has the ability to offer insights that will help to counteract the fear, which is spreading throughout our communities at an alarming rate.

The social determinants of health that have contributed to the disproportionate prevalence of chronic diseases in communities of color are associated with lack of access to economic opportunity, proper nutrition, affordable healthcare, quality education, affordable housing, financial support services, as well as, income inequality. The status quo is no longer viable to solution. The first wave of COVID-19 has exposed the already existing social and healthcare disparities, but a second wave of COVID-19 has the potential to completely destroy our communities, economy, and health systems. Therefore, as elected and community leaders, and more importantly, as human beings, it is vital that we work together to collectively confront the greatest threat that we may ever face.

Rhode Island’s minority population deserves to be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect, therefore, our calls to action should not be met with silence. We are all Rhode Islanders first and foremost, and it is only through open communication, collaboration, and transparency that we will succeed. At this moment, our shared duty and responsibility is clearer now, more than ever. Today, we must declare that the needs of the vulnerable, the needs of our minority communities, and the needs of those struggling families living paycheck to paycheck will be met with proactive measures that will ensure equitable healthcare, the necessary systematic changes that will lead to generational opportunity, and the restoration of our economy.

The selected and elected bodies tasked with preparing communities for the impact of this COVID-19 surge, and future resurgences, must include our community members and leaders that are rooted within our communities of color, since they can better advocate for the needs of our communities. Without inclusion and fair representation within current or future task forces and committees assigned to quell the spread of COVID-19, it is likely that communities of color will be continually left behind.  It is a moral obligation that the community of color have a significant place at the table moving forward, so that all of Rhode Island’s communities emerge from this and future emergencies stronger, more resilient, and healthier, together.

Sincerely,

Anastasia P. Williams, RI Representative – District 9 (Providence)                                               
Channavy Chhay, Executive Director, Center for Southeast Asians
Rev. Dr. Chris Abhulime, The King’s Tabernacle Church
Omar Bah, Executive Director, Refugee Dream Center
Morris Akinfolarin, Executive Director, Oasis International, The African Center of R.I.
Eduardo Sandoval, President, Olneyville Neighborhood Association
Annajane Yolken, Executive Director, Protect Families First
Eugene Monteiro, Executive Director, Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association
Pastor Sherrod Jones, Judah Multicultural Church
Bernard Georges, New Bridges for Haitian Success (NB4HS)
Jacqueline Watson
Iasha Hall
Kelly Nevins, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of RI
Bella Robinson, Executive Director, Coyote RI
Chhorm Chea, Chief Monk of the Dhamagosanaram Buddhist Temple
Steve Ahlquist, upriseri.com
Dwayne Keys
Catarina Lorenzo, Director, AMOR
Pastor Gerald Wright, New Heights Homeless Ministries
Carol Aguasviva, Community Angels”

4/28/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE - Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is announcing several recreational grants that the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has awarded to projects within District 71. 

“I thank DEM for these crucial grants that will go a long way to protecting our district’s beautiful natural resources and public spaces so that they may be enjoyed and utilized by residents and visitors for many more years to come,” said Representative Canario. 

Tiverton received a $375,000 grant to replace playground incorporating accessible equipment and sensory elements, to create a new fitness park, and to modify two of the four existing tennis courts into six full-time pickleball courts.

Little Compton was awarded a $80,000 grant for town landing improvements, which will establish a safe all-weather parking area, develop a walkway from the parking area to the beach, install plantings, restore turf, and establish a stone memorial to benefactor. 
4/28/2020RepRep. Dennis Canario; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of April 20-April 24 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

4/17/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of April 20-April 24 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Deborah Ruggiero today thanked the staffs at three Middletown nursing centers for their hard work during the COVID-19 crisis by delivering lunch to them.

Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) delivered a total of 36 pizzas to the staffs at Blenheim-Newport on Valley Road, John Clarke Retirement and Nursing Center on Valley Road and Grand Islander on Green End Avenue.

“Frontline workers at nursing homes are caring for some of the most at-risk people in Rhode Island, and are working nonstop to protect family members in their care. The high stakes of keeping the virus out of each center has made their jobs extremely, extremely stressful and difficult every day. Yet, day in and day out, they continue treating our friends and family with a smile and a positive attitude. They are the real heroes. I just wanted to say thank you to them for the work and dedication they bring to their job every day through this crisis,” said Representative Ruggiero.

