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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) led the dedication and unveiling of a new memorial to the nine Rhode Island Marines who were killed in the Beirut bombing attack on October 23, 1983 on Sunday.  The memorial is located at Remembrance Park along the Providence River.

“The journey to pay tribute to these nine fallen Rhode Island Marines has taken a long time.  But, I am pleased that the outcome of our efforts has resulted in a beautiful and fitting memorial to these brave young men who lost their lives in battle defending our country.  I hope that this moment serves as a lasting reminder to the courage, bravery, and dedication that was exhibited by these men, not only on that fateful day, but also during their whole careers serving and protecting the American people and our country’s ideals and principals,” said Representative Azzinaro, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Nine marines from Rhode Island lost their lives in a 1983 terrorist attack on a Marine compound in Beirut.  The nine Marines were among 241 American service personnel that perished in the attack.

At the memorial unveiling, Representative Azzinaro was joined by the Gold Star family members of the fallen Marines, several representatives of the United States Marine Corps, House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Lt. Governor Daniel McKee, and members of the Rhode Island National Guard.

The keynote speaker at the event was Gregory J. Slavonic, the Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy.  United States Marine Corps Colonel Craig Wonson, a professor at the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School, also delivered remarks.

The names of the fallen Rhode Island Marines are Sgt. Timothy Giblin of North Providence; Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian of Portsmouth; Cpl. James Silvia of Middletown; Cpl. Stephen Spencer of Portsmouth; Cpl. David Massa of Warren; Cpl. Edward Soares, Jr. of Tiverton; Cpl. Rick Crudale of West Warwick; Cpl. Edward Iacovino, Jr. of Warwick; and Cpl. Thomas Shipp of Woonsocket.

Photo: Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro at the unveiling of a new memorial commemorating the nine Rhode Island Marines who were killed during the Beirut bombing attack in 1983.


9/29/2020RepRep. Samuel Azzinaro; #134; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie Lawson will introduce a Senate resolution calling upon the City of East Providence to purchase Metacomet Golf Club to preserve it as open space.

“One thing that has become quite clear is that people of East Providence value the green space and beauty of Metacomet. I see this moment as an opportunity to create a gorgeous recreational and environmental asset for East Providence, one that would be enjoyed immensely for generations,” said Senator Lawson, a Democrat whose District 14 includes the 105-acre golf course. “Keeping Metacomet green would benefit the public and the environment, and I’m confident our community would be proud to support such an investment.”

The senator said she plans to introduce a Senate resolution matching a House resolution that will be introduced by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) calling on the city, through eminent domain, to purchase Metacomet for public use. The proposal calls for a municipal bond that could be supplemented through Department of Environmental Management grants, federal aid, various conservation organizations’ support and the forming of the Metacomet Conservancy Land Trust.

The historic Donald Ross-designed golf course features rolling hills overlooking Narragansett Bay. It could be connected to the nearby East Bay bike path to create a recreational resource that could be easily accessed and enjoyed by Rhode Islanders.

“This is a creative, outside-the-box idea, one that could be a turning point in our city’s development. I sincerely hope that our city will explore this possibility and look into every possible resource that could make the preservation of Metacomet a reality. This is a rare opportunity to not only save a green space, but turn it into an asset that everyone can enjoy,” said Senator Lawson.
9/28/2020SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano and Sen. Ana B. Quezada are calling upon Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to ensure that the state complies with minority contracting laws as it decommissions two field hospitals set up to handle coronavirus patients.

“The coronavirus pandemic has hurt all sectors of our economy, particularly small businesses. Meanwhile, the illness itself has disproportionately affected minority communities. It is always important to follow the laws that require the state to include minority contractors, but at this time it is even more critical, economically and morally,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). “Hiring minority-owned businesses – which also tend to hire more minority employees—will save some of the most at-risk small businesses and jobs, helping our communities weather this storm. It’s a smart way to makes sure our state resources do the most good.”

The State Properties Committee is set to meet tomorrow morning to take steps toward decommissioning the surge hospitals that were set up in the spring at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence and at a former Lowe’s in North Kingstown to handle patients if local hospitals became overwhelmed. That scenario, fortunately, did not play out. The state plans to leave the third surge hospital in Cranston set up for now, in case its use becomes necessary.

The two senators pointed out that Rhode Island spent $34 million to construct and equip the three field hospitals, and not a single dollar went to a minority-owned Rhode Island company. By law, 10 percent of all state construction and service contracts must be awarded to minority-owned companies that have completed a rigorous state certification process, but as an emergency measure, those contracts were exempt from the requirement.

Senator Quezada and Senator Cano said the state must do better to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law as the hospitals are decommissioned.

“There are hundreds of minority-owned business enterprises on the state’s master list of vendors, and they deserve to be considered for these valuable contracts. We have the 10-percent law for a reason. Rhode Island is a place where inclusivity is valued. Our state dollars must be spent in a way that reflects those values and lifts up communities that have, historically, often been left out,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

9/28/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #245; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) is releasing the following statement concerning the potential municipal purchase of Metacomet County Club in East Providence through eminent domain.

“As Marshall Properties comes to the residents of East Providence with an either or proposition regarding the re-development of the Metacomet Country Club and their vision of what they think is best for the city’s future, I am offering a legitimate alternative that will allow the public to determine how best to utilize one of the limited greenspaces located in our city and in all of the urban core.  I have submitted a House Resolution calling on the City of East Providence, through eminent domain, to purchase the 105 acre golf course for public use.  I am proposing a municipal bond that may be supplemented through RIDEM grants, federal aid, various conservation organizations’ support and the forming of the Metacomet Conservancy Land Trust.  I also believe that a crowd funding campaign to support the purchase and preservation of this green space would have broad appeal to everyone from school children to environmentalists, here in East Providence and well beyond.  I have written letters to Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressman Cicilline and Governor Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Audubon Society, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Sierra Club of Rhode Island to ask for their assistance in this endeavor.

“As a lifelong resident of the City of East Providence, in a position to have an impact on the future of this magnificent parcel, I feel obligated to offer a bold solution that would protect this open, green space from commercial development and preserve it for public recreational use.  Years from now, I would be filled with remorse and regret if I didn’t at least try to offer a plan to preserve this special space for future generations of Townies.  Do the residents of East Providence not deserve a public space like residents of so many of our neighboring cities and towns enjoy? Whether it be a walk through Haines Park in Barrington, a bike ride through Slater Park in Pawtucket or a jog through Roger Williams Park in Providence, our neighbors enjoy access to recreational opportunities and open, green space that we do not. The people of East Providence deserve those same opportunities.

“Imagine an accessible open space abutting the Providence River with views of the Narragansett Bay and the Providence skyline in the distance.  Imagine walking and jogging trails, picnic areas and an extension loop of the East Bay Bike Path across the parkway and through ‘Metacomet Park.’  Imagine parents and children sledding the hills on a snowy winter day during Christmas break.  We have an opportunity to create a special public space along Veterans Memorial Parkway.  A ‘parkway’ which was designed by Frederick Olmsted Jr. in his father’s grand tradition (Central Park in NYC, among others) of preserving and creating public green space for the benefit of us all.  This proposal fits perfectly into the Olmsted vision of well- planned parks having a positive effect on human behavior and improving the lives of those who have access to them. This proposal also fits perfectly into the state’s mission for the use of greenspace bond money, which appropriately funds and protects coastal features, farmland and wooded acreage all over the state.  This urban green space cries out for that same protection.

“It is crystal clear that the residents of East Providence are opposed to the destruction of an open space and the re- development of Metacomet Country Club.  It is also clear that the redevelopment of this historic golf course and transforming its open, green space into another development covered in asphalt will have an adverse impact on the quality of life of East Providence residents.  Beyond the overwhelming public opposition, neighborhood altering impact, and potential traffic congestion issues that are presented by the Marshall proposals, there are significant ecological and environmental concerns associated with commercial development. I draw your attention to the compelling public testimony of the former Executive Director of Save the Bay and former head of the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Curt Spalding who stated,  “Keeping the entire site as open space serves as an insurance policy against climate change.  Viewed through the understanding of how climate change will affect Narragansett Bay and the residents of East Providence, the rezoning of Metacomet to commercial or residential is an entirely wrong-headed decision.”

“While Professor Spalding has expertly articulated the long term public interest in preserving Metacomet from an ecological and environmental standpoint, the residents of East Providence have convincingly and passionately petitioned their government and expressed their desire to Keep Metacomet Green.  What I am proposing may be seen as a Hail Mary pass, but, anyone who watches football knows that those passes connect on occasion and it changes the outcome of the game.

“I have sent letters and a copy of the House Resolution to Mayor DaSilva and the members of the East Providence City Council asking them to support this proposal and to work with me and all interested parties in an effort to see that it comes to fruition,” concluded Representative Amore.

9/28/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, September 29 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on the budget issues surrounding Eleanor Slater Hospital and a redesign proposal for the hospital.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be 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. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

9/28/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is urging that all new residents who have moved to Rhode Island recently from a different state, such as New York, be counted as Rhode Island residents in the 2020 Census that is ending on September 30.

“With the importance and urgency of a complete census count in Rhode Island determining whether or not our state will lose a congressional seat, as well as crucial Federal dollars, we must ensure that all new residents have been counted as Rhode Islanders.  The country is witnessing a mass exodus from many of our large cities due to COVID-19 and other factors, and many of these people are moving to Rhode Island.  Since there is only eight days left of the 2020 Census, we must put forth the significant effort to count these new residents so that Rhode Island does not forfeit vital funding from the Federal government or our congressional presence in Washington is lessened,” said Representative O’Brien.

9/22/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is releasing the following statement regarding the passing of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“This is another sad moment to an already trying year.  A great warrior for equality, empowerment, justice, and fairness has completed her journey and has been called to rest.  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nothing short of a legend and her record and legacy will prove this fact far into the future.  It is fitting that we found ourselves celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, because now that Justice Ginsburg has gone to that high court in the sky, we must find our new voice to continue her courageous legacy of always fighting for the rights of the marginalized, the oppressed, and the persecuted.

“The Honorable Justice Ginsburg once said, 'I was fortunate to be a child, a Jewish child, safely in America during the Holocaust. Our nation learned from Hitler’s racism and, in time, embarked on a mission to end law-sanctioned discrimination in our own country. In the aftermath of World War II, in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in the burgeoning Women’s Rights movement of the 1970s, ‘We the People’ expanded to include all of humankind, to embrace all the people of this great nation. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, of many one, signals our appreciation that we are the richer for the religious, ethnic, and racial diversity of our citizens.'