Representative Ruggiero also extends a big thank you to Constantine Amarant and his family at Aquidneck Restaurant and Pizzeria in Middletown, for handling her large order so well, and to Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth), who helped behind the scenes.

“It was very much appreciated by the staff of the John Clarke Nursing Center, who felt supported by Representative Ruggiero and her kindness and generosity. It was wonderful. This is the first time during this crisis that someone in politics has reached out to the long-term care workers here, and it really did mean a lot to us,” said Dru Boiani, director of nursing services at John Clarke Retirement and Nursing Center.
 
IN PHOTO: Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), right, delivers pizza to Grand Islander Director of Nursing Tanya Lawton for her team.
4/23/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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CASA DE ESTADO — Preocupada por la forma desproporcionada que COVID-19 ha sido afectando a la comunidad latina de Rhode Island, la Representante Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) esta instando a los latinos del estado que muestran síntomas de la enfermedad a hacerse la prueba en uno de los las clínicas de la ciudad.

“Me preocupan los informes de que el 45 por ciento de los que dieron positivo son de la comunidad latina,” dijo el Representante Díaz, cuyo distrito de la Cámara representa una gran población de personas de ascendencia latina. “Las razones de esto tienen mucho que ver con el hecho que muchos latinos trabajan en trabajos esenciales de alto riesgo, incluida en la area médica. Esto, junto con El hecho de que muchas familias alberguen varias generaciones bajo un mismo techo, ha llevado a que un gran se infectarse con COVID-19, los latinos representan el 16 por ciento de la población general.

“Aplaudo a la gobernadora Gina Raimondo por reunir un grupo de trabajo para llegar al fondo de las razones por las cuales esta enfermedad ha afectado a los latinos de manera tan desproporcionada. Mientras tanto, yo insto a todos los miembros de la comunidad latina a hacerse la prueba en uno de los sitios de la ciudad. La prueba gratuita  se realiza tanto en la Escuela Primaria Bailey en el 65 Gordon Ave. en Providence, como en la Clínica Esperanza en 60 Valley Street en Olneyville. La prueba es confidencial y por sólo cita. Llame primero para programar un horario y recibir instrucciones. Llamar al bailey escuela en (401) 444-0404 y Clínica Esperanza en (401) 408-0238.”
 

4/23/2020RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Concerned with the disproportionate way COVID-19 has been affecting Rhode Island’s Latino community, Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) is urging Providence Latinos who are showing symptoms of the disease to get tested at one of the city’s clinics.

“I’m troubled by reports that up to 45 percent of those who tested positive are from the Latino community,” said Representative Diaz, whose House district represents a large population of people of Latino descent. “The reasons for this have much to do with the fact that many Latino’s work in essential high-risk jobs, including health care. This, coupled with the fact that many families house multiple generations under one roof, has led to a large percentage becoming infected with COVID-19, even through Latinos make up only 16 percent of the general population.

“I applaud Gov. Gina Raimondo for putting together a task force to get to the bottom of other reasons why this disease has hit Latinos so disproportionately. In the meantime, I urge everyone in the Latino community to get tested at one of the city’s sites. Free testing is being done at both Bailey Elementary School at 65 Gordon Ave. in Providence, and at Clinica Esperanza at 60 Valley Street in Olneyville. Testing is confidential and by appointment only. Call first to schedule a time and receive instructions. Call the Bailey school site at (401) 444-0404, and Clinica Esperanza at (401) 408-0238.”
 

 
4/23/2020RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) is thanking the Department of Environmental Management for working with her to ensure that fisheries, farmers and garden centers remain in business with necessary precautions to protect workers and consumers for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want those who work in fishing and agriculture to know that we’ve developed policy and protocols to enable businesses to remain open during this crisis,” said Senator Sosnowski, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture. “Those in agriculture and the seafood industry are struggling since the closure of restaurants and other businesses and supply chains. We want them to know that we’ve been working hard to take steps to keep business going.”

Senator Sosnowski has been in frequent contact with Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit and the Director of the Division of Agriculture Ken Ayars, as well as with the Rhode Island representative from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Rhode Island Farm Bureau and other stakeholders on all issues that agriculture and seafood industries are facing at this time. Those issues include finding alternatives to the supply chain, how to safely open farmstands and farmers’ markets as well as issues with distribution of Rhode Island’s share of federal stimulus money. 

Senator Sosnowski is also part of a working group along with DEM and the Division of Marine Fisheries and industry stakeholders on a parallel track to ensure that the seafood industry is protected and served. Among the emergency regulations issued by DEM are provisions temporarily allowing fishermen to make additional direct sales of their catch dockside to consumers or directly to retailers.

“At this time, both the Rhode Island seafood industry and farmers are producing food, but our supply chains have been broken,” said Senator Sosnowski. “Please know that we are finding solutions and implementing them as quickly as possible. One of the groups has worked hard to ensure that Rhode Island’s garden centers will be able to safely open before Mother’s Day so farmers can sell the plants they have been growing for the past few months.”

Garden centers are working to accommodate the new guidelines and are scheduled to reopen on April 27.

“As we celebrate Earth Day today, people around the state may be tending to their gardens. It is good to know that garden centers will soon be open again to accommodate them,” said Senator Sosnowski. “And with so many people planning to plant victory-type gardens, now is the time to support our local garden centers.”

For more on the DEM’s guidelines and response to COVID-19, see dem.ri.gov.

4/22/2020SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Revenue & Caseload Estimating Conference is scheduled to take place Friday, April 24 through Friday, May 8. Due to the restrictions on public gatherings imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person attendance by the public will not be permitted. The meetings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Twice yearly, in the spring and the fall, the conference principals (the State Budget Officer, Senate Fiscal Advisor and House Fiscal Advisor) must reach a consensus on what the state general revenues and caseload expenses are estimated to be for the current fiscal year and the budget year. The General Assembly and the State Budget Office use these projections to prepare the budget. The principals include State Budget Officer Thomas A. Mullaney, who is serving as chairman of the spring conference; House Fiscal Advisor Sharon Reynolds Ferland; and Senate Fiscal Advisor Stephen H. Whitney.

The meeting schedule of the spring estimating conference is:

Friday, April 24        Testimony
9 a.m.              Cash assistance caseloads —
Department of Human Services


10 a.m.            Medical Caseloads —
Executive Office of Health and Human Services

 
Wednesday, April 29  Economic Overview and Testimony
9 a.m.               U.S. and R.I. economic forecasts —
IHS Markit economist Michael Lynch
 
R.I. Labor Market Conditions —
Department of Labor and Training Labor Market Information Unit
Assistant Director Donna Murray
 
          Consensus Economic Forecast
 
10:30 a.m.      Unclaimed Property — Office of the General Treasurer
Historic Structures Tax Credits — Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission
Motion Picture Production Tax Credits — R.I. Film and Television Office
Commerce Corporation Tax Credits, Commerce Corporation
Lottery Receipts —Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery
 
Friday, May 1            Follow-up testimony


9 a.m.              Cash assistance and medical caseloads —
Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services


Monday, May 4         Testimony
2:30 p.m.        Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
                        Accruals — Accounts and Controls, State Controller Peter Keenan
                                                                                                               
 
Tuesday, May 5         Caseload Estimate
9 a.m.              Caseload Estimating Conference
 
Wednesday, May 6   Follow-up Testimony (if necessary)
11 a.m.            Tax Collections — Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation
                        State Tax Administrator Neena Savage
                       
Friday, May 8            Revenue Estimate
9 a.m.             Revenue Estimating Conference
Meeting Materials will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/Pages/2020CCREC.aspx.
 