“Justice Ginsburg recognized what we as a society are capable of and she constantly fought to remind our country of its better angels and what is possible if we all come together and are ALL able to enjoy the constitutional rights bestowed upon us as Americans.  There is still much more work to be done before we reach the ideals that Justice Ginsburg taught us throughout her esteemed career.  There are still so many injustices to be righted and hate that needs to be stamped out.  But then again, I believe that was her hope for us all, to unite in one voice and loudly declare that hate, racism, misogyny, persecution, and injustice have no place in our society and that everyone, no matter their background, gender, or beliefs has the right to peacefully live and coexist among everyone else in this great land.

“Her death now greatly underscores the importance of the upcoming election.  We must take the values and lessons Justice Ginsburg instilled upon us to reject the divisiveness, the hate, and the untruths that seek to lead our country astray.  She held on, as long as her body was able, because she knew that her position, our position, was too important to relinquish in the face of those who wish to strip our God-given rights away. 

“Justice Ginsburg has been fighting for truth and righteousness for so long, and she has rightfully earned her peace and rest.  And now, it is up to us to pick up her torch, to carry on her legacy of justice and equality, and to continue the good fight for fairness, compassion, and unity.

“That is the greatest lesson I take from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are far stronger together than we are apart and that our differences do not make us weaker, but more united and ready and able to make our world a better place,” said Representative Williams.

9/22/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the restaurant industry, Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has introduced  legislation that will allow restaurants to continue the practice of selling alcohol with takeout orders through the end of 2021.

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday at 4 p.m. to hear testimony on the bill (2020-H 8130). Speaker Mattiello worked collaboratively on the issue with the hospitality industry and Gov. Gina Raimondo in March.

“Alcohol to go has proven to be popular with consumers and very helpful to restaurants during the pandemic,” said Speaker Mattiello. “I look forward to extending this practice through the end of 2021, as it was set to expire at the end of this year.  I believe this bill will continue to assist restaurants during these very difficult times.”

The bill, which would expire on Dec. 31, 2021, would allow those restaurants with Class B licenses to sell up to two bottles of wine, 144 ounces of beer and mixed drinks in original factory-sealed containers with takeout orders. It would also allow 144 ounces of draft beer or 72 ounces of mixed drinks in growlers, bottles or other sealed containers.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

“I thank the co-sponsors for working with me on this issue and for their commitment to helping the restaurant and hospitality industry,” added Speaker Mattiello.
9/21/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Daniel Trafford
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the restaurant industry, Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has introduced  legislation that will allow restaurants to continue the practice of selling alcohol with takeout orders through the end of 2021.

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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, September 23 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on a proposed budget amendment from the governor that relates to taxes.

The proposed amendment to Article 8 in the FY 2021 state budget deals with taxes and is the fourteenth budget amendment submitted by the governor.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be 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. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

9/21/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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State House, Providence, RI –Members of the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus will submit legislation to address COVID-19 mandates that have denied access to individuals in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and Veterans Homes.
 
The fundamental right to have bedside companionship and health advocacy was denied to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican legislation will balance safety with the rights of our hospitalized, elderly and disabled patients. The purpose of this bill is to entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits. The policy is designed to assist facilities in balancing disease transmission protocols with the benefits of having a loved one present during a lockdown.
 
“The failure for our infirmed to have in-person visits during this pandemic has real consequences,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “We witnessed stressful and at times terrifying experiences for our elderly and disabled when they were sequestered from their loved ones. Additional suffering occurred when patients were denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments. The stories shared by our constituents who were refused access are heart-wrenching. We believe some of this stress could be avoided with this legislation.”
 
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders lost loved ones in medical or assisted living settings since the onset of this virus. An overwhelming majority of the elderly who succumbed to this virus were never consoled, or were given the chance to personally say goodbye to their families, before they passed on,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Most other New England states and healthcare facilities implemented designated support person visitation policies early on in this pandemic.  To date, over nine states have established Designated Support Person statutes in response to COVID-19. The fact the Rhode Islanders continue to be denied full access to loved ones due to the Governor’s mandates is unconscionable.”
 
“Since March, friends, personal care assistants, and family members were unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate their loved one’s needs” said Representative George Nardone.  “A designated support person is an essential worker. They become part of a strategic plan in treating medical conditions, and in helping medical professionals avoid negative health outcomes.”
 
“We also need to recognize the mental health implications,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “Scientific data proves there are strong, positive correlations between personal social interactions and health outcomes. A designated support person becomes a vital member of an infirmed Rhode Islander’s care and safety team – especially during social distancing mandates.”
 
“Our legislation allows one select individual to safely remain with the patient, nursing or group home resident at prescribed hours each day or week,” said Representative Justin Price. “The healthcare facilities need our legal support and authorization to permit safe, reasonable accommodations. We all agree that companionship is needed for the best quality of life and recuperation.”
 
“In Rhode Island, gubernatorial mandates were executed to address only one health concern—the pandemic,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “The Governor’s Executive Orders ignored all other health conditions, to the detriment of hundreds of Rhode Islanders. The social isolation within our healthcare facilities and group homes created unbearable distress to patients, residents and to their loved ones.  This overreach needs to be corrected immediately. We offer this legislation to establish standards and protocols for the duration of this pandemic and to set norms for policy in the future.”

9/16/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #218; #169; #251; #238; #219; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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State Senator suggests that with USPS threatening to endanger effectiveness of mail ballots, Secretary of State should focus on encouraging early in-person voting

STATE HOUSE – On the day that Rhode Island Secretary of State proclaimed she was going to send out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Islander without legislative approval, Colorado’s Secretary of State raised alarms about a postcard sent to voters across the country by the U.S. Postal Service that contained misleading information about voting by mail.

Sen. Leonidas Raptakis (D-Dist 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) said that while Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s intent is admirable, good intentions don’t give her the right to assume she has the authority to make law. That is the General Assembly’s responsibility and while it is unfortunate that the bill that would have required sending a mail ballot application to every Rhode Islander for the general election did not pass, it does not allow the state’s top election official to pretend the law allows her to do it.

At the same time, Raptakis said the disturbing actions of the USPS in trying to muddy the waters about the mail-in voting process, should have Secretary Gorbea focusing on encouraging people to take advantage of early voting opportunities that allow Rhode Island voters to cast an “emergency” ballot in-person at their City or Town Hall in the twenty days before the November 3 election. (That early, in-person voting will begin on October 14.)

“I appreciate Secretary of State Gorbea’s desire to give Rhode Island voters all the options they need to safely cast a ballot this November, but this has the appearance of a grandstanding play that could end up causing more confusion if the Secretary’s plan doesn’t survive the inevitable legal challenge,” said Raptakis. “Given the statements of Colorado’s Secretary of State, I fear the U.S. Postal Service may not be a reliable honest broker in effectively and efficiently processing mail-in ballots. Given that reality, Secretary Gorbea should be focused on what can be legally be done to make sure our citizens vote in November and that means focusing on getting people to vote early, as the law allows.”

Senator Raptakis notes the importance of voting and that voting does not necessarily mean electing a particular person to office.

“Voting is too important for the process to hinder anyone’s ability to cast a ballot.  When voting, the public not only selects candidates to assume office, but crucial votes are also cast for ballot referendums, bonding, budgets, and various other items with significant financial implications.  We must make voting accessible for everyone,” said Raptakis.

Late Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold took to Twitter to call out a postcard sent to voters last week by the USPS that advised them to “mail your ballot at least 7 days before Election Day.” That recommendation was made despite the fact that local election officials in many states are advising voters to mail them back much sooner. Griswold tweeted, “Confusing voters about mail ballots in the middle of a pandemic is unacceptable. It can undermine confidence in the election & suppress votes.”

Raptakis said he doubts Secretary Gorbea’s move to send mail ballot applications to every voter in the state will survive a court challenge, noting that in making the announcement, Gorbea only had one member of the Board of Elections taking part in the press conference announcing her plan. And instead of citing the statute she felt gave her the authority to essentially enact a new law, she later sent out a press spokesperson to insist that “no change in the law is necessary to send out applications.”

“If no change in the law is necessary, why didn’t Secretary Gorbea take that stance from the beginning, instead of having a Task Force call for legislative solutions in July that included sending out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Island voter?” asked Raptakis. “Why did her own press release announcing those Task Force findings say she was “reaching out to the General Assembly and Governor Gina Raimondo” to enact these plans and why did she decry the Senate’s failure to pass the bill that was approved by the House and not tell us then that she was going to declare herself a law-maker,” concluded Senator Raptakis
 
Related Links:
 
Secretary of State Gorbea’s July 9, 2020 press release on findings of elections Task Force:
https://www.sos.ri.gov/news-and-events/view/38803
 
Story on Colorado Secretary of State’s response to USPS postcard to voters:
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/griswold-accuses-usps-voting-misinfo

9/16/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) is planning to reintroduce legislation (2019-S 2378) during the upcoming General Assembly session in January to allow public schools to conduct a moment of silence for students and staff every September 11th.  Whether or not to institute a moment of silence will be left up to the local school districts if the legislation is enacted.

Senator Raptakis noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislation did not come to a vote this year.

“After the New York law was brought to my attention, I thought this policy would also be useful in Rhode Island’s classrooms.  September 11th was one of the most seminal events in our country’s history and as each anniversary of the event goes by, it’s important that we impress the significance of the attack on our students to not only memorialize all that were lost and sacrificed during the attacks, but also to help engage in conversations with students about the impact and history of that terrible day,” said Senator Raptakis.

Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) will be introducing the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The devastating and tragic impact of the 9/11 attacks will forever be engrained in our national hearts and minds.  While almost 20 years has passed since that awful day, I believe it is important to honor and remember the lives lost, the heroes that emerged, and the unity that our country discovered after that fateful date, especially for our students who were not yet born to witness the event,” said Representative Serpa, Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee.

Senator Raptakis based his legislation on a bill that was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last year.

The proposed bill would allow a brief moment of silence at the beginning of the school day on every September 11th to inspire dialogue and remembrance of the devastating attacks in 2001.  By passing the law during the next legislative session, the law would be in effect for the twentieth anniversary of the attack in 2021.

9/11/2020RepSen. Leonidas Raptakis; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #100; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, and Governor Gina M. Raimondo today released the following joint statement on the FY21 budget and bond initiatives:
 
“As we await direction from Washington regarding additional relief for states, Rhode Island’s FY21 budget picture remains uncertain. COVID-19 has caused significant damage to our national and local economies, and it is critical we have a full understanding of the funding available to the State. Likewise, the placement of bond issues on the ballot is directly linked to the overall budget plan. Given these considerations, we look forward to holding a special session in November to consider the FY21 budget, as well as a special election shortly thereafter to vote on this year’s bond initiatives.”

9/11/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, and Governor Gina M. Raimondo today released a joint statement on the FY21 budget and bond initiatives.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is thanking Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell, and others, for their support in addressing the systematic inequalities within in the state’s judicial system, including the need to diversify the state’s roster of judges with jurists of color.  On September 3, Representative Williams held a rally at the State House where she called for the support of Rhode Island’s chief judges and state leaders to appoint two well-qualified candidates of color to the bench, Superior Court Associate Justice Melissa Long to the Supreme Court and Central Falls Municipal Judge Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court.

“I’d like to thank Chief Justice Suttell for his commitment to ensure that Rhode Island’s courts operate in a manner that guarantees ‘equal justice for all’ and for his willingness to acknowledge that our court system is lacking in fair representation and diversity for our state’s community of color.  His compassion toward the struggles and inequality that too many of our underserved residents face on a daily basis and his leadership to rectify this injustice is a breath of fresh air in our current climate and I truly commend his effort to implement the change that has been called for, and now demanded, by our residents of color.  I look forward to supporting his efforts to finally fix our inequitable judicial system and a good place to start would be advocating for the qualified head of his ‘justice for all’ steering committee, Associate Justice of the Superior Court Melissa Long, to be appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court,” said Representative Williams.

“I would also like to thank Geoff Schoos for his insightful September 8th commentary, Black Lives Matter on the RI Supreme Court (www.golocalprov.com), in which he concisely, eloquently, and truthfully describes the reasoning behind and the important need to diversify our court systems so that all of our residents feel that they are properly and fairly represented on our court benches,” added Representative Williams.

“Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the efforts led by Brown University President Christina Paxson to not only remove the word ‘plantations’ from Brown University’s official name, but also her support for the upcoming November election ballot campaign to strip this hateful word from the state’s official name.  We all know that Brown University has extensive ties to slavery in its past and I am grateful that leaders like former President Ruth Simmons and President Paxson have done so much to shine a light on this insidious history and their efforts to rectify the lingering aspects of systematic racism within Brown University and the City of Providence.”

“Our movement to repair the injustices perpetrated by our judicial system and its lack of fair representation is growing by the day and we will continue forward with our campaign until we stamp out the systematic racism that has permeated our state and its institutions for far too long,” concluded Representative Williams.

9/10/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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State House, ProvidenceRhode Island House Republicans will immediately file legislation to address the pressing educational challenges brought on by COVID-19.  The Republican plan will: 1) establish Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which are restricted receipt accounts, funded by tax and CARES Act dollars, but managed by families, to provide additional education tools and home schooling to students in districts without in-person learning; and 2) to provide public school choice to parents of any school that fails to provide in-person learning despite a state determination it is safe to do so.
 
The legislation will provide options for parents in response to a number of Rhode Island school districts announcing limited educational opportunities for their students in the 2020/2021 school year. The legislation is intended to ensure that their children do not fall behind from remote learning. In any school District that does not provide in-person learning, parents have two options.
 
First, parents can continue with remote learning, and will be able to utilize ESAs to pay for tutoring, technology, supplies and other extra help measures.
 
Second, Parents may opt to home-school their children. ESAs will be utilized to fund this home-schooling program.
 
A third option will be provided to parents in schools that do not provide in-person instruction despite a state determination it is safe to do so. Those parents will be able to send their child to any other public school offering in-person learning, that has capacity, and the money will follow the child to the receiving district.
 
Funding for these programs will come from the existing per pupil school funding, as well as the utilization of existing CARES Act funding held by the state of Rhode Island and available for these purposes.
 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be directed to enact emergency regulation to carry out the intent of this legislation, if enacted.
 
“Education lays the foundation for human development,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “It is the benchmark of progress within families and our communities. It is the link between cultures, our history and advancements in science. The challenges remote learning presents in overall childhood development, in enhanced socialization skills, and in children’s mental health cannot be understated.  Each child needs to learn in an environment conducive to their specific needs, and government’s role is to provide the best setting possible for learning and growth.”
 
“We believe that parents know what the best learning environment is for their children and that they are the primary advocate for their child's education,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “We also believe that by empowering families with the use of ESA’s, we are providing various options that will allow parents to determine the best learning environment for their children, and alleviate some of the pressure on the school districts.  ESA’s function similarly to health care accounts and 529 college funds, which many families are already accustomed to. ”
 
"While we strongly agree that districts should embrace in-person learning, we feel that promoting lawsuits will only result in further delays and unnecessary expenditures in legal fees for districts,” said Filippi. “Therefore, we are offering these legislative alternatives to address the issue of education authority within the state, as is our charge per Rhode Island laws. If the House, Senate and Governor are serious about ensuring the best education for our children under the current state of emergency, and in turn embrace our efforts, our initiatives can become law within a week while still following all legal House Rules."
 
“No child can be expected to develop into an adult with a promising future without the foundation of a solid education, which includes socialization,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Currently, our children are experiencing unprecedented interruptions in their learning development and the damage created in not addressing each child’s individual learning needs is our greatest fear-- which could have lifelong, detrimental effects.  That is unacceptable.”
 
"Many districts are struggling with financial issues, working diligently to get their schools open in the medium to long-term,” said Representative Justin Price. “We need to offer immediate options for RIDE and the families of school children to set a thoughtful statewide course of action. I think this emergency plan will enable families to ensure their children receive the best education possible during this extraordinary time."

9/3/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. Justin Price; #218; #169; #219; Sue Stenhouse
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State House, Providence, RI –Members of the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus will submit legislation to address COVID-19 mandates that have denied access to individuals in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and Veterans Homes. 
 
The fundamental right to have bedside companionship and health advocacy was denied to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican legislation will balance safety with the rights of our hospitalized, elderly and disabled patients. The purpose of this bill is to entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits. The policy is designed to assist facilities in balancing disease transmission protocols with the benefits of having a loved one present during a lockdown. 
 
“The failure for our infirmed to have in-person visits during this pandemic has real consequences,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “We witnessed stressful and at times terrifying experiences for our elderly and disabled when they were sequestered from their loved ones. Additional suffering occurred when patients were denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments. The stories shared by our constituents who were refused access are heart-wrenching. We believe some of this stress could be avoided with this legislation.” 
 
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders lost loved ones in medical or assisted living settings since the onset of this virus. An overwhelming majority of the elderly who succumbed to this virus were never consoled, or were given the chance to personally say goodbye to their families, before they passed on,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Most other New England states and healthcare facilities implemented designated support person visitation policies early on in this pandemic.  To date, over nine states have established Designated Support Person statutes in response to COVID-19. The fact the Rhode Islanders continue to be denied full access to loved ones due to the Governor’s mandates is unconscionable.” 
 
“Since March, friends, personal care assistants, and family members were unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate their loved one’s needs” said Representative George Nardone.  “A designated support person is an essential worker. They become part of a strategic plan in treating medical conditions, and in helping medical professionals avoid negative health outcomes.” 
 
“We also need to recognize the mental health implications,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “Scientific data proves there are strong, positive correlations between personal social interactions and health outcomes. A designated support person becomes a vital member of an infirmed Rhode Islander’s care and safety team – especially during social distancing mandates.” 
 
“Our legislation allows one select individual to safely remain with the patient, nursing or group home resident at prescribed hours each day or week,” said Representative Justin Price. “The healthcare facilities need our legal support and authorization to permit safe, reasonable accommodations. We all agree that companionship is needed for the best quality of life and recuperation.” 
 
“In Rhode Island, gubernatorial mandates were executed to address only one health concern—the pandemic,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “The Governor’s Executive Orders ignored all other health conditions, to the detriment of hundreds of Rhode Islanders. The social isolation within our healthcare facilities and group homes created unbearable distress to patients, residents and to their loved ones.  This overreach needs to be corrected immediately. We offer this legislation to establish standards and protocols for the duration of this pandemic and to set 
9/10/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #218; #169; #251; #238; #219; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), along with Warwick Mayor Joseph J. Solomon Sr., are inviting the public to experience the memorial service at Oakland Beach in Warwick to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

This year, with the assistance of Capitol Television, last year’s event will be streamed on the General Assembly and City of Warwick websites.

“On behalf of Mayor Solomon, Representative Solomon and myself, we invite the public to commemorate the 19th Anniversary of September 11th from the safety of their homes by watching the ceremony and discussing it with their family,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “With the limitations placed on us by COVID-19, we’re proud that Warwick can stand by its promise to ‘Never Forget.’ Events such as these serve to bring us closer together as we honor those who fell; and it reminds us of the work we still need to do to combat terrorism around the globe.”

The event can be seen on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Channel 61 by Cox Communications, Channel 1061 by Cox HD customers, Channel 34 by Verizon viewers and Channel 15 for Full Channel subscribers. It is also streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and WarwickRI.gov.
9/10/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is fully supporting the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) and their concerns regarding the state’s school reopening plans, most notably if it is safe for students and staff to return to classrooms while the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Rhode Island.  Representative O’Brien demonstrated his solidarity by joining the PTU at a September 8th protest held at the State House.

“The concerns brought up by the PTU and various other educational groups across the state regarding the potential dangers of reopening our schools are valid and based on the science before us.  While our children may possess some resistance to the effects of COVID-19, the same cannot be said for many of our staff and teachers, especially those who are in the high-risk categories for severe symptoms of the virus.  These dedicated educators have also highlighted the sub-par effort that has gone into making our schools safe for return, such as unclean classrooms, lack of PPE and proper procedures, and the general vagueness of the state-wide orders the governor has implemented in regards to reopening our schools.  Our children need to be educated, but our teachers and staff must be also protected from this deadly disease.  I stand with the PTU and I believe much more must be done to ensure a safe reopening of our schools,” said Representative O’Brien.

Representative O’Brien is a math teacher at Central High School in Providence and a member of the Providence Teachers Union.

9/9/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Pawtucket – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Pawtucket Councilor At-Large Albert J. Vitali Jr. want to assure their constituency that the School Committee in the City of Pawtucket are committed to ensuring that local businesses, Minority Business Enterprise firms, and Women Business Enterprise firms are represented in every project possible. The Senator and Councilor are pleased to share that the School Committee is assuring them that the MBE/WBE regulations are a part of the upcoming rebuild of the Henry J. Winters Elementary School contract.

“Having served on the School Committee, education will always be near and dear to my heart which is why I appreciate the hard work that the Pawtucket School Committee has done to completely rebuild Winters,” said Senator Cano, who also served as City Councilor At-Large. “I am encouraged by the School Committee’s commitment to hold the contractor that is ultimately selected accountable for ensuring that MBE/WBE firms are utilized for this project.  Making sure our minority and women owned businesses get their fair share of state and city contracts has been one of my top priorities since entering public service and it will continue to be, especially due to the uncertain economic times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse effect on our businesses. As a City Councilor, I will continue to partner with the School Committee, who continues to do great work for our youth, in order to support local businesses who employ our residents and ensure that MBE/WBE firms are represented while putting people back to work,” said Councilor Vitali.

According to the State of Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity, & Opportunity website, a small business “which is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals or in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more such individuals” is considered to be MBE or WBE.
 