 
4/21/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #199; #202; Larry Berman
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State House, ProvidenceRhode Island House Republicans earlier today called for an immediate reconvening of the House Oversight Committee in a letter to Committee Chairwoman Patricia Serpa, outlining numerous issues and polices of concern during the State of Emergency Declaration by Governor Gina Raimondo. The letter, signed unanimously by the House Minority Caucus was sent electronically to Chairwoman Serpa, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Leader Joseph K. Shekarchi and all members of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
 
The text of the letter is below:

 
Rhode Island General Assembly
Office of the House Minority Caucus
 
 
                                                                                                                        April 21, 2020
 
 
Chairwoman Patricia Serpa                                                                                                   
House Committee on Oversight       
Rhode Island State House                                                                                                             
82 Smith Street                                                                                                                                      Providence, RI 02908

VIA Email and Hand Delivery
 
 
Dear Chairwoman Serpa:
 
We hope you and your family are well during these challenging times. Over the past several years, your work chairing the House Oversight Committee has brought much-needed sunlight and accountability to state government. We have operated in true bi-partisan fashion, and the Committee’s success cannot be overstated.
 
Yet, our past work pales in comparison to the magnitude of House Oversight’s responsibility during this COVID-19 Emergency Declaration. Now, more than ever, House Oversight must meet, either in-person or remotely.
 
During this state of emergency, Rhode Island is governed under our military affairs and quarantine statutes, specifically R.I.G.L. § 30-15-1, et seq. and R.I.G.L. § 23-8-1 et seq. These statutes, in particular R.I.G.L. § 30-15-1 et seq., imbue the Governor with immense power to govern through executive orders, subject to criminal penalties.
 
Some executive orders have directly restricted fundamental Constitutional rights – particularly the freedoms of movement and association, and privacy rights. Governor Raimondo addressed her power to restrict our Constitutional Rights: “What is constitutional in one scenario is different than in another. This is pinpointed, this is targeted, this is a state of emergency, this is limited in time, and it’s going to be enforced in a respectful way.”[1]
 
This letter is not to say we agree or disagree with the decisions of the Governor. Rather, this type of immense authority – the ability to make and enforce law – must never reside unchecked in one person. Our predecessors in the General Assembly understood this truth when they drafted R.I.G.L. 30-15-9(b): “The general assembly, by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time.”
 
Our General Assembly is the necessary check and balance on the Governor’s nearly unbridled authority during this state of emergency. We, and the people we represent, can rest assured with the Governor wielding this power, so long as there is oversight of it – and that is the duty of our House Oversight Committee.
 
The duty to exercise our function to review these actions is all the more apparent in light of the constraints put on the Fourth Estate – our local media. Rhode Island’s journalists have been stunted because they cannot attend the Governor’s managed press briefings. They do not have direct access to speakers nor a reliable method to ask follow-up questions.
 
Without legislative oversight of executive branch policies and proclamations, and without reliable access by responsible journalists, this emergency is run with little necessary lawful supervision. This is not a healthy condition for our Republic, and the public at-large is becoming disconcerted.
 
Commencement of hearings by the House Oversight Committee will demonstrate that our system of government remains strong, that checks and balances remain, and this will help to assuage many Rhode Islanders’ concerns. Thankfully, we can accomplish this goal with minimal public safety risk to citizens, the committee members, or our valued staff.
 
The following are suggested topics for discussion:
 
  1. Administration of the $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds;
  2. The COVID-19 virus’s disproportionate effect on minority communities and the state’s response;
  3. State’s announced development of “ethical standards” to apportion medical care in the event of a shortage;
  4. Processes and rationale for “essential business” designations;
  5. Processes and rationale for “essential employee” designations;
  6. Status of unemployment claims at the department of labor and training;
  7. Processes for designating surge hospitals – the Convention Center in Providence, North Kingstown former Lowes, and former Citizen’s Bank building in Cranston;
  8. Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency’s and Department of Health’s roles and responsibilities during this crisis;
  9. The closing and anticipated reopening of state parks and beaches;
  10. History of disease impact and spread modeling to date and how the models, or lack thereof, influenced decision making;
  11. Use of science and data in decision making processes;
  12. Development of phone location tracking for contact tracing program;
  13. Designation of health care workers as Disaster Response Workers to protect them from civil liability pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 30-15-15;
  14. Provision of information to non-English speaking populations;
  15. Criteria for determining that COVID-19 was the cause of a death;
  16. Mail ballots processes and procedures and the exemption of election laws from the Presidential Preference Primary;
  17. Metrics for determining the success of distance learning;
  18. Policies for use of non-FDA approved treatments;
  19. Processes and milestones for the Governor's multi-state working group for reopening the economy;
  20. Decision making process to close local small businesses in preference to large box stores and how processes are being conceived in preparation to reopen Rhode Island’s economy;
  21. Processes utilized to work with the federal government to maximize resources for our state;
  22. Processes for addressing remote services for seniors and the vulnerable populations, as well as healthcare protocols for those in congregate care;
  23. Process and data applied used to determine permitted size of gatherings until the issuance of a vaccine;
  24. Process and data applied for protocols established for out of state tourists and seasonal residents.