9/3/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 8128) which would require all police officers in the state to wear body cameras during any interaction with the public.

“Accountability for bad law enforcement is on all of our minds lately and I think we all agree that law enforcement officers who engage in illegal actions deserve fair and just punishments.  However, I think it is also crucial to point out that the majority of our dedicated law enforcement officers are good people who serve their communities with honor and distinction.  The required use of body cameras for all of our police will not only provide crucial evidence and accountability if a police officer breaks the law, but they will also protect good and moral officers against untrue accusations.  Body cameras provide the transparency that the public deserves and expects and there is no reason why our officers should not be wearing them,” said Representative Millea.

The bill would require all peace officers with arrest powers in the state to wear and activate body cameras during any car stop, search, arrest or during any interaction with any civilian or the public.  Any police officers engaged in under-cover police work would be exempt from the requirement.

The legislation also establishes protocols for the retention and destruction of body camera footage and institutes penalties for failure to comply with the regulations.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
8/25/2020RepRep. Christopher T. Millea; #248; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) will be holding a press conference on Thursday, September 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the State House steps (Gaspee Street side) to demand that Governor Raimondo appoint more judges of color to the state’s court benches.  In particular, Representative Williams will discuss the necessary and crucial appointments of Melissa Long to the Supreme Court and Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court.  She will be joined by several members of Rhode Island’s community of color who are involved with and affected by Rhode Island’s judicial system.

“We have had this conversation far too often, and for far too long.  While our state continues to grow, year after year, in diversity, our courts have remained stagnantly in the past and void of the color that fills the cities and towns of Rhode Island. Enough is enough.  With the movement for racial justice sweeping across this country at a pace not seen since the 19060’s, now is the time to finally give Rhode Island’s community of color their earned and well-deserved seats at the judicial table.  Now is the time for our judiciary to represent all of our citizens equitably and fairly.  Now is the time for Governor Raimondo to prove that her words calling for equality and unity are backed up by her actions and the only way for the governor to do this is to appoint Melissa Long and Elizabeth Ortiz to the state’s Supreme and Family Courts,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams will discuss how the state’s judicial system has failed Rhode Island’s community of color and what needs to be corrected in order for the judiciary to finally become representative of the state’s diverse communities in order to affect true racial and societal justice for all Rhode Island residents.

9/1/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – As Rhode Island police attempt to sort out the case of a Providence man who they believe illegally sold dozens of firearms that he had reported stolen, and the nation learns more about the 17-year-old who apparently gunned down protestors in Kenosha, Wis., Rep. Justine Caldwell is calling for passage of her package of common-sense gun safety measures.

Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) says the tragedy in Wisconsin and the cache of illegally sold weapons in Rhode Island just as a new wave of gun violence has erupted in Providence show that the need to address gun violence has not abated as the pandemic and racial inequity have dominated the nation’s attention.

“Gun violence is taking lives in this country every day. Inaction is compounding that tragedy.  Reducing access to the most lethal weapons, taking needless high-capacity magazines out of circulation and requiring safe storage are all ways we could save lives. Rhode Islanders deserve the protection that these bills would provide, and the sooner we take action, the more lives will be saved.”

Representative Caldwell’s bills, which she has introduced this year and last, would ban the sale and possession of assault-style weapons (2020-H 7263) and magazine clips that hold more than 10 rounds (2020-H 7364), and would require that firearms owners store all weapons in locked containers or render them inoperable while not in use (2020-H 7720). The bills were proposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Gun Safety Working Group, established after the Parkland, Fla, school shootings, and by Attorney General Peter Neronha.

“Reducing the number of high-powered weapons that are legal reduces the number of them in circulation, making it more difficult to access them illegally as well,” said Representative Caldwell. “It shouldn’t be so easy for someone like the 17-year-old shooter in Wisconsin to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon. More careful access laws would mean fewer of the most lethal weapons would be on the streets and available to those who use them criminally.”

Representative Caldwell said she is committed to working to gain passage for these bills, including working with gun rights advocates on their concerns. She recently visited a gun range in Rhode Island, fired weapons there and spoke with gun owners there to get their perspective.

“I am open to working with gun rights supporters to come up with a bill that tries to address their concerns while still accomplishing the crucial goal of limiting the damage that can be done with these weapons. I’m ready and willing to try to find areas of agreement with gun hobbyists who are open to discussion. But doing nothing is not an acceptable solution. Too much is at stake,” Representative Caldwell said.
8/28/2020RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

The meeting will be held virtually at Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 3 p.m. The meeting will include discussions of a state-by-state overview of LEOBOR statutes, a recent effort by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association to collect information on LEOBOR-involved proceedings, and a proposed draft survey from the task force

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV and 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.

The task force, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts, 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 13-member task force includes:
·         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 competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.
8/24/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan issued the following statement today in response to the closure of Henry Barnard School:

“It has come to my attention that Rhode Island College has made an abrupt decision to close the Henry Barnard School. I implore the college administration to work with the parents and numerous stakeholders, many of whom are my constituents, to help us understand the nature of this decision and to work toward a solution that will maintain the school’s viability as a successful part of the fabric of our state’s education system. At the very least, parents and teachers deserve a level of professionalism when it comes to the future of their children’s education. I stand ready to assist RIC’s administration to help find a solution.” 

8/21/2020RepRep. Daniel P. McKiernan; #212; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell today issued the following statement on the several shooting deaths that have occurred in Providence in the last two weeks:

“My heartfelt love and prayers to all the families impacted by the senseless acts of gun violence over the last weeks, months, and years. Gun violence is a totally preventable public health issue.

The recent upsurge of gun violence in the City of Providence resulting in the tragic and unnecessary loss of lives breaks my heart. It also strengthens my resolve to fight to end systematic racism, structural poverty and hopelessness which are the root causes of gun violence and in these tragic cases, with death resulting.

I call on my colleagues in the General Assembly to reconvene immediately and pass legislation that will mitigate these senseless acts of violence and homicides. Young people are losing hope. They are experiencing immense trauma and sadness. They need help, and now. The kinds of pathological behaviors that we are witnessing are sending a clear message to us that young people need positive outlets, and they need jobs that pays a livable wage. They also need job training and they need skills in conflict resolution.

Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. We need bold legislative actions, and we must commit to bold investments that impact long-term structural changes.

Parents should not be burying their children. Children should not be growing up without their parents. Communities and families are being ripped apart by senseless and preventable tragedy, and it does not have to be this way.

The General Assembly must get back to work and do its job.”
 
8/21/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is questioning the lack of response by Governor Raimondo to her call for reopening the judicial nominating process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 23, Representative Williams publicly urged Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission to reopen the application process for three judicial vacancies in response to the pandemic, which affected Rhode Island’s minority communities particularly harder than most. The application period ended on April 30. 

Representative Williams states that the nominating process began during the panicked first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the deadline also landing right in the middle of the lockdown. This resulted in many qualified and excellent candidates of color for these judicial vacancies to be unable to participate in the process and apply for the openings on the bench.  During this time, the governor, along with the Department of Health, declared that Rhode Island’s minority communities were the population hardest hit during the pandemic, therefore, leaving these candidates to prioritize the health and safety of their families first. 

“During the past few months, there have been numerous extensions and exceptions implemented by the governor for all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, we find it troubling and disappointing, especially during this time of significant racial introspection, that the governor simply once again ignored the call to help diversify our state’s court system. We were not even afforded a response to our question which is highly unacceptable, but sadly, predictable.” 

“The lack of a diverse judicial system that accurately reflects the multicultural demographics of our state has been a long-standing problem that must be rectified. This problem has only been exacerbated with this arbitrary deadline that affects our jurists of color the most. If the governor truly wished to have a fair and diverse judiciary, she would reopen the application process so that qualified applicants, especially those of color, 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, more than ever, 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. These efforts toward total equality, fairness, transparency, and systematic change for the better will only be possible if the application and nominating process is reopened.” 

“We have all heard the governor preach that ‘we must all rise up together,’ yet, her actions prove that her words mean nothingand once again, her behavior clearly demonstrates a completely opposite message to our community of color and the oppressed within our state. Her actions, whether it is due to her own personal beliefs, or other political interests and factors that are preventing her from making the moral choice of reopening the judicial nominating process, what is clear is that she has abandoned, ignored, and ultimately dismissed, numerous and real qualified applicants, many of those who are of color, and in the process, the governor stands in the way of meaningful, moral, and substantial societal change. Talk is cheap, but ignoring a loud and growing chorus of voices demanding equality is even worse. We expect a response and the reasoning behind the governor’s decision to adhere to the April 30 deadline. That much we deserve, rather than being disregarded in the hopes that our movement will grow silent, which it will not,” concluded Representative Williams. 

8/20/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) introduced a resolution (2020-H 8116) requesting that Governor Raimondo issue an executive order to prevent evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representative Williams introduced the resolution on July 17.

The State Supreme Court issued an order allowing eviction hearings to proceed on June 1 after the courts were reopened to the public following the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Before COVID-19 even hit our shores, housing in Rhode Island, particularly for low-income folks, was abysmal. There is not enough of it and our prices to own and rent have forced too many of our residents out of the market. Now, with the public health and financial effects of COVID-19, hundreds of families are in danger of losing their homes, and some already have, through evictions. These hard-working people had their hours and wages cut at best, and at worst, they have been laid-off or had to close their own business due to COVID-19. This in turn prevents them from paying their mortgages or rent simply because they do not have the money through no fault of their own. We are truly facing a coming wave of evictions that will force hundreds of, if not more, Rhode Islanders onto the streets. We cannot and should not allow this to happen,” said Representative Williams.

“I am aware that several programs have been created to help mitigate these problems, but from what my constituents are telling me, these programs, while well-intentioned, are extremely lacking and onerous with numerous hurdles and obstacles preventing our residents from getting the help that they desperately need.  For instance, in order to qualify for one program, eviction proceedings must already have been started, yet, this is far too little and too late to help most of these people. The only true way to keep our residents from experiencing homelessness during this uncertain and scary time is to issue an executive order imposing a moratorium on evictions until a fair and practical solution is established for all of our residents, and not just the privileged few. Summer is almost done and the cold will be here before we know it. Now is the time to protect our residents, and our landlords who are also suffering financially, and once again I urge the governor to do the moral and right thing and to keep these people in their homes where they belong,” concluded Representative Williams.

8/17/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet virtually Tuesday to hear testimony on a new budget article and amendments requested by Gov. Gina Raimondo. The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 4 p.m.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly a new article relating to tax anticipation notes, a proposed amendment to Article 4 relating to debt management, and a proposed amendment to Article 5 relating to a capital development program.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be streamed live online via Capitol TV at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx

8/17/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE –Rep. Teresa Tanzi today expressed her relief that the federal Fish & Wildlife Service eliminated the Mumford Unit of the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in Narragansett from its proposal to expand hunting in the refuge. All expanded use of firearms in her district have been eliminated from the plan.

The Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that, after an outpouring of public comments and two petitions about its draft hunting and fishing plan in the wildlife refuges in Rhode Island, it would not allow hunting in the Mumford Unit of the Chafee refuge, which is near Narragansett Elementary School and the William O’Neil Bike Path. It also dropped its proposal to build a parking lot off Crest Avenue nearby.

Representative Tanzi was among those who submitted testimony to Fish and Wildlife opposing hunting there.

“It is a great relief that Fish & Wildlife has dropped its plans to allow expanded use of firearms in my district. This area is wildly inappropriate for hunting, which would be occurring during the school year.
The refuge itself and the surrounding area including the school grounds and the bike path are used by many people for recreation. Allowing hunting would have put the public, especially children, in harm’s way,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “While I was extremely concerned that the pandemic-related lack of public information and meetings on this proposal would allow it to slip into approval under the radar, I am grateful to the many concerned local residents and officials who made the effort to submit comments and spread the word about this harmful proposal. Even without real public meetings, we raised our voices loudly and clearly, and they were heard.”

The Fish & Wildlife Service reported that it received 1,641 public comments and two petitions regarding the proposal.

The new version of the plan will allow deer hunting within other parts of the refuge in Narragansett, but it will be limited to archery only, rather than allowing both firearms and archery. Waterfowl hunting and fishing on the Narrow River will continue to be allowed as originally proposed.

IN PHOTO: The Narrow River in the Chafee Preserve (by Rep. Tanzi)
8/6/2020RepRep. Teresa Tanzi; #166; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) recently participated in the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) 37th Annual Conference by moderating a discussion titled “Child Care: Key Ingredient for Economic Growth.”  The panel discussion, which was held virtually, took place on July 21 and can be viewed online at https://naleo.org/virtual2020/.

“As we continue to respond to the challenges of this pandemic, we know that child care has taken center stage as we work to reopen our communities. Frontline workers who cannot find care for their own children cannot in turn provide health care for our families, teach our older children, or work in the grocery stores, pharmacies, and at other essential jobs necessary for our economy to keep ticking.  It is for these reasons that child care truly is a key ingredient for economic growth,” said Senator Cano.

Senator Cano was joined by Dr. Lynette Fraga, who serves as the Executive Director for Child Care Aware of America, and Ms. Lauren Hogan, who serves as the Managing Director of Policy and Professional Advancement at the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The discussion highlighted efforts policymakers are undertaking to fund childcare infrastructure, the crucial resources needed by the early care workforce to remain open in a safe manner, and the challenges and opportunities to ensure that all families and children have access to high quality care. 

During the panel discussion, Senator Cano outlined two pieces of legislation she had introduced before the COVID-19 pandemic that relate to child care.  The first bill (2020-S 2462) calls for a study on wage scales for child care workers for the purpose of creating policies so that Rhode Island does not lose child care workers to neighboring states, where wages may be higher.  The second bill (2020-S 2630) urges the state to develop strategies to improve education for early educators, allowing child care centers to develop and retain staff.

“By valuing the workers in this field, we know it will lead to high-quality care for our children.  And in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, high-quality child care has become even more important to not only educate and care for our future generations, but to allow our workers the peace of mind that their children are safe and cared for while we navigate this period of health and economic uncertainty.  I urge everyone with an interest in child care to view this very informative discussion,” concluded Senator Cano.

8/6/2020SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – In observance of Jamaican Independence Day today, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) issued the following message:

“Happy Independence Day to all Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans here in Rhode Island! Happy Independence Day to all the people who enjoy and celebrate our rich heritage and culture. Today marks 58 years since Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain.

“I send my heartiest congratulations to Jamaicans in the homeland and to those in the diaspora. As Jamaicans, we have been through so much, but we are a resilient people and we always pull through. We stand tall and proud amidst the challenges that we face, great or small.

“This year have been a tough year for Jamaicans from dealing with the novel coronavirus to the heartaches and pain inflicted on so many of its citizens by economic burdens and crime. We have been through challenges before, one after the other, but together, we have locked arms and hearts and fought our way through those moments of hardships and despair.

“We have been made stronger by our trials. So, on this day, our 58th birthday, a day set aside to celebrate and to honor who we all are, it is my hope and my prayer that Jamaicans and Jamaican-Americans remain united, pushing forward to One Jamaica honoring our motto “Out of Many, one People.”

“There is so much to celebrate about Jamaica: our cuisine is the most sought after in the world; our athletes does not just win races, they Jaminate. Our island home, from the beautiful Blue Mountain Peak to the tranquil blue waters that surround us and give us peace. Our Reggae music is second to none, but none can compare to the warm, loving people of Jamaica. Jamaica is not simply a country, it is an attitude. Let us remain committed to our core values and to our motto.

“Happy Independence Day, Jamaica. Rise above your challenges, go forth and be all that you are!”

8/6/2020RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is urging the Jamestown Town Council to pass a resolution opposing any effort to merge the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT).

At its meeting today, the Town Council is scheduled to consider a resolution Representative Ruggiero asked it to pass in opposition to a proposal to merge the two state transportation agencies. The Newport City Council has already passed a similar resolution.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has publicly stated she has been exploring the possibility of merging the two agencies, along with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Representative Ruggiero opposes the move, saying it would be unfair to toll-paying island and East Bay residents and likely result in deterioration of the bridges managed by the historically well-run RITBA, the quasi-public agency that operates the Jamestown Verrazzano, Newport Pell, Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, as well as Route 138 through Jamestown. It also operates a handful of smaller bridges and connecting roads, and serves as the tolling agent for the truck toll gantries on Interstate 95.

“For decades the people who live on the islands and in the East Bay have been paying tolls and RITBA has been very responsibly managing its revenues and keeping our bridges and roads safe and well-maintained. Meanwhile, roads and bridges in the rest of the state, maintained by RIDOT, have deteriorated to the point where we have some of the worst bridges in the country. While the state needs to do the hard work on catching up on that maintenance, merging these agencies would mean island and East Bay residents’ tolls would be subsidizing an underfunded statewide transportation system, and the bridges where they are charged would be left to deteriorate just like bridges in the rest of the state,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown). “There is grave concern that if RIDOT takes over these bridges, it could even constitute a breach of millions of dollars in existing bond covenants.”   

Representative Ruggiero said the uncertainties of the proposal include who would lead such a vast agency. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. could be replaced by the term-limited Raimondo’s successor in two years.

“There are many questions, but one thing is for certain: The people of our area stand only to lose out on any proposal that removes local control and makes our bridges just a handful of the hundreds being managed by a statewide agency,” said Representative Ruggiero.
8/3/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling for the residents of Providence to unite and abolish historic reminders of slavery and oppression that still remain in the state’s capital city.

“In the spirit of cooperation, unity and sensitivity during this time in American history when our society is finally taking a long, hard, and critical look at the prevalence of systemic injustices and racism that have survived in our country for far too long, now is the time to shed the divisive remnants of slavery and subjugation that still exist in the City of Providence.  To some, these examples may just be words, but for too many, especially our residents of color, these painful reminders of darker days are evidence that our society still has much more work to do in order to value and appreciate the diversity that makes Rhode Island so strong.  Symbols of slavery should have no place in our city,” said Representative Williams.

Representative Williams points to the Nathanael Greene Middle School in Providence and a statue of Nathanael Greene at the State House as examples of troubling monuments to those involved with the slave trade in Rhode Island.  She also cites The Plantations Condominiums and Esek Hopkins Middle School, both in Providence, as lingering illustrations of slavery and persecution that still remain in the city.

Representative Williams also notes the effort made by many historical societies in our state to educate the public about notable Rhode Islanders with connections to slavery.  She believes the John Brown House Museum and the Stephen Hopkins House are excellent examples of engaging, and not erasing, difficult histories by detailing the horrors of slavery involving some of Rhode Island’s most historic families.

“I believe that the overwhelming majority of Providence residents are good and hard-working people who wish nothing more than to get along and live side-by-side in a cohesive, fair and equitable society.  By eliminating these relics of persecution and repression, we will be one step closer to acknowledging and rectifying the centuries of abuse, enslavement, and oppression that Americans of Color have experienced throughout generations,” concluded Representative Williams.

7/30/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710137/30/2020 4:28 PMSystem Account7/30/2020 4:28 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson today congratulated Newport officials on being awarded a $500,000 state grant to help address sea-rise related flooding in the Wellington Avenue area.

The grant, awarded by the Department of Environmental Management and funded through green economy bonds previously approved by voters statewide, will be used to eliminate dry-weather flooding associated with sea level rise and minimize wet-weather flooding by up to 80 percent through the installation of tide gates and bar racks in the vicinity of Wellington Avenue. 

“Here in Newport, we experience the damaging effects of rising sea levels on a regular basis. Many of our neighborhoods, attractions and historically significant places are being eroded and damaged as a result. This grant will provide a very welcome, helpful resource to protect the Wellington Avenue neighborhood, which has suffered from increasingly common and serious flooding, and I’m grateful to the state and city officials for working together to secure it,” said Representative Carson. “Flooding has a devastating economic impact on individual property owners, businesses and the public. Each investment we make to improve our resiliency is also an investment in our economic security in the future.”

Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) has been a vocal advocate for efforts to address sea level rise, both through infrastructure resiliency improvements and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In 2016, she led a commission that studied the economic impact of sea rise in Rhode Island, and in 2017, she sponsored a law requiring education on flooding and sea rise for local planning board members and creating a unified statewide application process for solar panel permitting.

Funding for the grant comes from both the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond ($270,000) and 2014 state bond funding for flood mitigation ($230,000). The governor has proposed asking voters to approve a $69 million beach, clean water and green bond in November, which would include funding for additional resiliency projects like the one for Wellington Avenue.

“Rhode Islanders have been very supportive of bonds that protect our environment, our green spaces, and help us adapt to our changing climate. I’d like to urge voters to support the green bond again this November, because that funding is an important resource for projects like the one that will help Wellington Avenue,” she said.  
7/29/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on Human Services will be meeting tomorrow, July 30 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on several department budgets and a proposed budget amendment from the governor.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Alex Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland).

The subcommittee will be hearing testimony on the budgets for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
Testimony will also be heard on a proposed budget amendment to Article 14 which relates to medical assistance.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be 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. 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 at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/29/2020RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The first meeting of a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is scheduled Wednesday.

The meeting is scheduled Wednesday, July 22, at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The meeting will include the appointment of a chairperson and an overview by the National Council of State Legislatures on state statutes pertaining to LEOBOR and recent trends regarding community-police relations. No public testimony will be taken at this meeting. The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 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. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV. Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Greg Paré at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

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 includes:
·         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 competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies. The task force is to report to the Senate by Feb. 9, 2021.