 
On behalf of all Rhode Islanders, we thank you for your consideration and look forward to meetings of the House Oversight Committee.
 
Respectfully Yours,
 
 
Rhode Island House Minority Caucus   
Representative Blake A. Filippi,                          
Minority Leader                                                     
Representative Michael W. Chippendale,                    
Minority Whip                                                        
Representative John W. Lyle                                           
Representative George A. Nardone                              
Representative Brian C. Newberry                                
Representative David J. Place
Representative Justin K. Price
Representative Robert J. Quattrocchi
Representative Sherry Roberts

 
 
c.c.      Members of the House Committee on Oversight
            Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nicholas Mattiello
            House Majority Leader, Joseph Shekarchi


4/21/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; #218; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) is highlighting the generosity of a local organization named Feed 1,000 that recently donated food to the Providence Center community support program’s frontline workers.  Representative Alzate, a former employee of the Providence Center, facilitated the much-needed donation with the help of Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). 

“While we continue to adapt to the threat of COVID-19, I think it’s important to highlight those in the community who are going above and beyond to help others during this time of crisis.  I thank Feed 1,000 for not only their crucial meal donation to the Providence Center, but for their generosity across the state as well.  The only way we can overcome the threat, the fear, and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is through the care and collaboration of the community, and Feed 1,000 is a perfect example of the community coming together to help those in need,” said Representative Alzate.   

Feed 1,000 started in 2011 as a way for Priority Management Group, based in Pawtucket, to give back to the community by offering a free holiday dinner to those in need, providing meals for more than 1,200 people that year. Since then, more than 11,000 Rhode Islanders in need have been served. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Feed 1000 owners Richard Santilli, Robert Skefington, and Raymond Jorgensen decided to turn their efforts towards feeding first responders and frontline workers in the healthcare industry who are working around the clock to treat and protect Rhode Islanders affected by the COVID-19 virus. Feed 1000 teamed up with Kevin Millonzi, owner of Millonzi’s Fine Catering in West Warwick, and since then, the group has been delivering meals to frontline workers across the state. 

4/21/2020RepRep. Karen Alzate; #255; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) today issued the following statement on COVID-19 and the Latino community:

“As Rhode Island continues to make strides in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, many of us were dismayed to learn that Latino Rhode Islanders account for a full 42 to 45% of all COVID-19 cases in the state, despite representing 16% of the state’s population. I am pleased that Governor Raimondo has formed a task force to identify the root causes for this disproportionate impact. We can point to a variety of documented preexisting conditions, including the fact that Rhode Island Latinos are overrepresented in low-paying retail, health care, service and so-called gig economy jobs. These are precisely the kinds of jobs that present the highest risk during this pandemic: from certified nursing assistants at senior living facilities to supermarket and bodega clerks, Uber and Amazon drivers, and cleaning and maintenance personnel. Not surprisingly, while many of these jobs have been deemed “essential,” they usually offer little or no health insurance coverage. Another issue we keep hearing about is the number of people working in mid-sized and large manufacturing and packaging plants where social distancing and other preventative measures may or may not be implemented or enforced. A person can wash their hands all day, wear a mask and quarantine at home yet still be exposed to dozens of potential carriers on a daily basis at their place of employment.

"Governor Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott have done a great job leading our state through this crisis. I am confident in our state’s resilience and ability to overcome adversity. However, once we have overcome the pandemic and things begin to normalize again, I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to good-paying jobs and health care coverage."