7/21/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The first meeting of a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is scheduled Wednesday.


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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting tomorrow, July 29 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on three budget amendments submitted by the governor and two bills that relate to the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

The committee will hear testimony on a budget amendment creating a new budget article regarding tax anticipation notes.  They will also hear testimony on an amendment to Article 4 relating to the Debt Management Act and an amendment to Article 5 which concerns the Capital Development Program.

The committee will also hear testimony on two pieces of legislation sponsored by Speaker Mattiello.  The first piece of legislation (2020-H 8119) would submit to the electors a proposition to amend the constitution by increasing funding of the budget reserve account, also known as the "Rainy Day Fund", and limiting state spending.  The second bill (2020-H 8120) would increase funding of the budget reserve account, also known as the "Rainy Day Fund," and would limit state spending.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be 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. 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 at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/28/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is strongly supporting legislation (2020-H 7298), sponsored by Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), which would require state department heads and representatives to be sworn in under oath prior to testifying in front of General Assembly committees.  Representative O’Brien is a cosponsor of the legislation.

Representative O’Brien believes the legislation is necessary after Community College of Rhode Island President Meghan Hughes’ recent testimony before the House Finance Subcommittee on Education on July 9.

“If you want to get your budget approved, you must be forthcoming with information, especially information requested by the House Finance Committee. We all have a duty to our taxpayers to be transparent with how public dollars are spent. It’s particularly disconcerting when the head of a public college is not entirely truthful in her testimony to the committee,” said Representative O’Brien.
Representative O’Brien and other members of the House Finance Subcommittee on Education recently wrote to President Hughes after discovering information that contradicted her testimony to the subcommittee.

In particular, he is highlighting three new hires, with each position paying over $100,000 a year, and the purchase of a new vehicle for President Hughes, none of which were mentioned by the CCRI president during her testimony before the subcommittee.  Representative O’Brien also points out that the new hires are out-of-state residents who are working remotely using CCRI technology.  The positions referenced are Human Resources Assistant Director, Dean of Arts, and Director of Guided Pathways.

“During this public health and fiscal crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely disappointing that a state official would mislead committee members when we are trying to not only solve a historic budget deficit, but also forge a budgetary path forward that is fair, equitable and beneficial to every single Rhode Island resident.  The recent testimony provided by President Hughes, and her omissions and misleading responses to questions posed by the subcommittee, are more than enough reason to enact this legislation.  If our department heads are not being truthful during the legislative process, they should be held accountable for their actions, which this bill will ensure,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

7/22/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on General Government will be meeting tomorrow, July 23 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on two FY 2021 department budgets and a budget amendment proposed by the governor.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket).

The subcommittee will be reviewing the FY 2021 budgets for the Department of Revenue and the Department of Business Regulation.  The subcommittee will also hear testimony on a proposed budget amendment by the governor that relates to insurance.

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.

Public testimony can be given in two 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 # (or specific topic) 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, July 23, 2020 at 11 am.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.

7/22/2020RepRep. Michael Morin; #207; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Parentage Act sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata was signed into law today, repealing archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replacing it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

The legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa, 2020-S 2136Baa) repeals previous state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

Until now, Rhode Island’s parentage laws had not been updated in over 40 years.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect and be responsible for their children. These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society. The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born. This bill is specifically about one thing - equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “The Judiciary Committee heard heart-wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor. Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods.”

Governor Raimondo signed the bill standing by the sponsors and advocates in a ceremony outside the State House today.

“Love is love — it’s as simple as that,” said Governor Raimondo. “No parent should have to jump through hoops to receive legal recognition because of their sexual orientation or the circumstances of their child's birth. The Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act enshrines into law our belief in the validity of all paths to parenthood.”

The bill provides for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage and presumptions. It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

“The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality and LGBTQ Action RI.
 
 
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For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our website at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.

7/21/2020SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #226; #151; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Rhode Island Parentage Act sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata has been signed into law , repealing archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replacing it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.
YesYesApproved3710077/21/2020 4:24 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa / 2020-S 2136Baa) which would repeal archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

Rhode Island’s parentage laws have not been updated in over 40 years.

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect, and be responsible for their children.  These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society.    The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born.  This bill is specifically about one thing - equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

“The Judiciary Committee heard heart wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor.  Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

“We are thrilled with today’s vote to support justice and equality for children and families in Rhode Island,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with RIPE and LGBTQ Action RI. “The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible.”

The RI Parentage Act repeals current state law regarding paternity and replaces it with a more comprehensive parentage act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

The bill provides for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions.  It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

7/16/2020SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #226; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa / 2020-S 2136Baa) which would repeal archaic and inequitable state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction was passed by the General Assembly tonight.
NoYesApproved3709947/16/2020 6:40 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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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
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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.



NoYesApproved3709907/15/2020 2:51 PMSystem Account7/21/2020 1:00 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Wednesday for hearings on the 2021 state budget bill and several other pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, July 21, at 4 p.m., the committee will hear articles in state budget bill (2020-H 7171), including Article 2, Sections 2-5, concerning various restricted-receipt accounts; and Article 3 -- Sections 1-4, 6 ,8 and 10, concerning several licenses, state fee collection and the line-item veto. The committee will also hear a bill (2020-H 7531) sponsored by committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) concerning electronic tax filing and remittance for larger businesses, as well as two bills concerning tourism.

On Wednesday, July 22, at 4 p.m. , the committee will hear the proposed budgets for the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections.  

Both hearings will be in Room 35. The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hearings will be 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. 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 at lberman@rilegislature.gov.
7/20/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710057/20/2020 12:22 PMSystem Account7/20/2020 12:22 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Thursday to hear testimony on proposed budget articles related to education and health care reform.

The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 21, at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 10 relating to education, a new article on the approval of a lease for Northern Rhode Island and Woonsocket Education Center, and a new article on the approval of a lease for URI at 25 West Independence Way on the Kingston campus.

The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, July 23, at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge. The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 20 related to health care reform, and a new article on telemedicine.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearings will be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Greg Paré at gpare@rilegislature.gov.

7/20/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3710047/20/2020 11:17 AMSystem Account7/20/2020 11:17 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) recently introduced resolutions (2020-S 2922 / 2020-H 8109) celebrating the 210th anniversary of Colombian Independence Day on July 20.

“Colombia’s history, culture, and contributions to our state are immense and as a proud Colombian-American, I take great pride in not only celebrating Colombian’s Independence Day, but also, the strong ties Colombia shares with Rhode Island and its residents.  Colombian Independence Day is a joyous celebration every year and it’s an honor to recognize this important day for so many.  I’d also like to thank Rhode Island’s Colombian-American community for the numerous contributions they make to our state.  This resolution is for all of you,” said Senator Cano.

“Like the American Revolutionary War, Colombians fought valiantly to gain their independence from a foreign ruler.  This history inspires every Colombian and Colombian-American on a daily basis and it is through these similarities that both Colombia and the United States have forged such a strong bond.  Joining together with my Colombian-American colleagues in the legislature to commemorate this special day is always one of my favorite times of the year and I look forward to July 20 to celebrate this special 210th anniversary of Colombian independence,” said Representative Alzate.

Four members of the Rhode Island General Assembly hail from Colombian descent. Senator Cano, Representative Alzate, Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), and Rep. Joshua J. Giaraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) joined together on July 8 at the State House to hold a Colombian Independence Day celebration.  The legislators were joined by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and several prominent Colombian-Americans in Rhode Island where they spoke about the rich culture and history of Colombia and its extensive ties to the United States and Rhode Island.

In photo, from left: Rep. Carlos E. Tobon, Rep. Karen Alzate, Sen. Sandra Cano, and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo at a Colombian Independence Day Celebration held on July 8 at the State House 
7/17/2020RepSen. Sandra Cano; Rep. Karen Alzate; Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; #245; #255; #269; #221; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3710037/17/2020 11:11 AMSystem Account7/17/2020 11:12 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Justine Caldwell cosponsored several of the bills passed by the House of Representatives yesterday concerning parental rights and preventing gun violence.

Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) is a cosponsor of the Julie Lynn Cardinal Act (2020-H 7103Baa), which will require gun sellers to forward firearm applications to the police department of the city or town where the buyer resides for a background check, or the State Police if the purchaser resides outside Rhode Island or in the town of Exeter, which lacks a municipal police department.

The bill, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), passed both chambers and is now headed for the governor’s office. It is named for the victim who perished in a shooting in Westerly last year where a resident purchased a gun from a firearms dealer in Richmond. Although Richmond Police conducted background checks, they were not aware that the buyer had a history with Westerly Police, including threats to buy a gun to kill himself and his estranged wife, which led to a stay at Butler Hospital. In addition to killing Cardinal, who was the manager of the affordable housing complex where the gunman lived, the shooter wounded another manager and a resident before fatally shooting himself.

“This tragic event in our state exposed a serious weakness in our background check requirements, and the catastrophic results that can occur when a person with a history of violent threats is able to purchase firearms. This is a step in the right direction toward protecting Rhode Islanders from gun violence,” said Representative Caldwell.

Representative Caldwell also cosponsored legislation (2020-H 7541Aaa) to repeal archaic and inequitable state laws regarding parentage and replace them with a uniform act that provides procedures for establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction. That bill, primarily sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), also passed the General Assembly yesterday and is headed to the governor.

The legislation will assist families of many kinds in gaining legal recognition.

“The Parentage Act remedies an archaic law that puts people through emotional and financial burdens during what should be the happiest times of their lives — starting their families. I got my start in politics working on LGBTQ+ issues, and there is always more progress to be made. This bill truly will help families and is an important step in Rhode Island becoming a more equitable state,” said Representative Caldwell.

Additionally, Representative Caldwell cosponsored legislation (2020-H 7330) introduced by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) to terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault. Twenty-eight other states in the country have similar laws. That legislation passed the House yesterday and will be forwarded to the Senate.

7/17/2020RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710027/17/2020 10:45 AMSystem Account7/17/2020 10:45 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin to protect the health care of Rhode Islanders by setting standards for nursing home care.

The Senate gave its approval to the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act (2020-S 2519), which is meant to address an ongoing crisis in nursing home staffing that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care and long endorsed by experts including the American Nurses Association, the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. The bill has been backed by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, a coalition of advocates for patient care.

Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in the number of the average hours of care nursing home residents receive, according to recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Rhode Island is the only New England state with no minimum staffing requirements in our nursing homes.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages leads to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. The pandemic, of course, has exponentially increased the demands of the job, and exacerbated patients’ needs. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for caregivers to recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce. Short staffing drives high turnover in nursing homes. Not only does high turnover create undue stress and burnout for remaining staff, it diverts valuable resources to recruit, orient and train new employees and increases reliance on overtime and agency staff.  Low wages are a significant driver of the staffing crisis. The median wage for a CNA in Rhode Island is less than $15, and $1/hour lower than the median wage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The legislation will also invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex health care needs.