4/21/2020SenSen. Ana B. Quezada; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The COVID-19 pandemic has upended virtually every aspect of life, including the upcoming presidential preference primary. Rep. Lauren H. Carson is reminding voters that the primary date has changed, and that there are also changes to the mail ballot system as a result of the crisis.

The state has moved the date of the primary from April 28 to June 2. In another change, the Secretary of State’s office is mailing every registered voter a mail ballot application and a postage-paid envelope in which to return it, in an effort to run a “mostly mail ballot” primary. Those who return the mail ballot application by the application deadline — May 19 — will receive their ballot in the mail, along with another postage-paid envelope to return it once they’ve filled it out.

Those voting by mail will be required to sign the ballot and affix either their Rhode Island driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Municipalities will confirm all signatures to validate authenticity of voters. Ballots must be returned by June 1 at 8 p.m.

Polling places will still be open June 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (noon to 8 p.m. in New Shoreham) for those who do not vote by mail.

“Although the presidential candidates are pretty clear by now, Rhode Islanders still deserve and are guaranteed the right to vote for the candidate of their choice….This voting plan, endorsed by the Rhode Island State Board of Elections, has created a mail voting system with checks and balances that I support,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport, in a recent message to constituents. “Keep in mind that elections are labor intensive events and many of the election staff and poll volunteers are committed citizens over 60 years of age, and they are the most vulnerable in the pandemic.  Additionally, there will be limited polls open complicating this vote.”

The deadline for voter registration is now May 3. May 4 is the deadline for disaffiliation from a political party, which is required for voters who are affiliated with a party but wish to vote in another party’s primary.

For more information about voting or to check your voter registration or party affiliation status, visit vote.sos.ri.gov. Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has also posted a brief video about the changes, viewable here.

For information on elections by mail nationwide, Representative Carson suggested voters read this article from the National Conference on State Legislatures.
 
 
4/21/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Sponsor of bill to provide access to doulas says pandemic lays bare racial disparities in health care
 
STATE HOUSE – As Black Maternal Health Week comes to a close, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today urged fellow policymakers to consider the struggles and disparities faced by pregnant women of color.

“This year we mark Black Maternal Health Week during the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a pandemic that also shines a brighter light on the horrendous disparities that exist in our healthcare system. Across minorities, health access and outcomes lag far, far behind those of whites,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “In the case of maternal health, women of color and particularly black women are disproportionately impacted and are dying 3 to 4 times more than their white peers. This is totally unacceptable and we must take action to ensure that pregnant women of color have the high-quality prenatal, maternal and postnatal care they need to stay healthy and give birth to healthy babies who deserve a safe start at life.”

Black Maternal Health Week, observed annually April 11-17, has been led for three years by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to deepen the national conversation about and enhance community organizing on black maternal health; amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions; center the voices of black mothers, women, families, and stakeholders; and provide a national platform for black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell is the sponsor of legislation (2020-H 7587) to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs. Doulas are trained healthcare professionals who provide women with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few weeks after giving birth. Births assisted by doulas also have significantly lower rates of cesarean sections, with one study showing a 39 percent reduction. 

“Access to doulas reduces mortality and morbidity rates, and passing this compassionate, intentional piece of legislation is a win-win for all, especially pregnant and postpartum mothers,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.


4/17/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is urging Governor Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order which would state that any COVID-19 infection suffered by a frontline worker or essential personnel shall be considered work-related, providing the worker with labor protections resulting from the work-related infection. 


We are truly living in scary and unsettling times, yet those who are still working, protecting us, caring for us, and making sure that we are all supplied with the necessary goods and services, these individuals are serving the rest of us despite their well-founded fears of getting sick.  These selfless workers deserve to know that if the worst should happen and they become infected with COVID-19, that we recognize their sacrifice for our greater good, and their infection and recuperation should be deemed work-related. While most of us are safely tucked away in our homes, these employees have earned and are rightfully deserving of these significant and crucial worker protections for themselves and their families that are in immediate danger.  This is not only fair, but most importantly, the right and moral thing to do, recognizing the importance of their work and sacrifices during this pandemic,” said Representative Williams. 


Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) is supportive of Representative
Williams’ efforts.
 