The bill will be forwarded to the House, where Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-H 7624).
7/16/2020SenSen. Maryellen Goodwin; #104; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710017/16/2020 8:10 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 8:10 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin requiring full insurance coverage of colorectal cancer screenings.

The legislation (2020-S 2317A) would require health insurers to cover preventive colorectal cancer screening for all colorectal cancer examinations and laboratory tests in accordance with American Cancer Society Guidelines. This coverage must be provided without cost-sharing and includes an initial screening and a follow-up colonoscopy if the results of the screening are abnormal.

American Cancer Society Guidelines recommend that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in the United States. In 2020, 430 Rhode Islanders will receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Screening may lower the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer by as much as half.

“I can personally attest to how critically important it is that everyone is able to get recommended colorectal cancer screening. Cancer screening is routine preventive care that catches cancer early and saves lives as well as reducing health care costs down the road. Copays, cost-sharing and insurers that don’t cover pre-screening only discourage people from getting the care they need to protect themselves. This legislation will save lives by increasing access to these life-saving screenings,” said Senator Goodwin, who is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer herself.

The bill now goes to the House, where Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-H 7396).
7/16/2020SenSen. Maryellen Goodwin; #104; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3710007/16/2020 7:58 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:58 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Scott A. Slater, said the legislation is intended to reform a system that has perpetuated poverty by preventing people with a criminal history — even for relatively minor crimes that occurred decades ago —from getting jobs that can truly support themselves and their families.

“This is common-sense reform of a system that isn’t serving the public the way it should. It’s not protecting anyone to deny someone a license to work in a job because of a criminal record for an offense that has no bearing on that job. This is a system that helps perpetuate poverty in the community, making it so that once a person messes up, they face roadblocks that keep them down for the rest of their lives. People who have turned their lives around and want to work and support themselves and their families should have every available opportunity to do that, without senseless barriers,” said Representative Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence).

The legislation (2020-S 2824A, 2020-H 7947A) develops a standardized process by which only convictions directly related to the duties of the licensed occupation can be considered in the application for a professional license; provides guidance on how those records should be considered when an application is being reviewed; and creates a more transparent decision-making and notification process.

“There needs to be a more-nuanced, less-punitive approach to licensing. If the purpose of prison system is really supposed to be rehabilitation, someone who’s been there shouldn’t face a lifetime of discrimination in their efforts to find meaningful employment and become a contributing member of our society. Most people who go to prison are already facing numerous challenges like systemic poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and a lack of educational opportunities. The licensing system shouldn’t be another,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), a deacon in the Congdon Street Baptist Church who regularly participates in prison ministry. “When we talk about systematic oppression, this is a piece of that system. We’re dismantling that piece in Rhode Island with this bill. I’m extremely proud and grateful for the change of heart reflected in our justice policy initiatives. From a mindset of punishment in the 1980s, we are changing course to reconciliation, restoration and giving people a second chance.”

For Rhode Islanders who have been involved in the criminal justice system, occupational licensing restrictions pose a serious barrier to meaningful employment. Many of the entry-level jobs in some of the state’s fastest growing sectors require occupational licenses. Over 70 percent of the occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “lower-income” require a license. Even some professions for which Rhode Islanders can receive training and certification while incarcerated are closed to people returning home because of how licensing agencies explicitly use criminal records to exclude otherwise qualified candidates.

The legislation prohibits state agencies that review occupational license applications from denying them based solely or partly on a prior conviction of a crime that is not substantially related to the occupation for which the license is sought. If an applicant does have a prior conviction that relates to the occupation, the legislation requires that the licensing authority consider numerous factors: public safety, the interests of encouraging employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, whether the crime relates to the applicant’s ability to responsibly participate in the occupation, the time that has elapsed since the conviction and the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, as well as evidence the applicant can provide to demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the job.

The legislation has the support of a coalition of more than 30 community-based organizations, including Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the Economic Progress Institute and Amos House.
7/16/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Scott Slater; #91; #155; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

The General Assembly approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.


YesYesApproved3709987/16/2020 7:09 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:50 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,724
  
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. David A. Bennett to strengthen the Hospital Conversions Act by requiring a review of each proposed hospital conversion to ensure that it complies with antitrust laws.

The measure will help protect the public and the integrity of Rhode Island’s health care system as large hospital networks increasingly move to acquire hospitals and smaller networks.

“Like many industries, hospitals have experienced a great deal of consolidation in the last several decades. Antitrust laws are meant to protect the public from situations where a single entity has too much control in a segment or region. Compliance with those laws is an important piece of the puzzle that the state should be considering whenever the conversion of a hospital is proposed,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence). “This bill will provide a meaningful review of antitrust issues, which ultimately protects patients and the critical health care industry as a whole.”

Said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), “What this boils down to is protecting the quality of health care in Rhode Island. We want to make sure that we don’t allow a situation where one corporation controls the majority of our state’s hospitals and slashes the resources available to patients here. This will help ensure that patients can access the facilities they need when they need them.”

The legislation (2020-S 2572, 2020-H 7652), which was introduced on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, would allow compliance with the state’s antitrust laws to be considered as a criterion in the Attorney General’s review of proposed hospital conversions. As such, the cost of conducting that review could be passed on to the transacting parties, rather than absorbed by the Attorney General’s office and ultimately taxpayers.

“Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring a safe, accessible and affordable health care system for all Rhode Islanders is a critically important function of the Attorney General’s Office. This bill will help ensure that hospital conversions are vetted for antitrust issues as hospital consolidations have significant implications for both affordability and access. I am grateful to the Senate President, Representative Bennett and the General Assembly for advancing this important legislation,” said Attorney General Neronha.
7/16/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. David Bennett; #85; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rhode Island voters will be asked in November whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, under legislation approved by the General Assembly today.

The joint resolution (2020-S 2902aa2020-H 8077) putting the question on the ballot is sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams, who said it’s neither necessary nor any longer acceptable for the state to cling to an outdated reference that conjures an image of a time and place when slavery was widely encouraged, condoned and accepted.

“The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes, castrations 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, and the injustice and racism that persists to this day,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), whose own family can be traced back to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA. “Rhode Island built its economy on being a leader in the slave trade in colonial times. This old, festering wound still needs healing. We aren’t proud of that history, and we must stop glorifying a word that is inescapably associated with that terrible past.”

While a similar question failed at the ballot in 2010, the sponsors say they believe the public is much more educated and sensitive about the hurtful connotation of the word now.

“When you have more than 10,000 Rhode Islanders showing up in a pandemic for a march calling for an end to police brutality and to affirm that Black Lives Matter, we can take this ugly, painful word out of the name of our beautiful state,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). “We have genuine work ahead of us to bring about true equality and justice for all. We are collectively taking this step as an inclusive symbol to demonstrate that we are all Rhode Islanders. Period.”

Both the General Assembly and the governor announced last month that they would remove the phrase from official legislative and executive-branch documents in recognition of its painful connotation.

The ballot question would make the change official in the state’s constitution if approved by a simple majority of voters statewide in November’s election.

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dis. 22, Warwick), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence).

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). 
7/16/2020RepSen. Harold Metts; Rep. Anastasia Williams; #91; #10; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rhode Island voters will be asked in November whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, under legislation approved by the General Assembly today.


YesYesApproved3709957/16/2020 6:45 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:46 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly approved a measure today to make it easier to participate in mobile sports gaming in Rhode Island.

The bill (2020-S 2919, 2020-H 8097), which now heads to the governor’s desk, will allow people to register online to use Rhode Island’s mobile app for sports wagering, rather than having to sign up in person at Twin River in Lincoln or Tiverton. The in-person signup was required to boost security when the state launched the app last year, but mobile sports wagering executives say it has hindered signups, particularly at a time when many are wary about visiting public places.

 “This is one responsible move we can make to help counter some of the revenue losses the state has experienced during the pandemic. Gaming and the lottery are our state’s third-largest source of revenue, and anything we can safely do to make up for some of the lost revenue helps to support public services,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), who sponsored the Senate bill.

Said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), who sponsored the bill in the House, “Making it more convenient to use our mobile sports wagering app provides an entertainment option that you can participate in from the safety and comfort of your own home. There is sufficient security as well as safeguards in the program to ensure that users are placing their bets from within Rhode Island and complying with our state’s laws, so we can eliminate in-person signups without compromising anything. Hopefully this added convenience will help people enjoy the experience at a time when entertainment options are very limited, and help raise revenue for Rhode Island,”

While online sports betting ground to a halt as virtually all professional sports stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, several professional leagues have announced plans to resume play later this summer.
7/16/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Evan P. Shanley and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 8102A / 2020-S 2598A) which amends the state’s emergency mail ballot procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

The legislation adds an additional option for securing a mail ballot by permitting emergency mail ballot applications to be processed at local boards of canvassers in person on electronic poll pads, which will allow the voter to then cast their ballot and place the ballot themselves into a state-approved voting machine at the local board of canvassers.  Voters will have up to 20 days before the election to vote in this manner.

 “The pandemic has upended our daily lives in every conceivable way, and this includes how we conduct our elections.  This bill will protect the voters and poll workers from possible exposure to COVID-19 while also ensuring that every voter has the ability to cast their vote in the upcoming elections,” said Representative Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).

“This bill is necessary to protect people from COVID-19 while also making sure our upcoming elections are transparent, secure, and most importantly, accessible to anyone who wishes to vote.  This option will keep people safe and guarantee that no one has to forego voting out of fear of the pandemic,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Currently, when applying for an emergency mail ballot, voters must fill out a notarized application, fill out a mail ballot and place it in a sealed envelope where it is left in a pile until the end of the day when the local board of canvassers hand delivers the ballots to the Board of Elections.  The process is time intensive for both voters and election employees and several local boards of canvassers have expressed concern that they will be unable to meet the demand for emergency mail ballots due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This new option for securing an emergency mail ballot will save voters and employees much-needed time, increase the efficiency of the process, and promote voter confidence by having the voter physically cast their own ballots.

Voters will need a valid proof of identity in order to utilize this voting option.  The traditional process of securing a mail ballot is still in effect as well and the RI Board of Elections has voiced their support for the passage of the legislation.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

7/16/2020SenRep. Evan P. Shanley; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #236; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Evan P. Shanley and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 8102A / 2020-S 2598A) which amends the state’s emergency mail ballot procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was passed by the General Assembly.



NoYesApproved3709997/16/2020 7:32 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 7:41 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,717
  
Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction. 