The federal and state government has done a great job stepping in to help those who are out of work as a result of COVID-19 but has not taken adequate measure to protect those who are still working. Rhode Island must act now to protect our essential workers who are making sure our basic needs are being met during these unprecedented times. Immediate action is required to support these courageous workers by affording them the basic protections afforded to injured workers under the Rhode Island Workers Compensation Act. The least we can do is tell these workers that their medical bills and families will be taken care of in the event they contract COVID-19,” said Representative Shanley. 


The executive order would apply to first responders and anyone designated by the Director of the Department of Labor and Training and the Director of the Department of Administration as an essential employee.  This would include any public safety official, including but not limited to, police, fire, EMS, medical facility workers, correctional officers, dispatchers, paramedics, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical technicians.  The order would also apply to grocery or retail workers, essential state and municipal employees, janitorial staff, public transportation employees, parcel and freight delivery employees, truck drivers and utility workers, whether the workers are citizens, documented or undocumented immigrants.  Any worker who contracts, has symptoms of or otherwise becomes affected with COVID-19, during the time period in which the state, federal government or any municipality declared a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that results in a period of hospitalization, quarantine, or require self-quarantine measures as a result of being infected or coming into contact with someone who is infected with the COVID-19, shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related. 


The amount of time any public safety official or employee is incapacitated or unable to perform their duties as a result of the COVID-19 infection or exposure and the required time of hospitalization, time of quarantine or time of self-quarantine shall be considered as on duty time, and said public safety official shall not be required to use their sick time, vacation time, or personal time or any other contractual time-off to cover said period of incapacitation or inability to perform regular duty work. The time of incapacitation or inability to perform their duties shall be considered as emergency hazard health duty. 


No claim or report of injuries, or the identity of the claimant, relative to any claim filed pursuant to the workers’ compensation laws of this state shall be reported by any state agency or employer to any federal law enforcement authority, including but not limited to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 


If the governor refuses to protect and safeguard our essential employees and chooses not to issue this crucial executive order, Representative Williams plans to introduce legislation protecting Rhode Island’s essential workers once the General Assembly reconvenes.  


Everyone who is in danger of becoming infected with COVID-19 and still working to ensure our society does not come to a complete stop deserves the slight peace of mind that if they do become sick, their sacrifice will not be tossed aside, or even dismissed, and be left to fend for themselves.  This is the only moral action to take to assist the people that are unselfishly putting themselves in harms way to benefit the rest of us I urge the governor to do the right thing and take immediate action to show our often underappreciated and underpaid essential workers how invaluable their contributions clearly and obviously are to our society, especially during these times of crisis,” concluded Representative Williams. 


4/13/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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 Rep. Anastasia P. Williams is urging Governor Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order that would state that any COVID-19 infection suffered by a frontline worker or essential personnel shall be considered work-related, providing the worker with labor protections resulting from the work-related infection. 

 
 
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STATE HOUSE – There will be no House or Senate sessions next week, April 13-17, nor any committee hearings.

4/10/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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There will be no House or Senate sessions next week, April 13-17, nor any committee hearings.
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STATE HOUSE — Welcoming the news that a Smithfield company is ramping up its production of face masks, Rep Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) is urging Honeywell to draw from restaurant and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs for the company’s new hires.

Honeywell Inc., which specializes in the manufacture of safety equipment, has announced that it expects to hire 500 new workers to handle the increase in production. The company plans to recruit, hire and train immediately.

“Rhode Island is fortunate that this company is headquartered here,” said Senator Lombardi. “And Honeywell is fortunate that it has such a talented pool of workers to draw from. So many people in the restaurant and hospitality industry have lost their jobs due to the social distancing requirements of coronavirus policies. I urge the company to reach out to them, and together they can help mitigate this disaster and bring a happy close to it.”

The N95 masks are produced by the company are of particular importance to medical professionals because they filter and block 95 percent of airborne particles and droplets such as those that transmit coronavirus. The company has said that it hopes increased production will provide millions of additional masks to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
 
 

3/23/2020SenSen. Frank Lombardi; #205; Daniel Trafford
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Welcoming the news that a Smithfield company is ramping up its production of face masks, Rep Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) is urging Honeywell to draw from restaurant and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs for the company’s new hires.


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