The legislation (2020-S 2824A), sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), develops a standardized process by which only convictions directly related to the duties of the licensed occupation can be considered in the application for a professional license; provides guidance on how those records should be considered when an application is being reviewed; and creates a more transparent decision-making and notification process.

Senator Metts said the legislation is intended to reform a system that has perpetuated poverty by preventing people with a criminal history — even for relatively minor crimes that occurred decades ago —from getting jobs that can truly support themselves and their families.

“There needs to be a more-nuanced, less-punitive approach to licensing. If the purpose of prison system is really supposed to be rehabilitation, someone who’s been there shouldn’t face a lifetime of discrimination in their efforts to find meaningful employment and become a contributing member of our society. Once they’ve served their time and been released, they shouldn’t be denied a license to work in a field that has nothing to do with their previous offense,” said Senator Metts, a deacon in the Congdon Street Baptist Church who regularly participates in prison ministry. “Most people who go to prison are already facing numerous challenges like systemic poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and a lack of educational opportunities. The licensing system shouldn’t be another.”

The bill now goes to the House, which is expected to approve identical legislation (2020-H 7947A) sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) Thursday.  

“This legislation will go a long way to opening doors that have been not only shut, but locked for so many people. When we talk about systematic oppression, this is a piece of that system. We’re dismantling that piece in Rhode Island with this bill,” said Senator Metts. “I’m extremely proud and grateful for the change of heart reflected in our justice policy initiatives. From a mindset of punishment in the 1980s, we are changing course to reconciliation, restoration and giving people a second chance.”

For Rhode Islanders who have been involved in the criminal justice system, occupational licensing restrictions pose a serious barrier to meaningful employment. Many of the entry-level jobs in some of the state’s fastest growing sectors require occupational licenses. Over 70 percent of the occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “lower-income” require a license. Even some professions for which Rhode Islanders can receive training and certification while incarcerated are closed to people returning home because of how licensing agencies explicitly use criminal records to exclude otherwise qualified candidates.

The legislation prohibits state agencies that review occupational license applications from denying them based solely or partly on a prior conviction of a crime that is not substantially related to the occupation for which the license is sought. If an applicant does have a prior conviction that relates to the occupation, the legislation requires that the licensing authority consider numerous factors: public safety, the interests of encouraging employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, whether the crime relates to the applicant’s ability to responsibly participate in the occupation, the time that has elapsed since the conviction and the applicant’s age at the time of the crime, as well as evidence the applicant can provide to demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the job.

The legislation has the support of a coalition of more than 30 community-based organizations, including Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the Economic Progress Institute and Amos House.
7/13/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill aimed at opening career paths for those released from prison

The Senate has approved legislation to prevent Rhode Islanders from being denied an occupational license because of an unrelated criminal conviction.

 


NoYesApproved3709897/13/2020 4:42 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:52 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,714
  
STATE HOUSE – The Senate and the House are returning to session next week.

The Senate has scheduled session Monday, July 13, at 4 p.m., when it will consider the appointments of David Spinella as chief hearing officer in the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Administrative Adjudication, Louis DeSimone to the Board of Elections and Rebeka Mazzone to the Industrial Recreational Building Authority. It will also consider several bills, including:
  • 2020-S 2824A — Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
  • 2020-S 2547 and 2020-S 2504 — Both sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and both concerning Block Island, the first bill would allow for safe airport runway length and continued maintenance, and the second would amend the maximum peak load of allowable capacity for the net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District.
  • 2020-H 7103Baa2020-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), this legislation 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.
 
Both the House and the Senate plan to hold session Thursday, July 16. The Senate start time will be determined. The House plans to meet at 3 p.m. Its calendar will be posted in advance, and is expected to include, among other bills:
  • 2020-H 8077, 2020-S 2902aa — Sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Senator Metts, this bill would put a question on November’s ballot asking voters whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name.
  • 2020-H 7541A/2020-S 2136B — Sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this legislation updates the state’s laws establishing parentage so they include all types of parents, including  LGBTQ parents.
  • 2020-H 7947 — Sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
  • 2020-H 7103Baa2020-S 2154Aaa – The legislation concerning local police review of firearms purchases, following expected Senate passage Monday.
 
Several committee hearings have been scheduled next week:
Monday, July 13
  • The Senate Education Committee  meets at 3 p.m. in Room 313 to consider legislation (2020-H 7069B) sponsored by House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) to allow school committees to budget funding for field trips. The Senate has approved companion legislation (2020-S 2327A) sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).
  • The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meets at 3 p.m. in Room 313 to consider two bills, both sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). The first (2020-S 2317A) would prohibit cost-sharing for insured persons 45 or older for covered colorectal screening examinations, laboratory tests and colonoscopies. The other (2020-S 2519) would mandate minimum staffing levels and standards for quality care in nursing homes.
 
Tuesday, July 14
  • The Senate Finance Committee  meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearings on several bills, including two sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). The first (2020-S 2337) would enable the Lottery Division to enter into a contract extension with IGT Global Solutions Corporation and contract extensions with Twin River and affiliates of Twin River. The second (2020-S 2919) would make it easier to sign up for online sports wagering and allow a system that verifies a player’s location at the time that they wager.
  • The House Finance Committee meets at 5 p.m. in Room 35 for hearings on the companion bills to President Ruggerio’s above (2020-H 7523A, 2020-H 8097, respectively), sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).
  • The House Municipal Government Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the House Lounge for consideration of several bills concerning individual municipalities.
  • The House Judiciary Committee meets at 5 p.m. for consideration of a bill (2020-H 8102) sponsored by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) to permit emergency mail ballot applications to be processed at the voter’s board of canvassers in person on electronic poll pads, allowing the voter to then cast his or her ballot and place the ballot in the state-approved voting machine.
 
Wednesday, July 15
 
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.

7/10/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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The Senate and the House are returning to session, with the Senate meeting Monday and both chambers meeting Thursday.



NoYesApproved3709867/10/2020 4:02 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:52 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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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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.


NoYesApproved3709686/22/2020 2:51 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:51 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,721
  
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today approved legislation to require gun dealers to notify the police in a gun buyer’s hometown in addition to the police department of the town where the gun was purchased.     

The Julie Lynn Cardinal Act (2020-H 7103Baa, 2020-S 2154Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly), would require gun sellers to forward firearm applications to the police department of the city or town where the buyer resides, or the State Police if the purchaser resides outside Rhode Island or in the town of Exeter, which lacks a municipal police department.

The bill is named for the victim who perished in a shooting in Westerly last year where a resident purchased a gun from a firearms dealer in Richmond. Although Richmond Police conducted background checks, they were not aware that the buyer had a history with Westerly Police, including threats to buy a gun to kill himself and his estranged wife, which led to a stay at Butler Hospital. In addition to killing Cardinal, who was the manager of the affordable housing complex where the gunman lived, the shooter wounded another manager and a resident before fatally shooting himself.

“This is a simple matter of improving communication between law enforcement agencies,” said Representative McKiernan. “Local police departments are much more likely to have information regarding the mental health of a potential gun buyer. If there are concerns for the safety of the purchaser or others, then the police in the gun buyer’s community can take steps to keep the other agencies notified and potentially avert another tragedy.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.
7/16/2020SenRep. Daniel P. McKiernan; Sen. Dennis Algiere; #212; #84; Daniel Trafford
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The General Assembly has approved legislation to require gun dealers to notify the police in a gun buyer’s hometown in addition to the police department of the town where the gun was purchased.     
YesYesApproved3709937/16/2020 6:28 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:28 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,720
  
STATE HOUSE – The House today approved a measure that would send mail ballot applications to every Rhode Island voter ahead of both the September primaries and the November election.

The bill, sponsored by House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), is intended as a way to help Rhode Islanders exercise their fundamental right to vote without compromising their health and safety this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sending mail ballot applications to all qualified voters promotes full voter participation in a very important election occurring in the middle of a global pandemic. We should be encouraging as many voters as possible to vote by mail in order to protect public health while ensuring that voters may safely and securely choose their next president as well as their state and local officials,” said Representative Blazejewski. “A great many poll workers and voters are senior citizens, or may be immunocompromised or have underlying heath conditions, and they are all at an elevated risk from COVID-19. The more people who cast their vote by mail, the less exposure the people of Rhode Island face.”

The legislation (2020-H 7200A) would apply only to this year’s Sept. 8 primaries and the general election on Nov. 3, not future elections. It would temporarily waive provisions requiring voters to have a reason to need to vote by mail instead of in person, as well as notary or witness requirements.

The bill would also require that local boards of canvassers operate drop boxes where voters can drop off their ballot until 8 p.m. on the days of the elections. It additionally allows the Secretary of State’s office to process ballots centrally, sending back to local boards of canvassers for review those ballots that it deems insufficient.

Massachusetts has announced similar plans for its primaries and general election. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Common Cause and other advocacy groups have all called for the state to take steps to encourage voting by mail this year because of the pandemic.

“In keeping with the bedrock principles of our democracy, Rhode Islanders should not have to choose between their health and safety, on the one hand, and exercising their right to vote, on the other.  Mail ballots are a safe, secure form of voting that has been employed around the nation for well over a century. Encouraging people to use them will strengthen our elections by boosting participation and giving a voice to many who might otherwise stay away from the polling place out of very justified health concerns,” said Representative Blazejewski.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol) and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). It will be forwarded to the Senate. 
7/16/2020RepRep. Christopher Blazejewski; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3709927/16/2020 5:00 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 6:28 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives passed a resolution (2020-H 8106), sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, creating a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations on the status and requirements for Rhode Island’s nursing homes. 

“Rhode Island’s nursing homes are facing tremendous challenges.  COVID-19 has placed their residents and workers in potential danger, Medicaid reimbursement has been dramatically reduced, and it is difficult to hire and retain the necessary amount of staffers to deliver the care that patients deserve.  This is a complex issue that needs to be studied and addressed so that the nursing homes, their patients, and their staff are properly supported and fully operational,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

The 15 member study commission will examine the methods and means for providing paramount quality care; reimbursement methodology; staffing levels; workforce development and, specifically, employee recruitment and retention efforts and results; patient acuity levels for different types of care given; and the financial condition of Rhode Island’s nursing homes.

The commission will consist of three members of the House of Representatives; the President of the Rhode Island Healthcare Association; the SEIU State Council Director; the Director of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health; the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training; the Executive Director for the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care; the President of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island; the President of Lifespan; a member of the public; an administrator of a not-for-profit nursing home; an administrator of a for-profit nursing home; and a registered nurse who is licensed and employed in a nursing home.

The commission will report its findings and recommendations no later than April 15, 2021.

7/16/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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The House of Representatives passed a resolution (2020-H 8106), sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, creating a special legislative commission to study and provide recommendations on the status and requirements for Rhode Island’s nursing homes. 




NoYesApproved3709917/16/2020 4:00 PMSystem Account7/16/2020 4:01 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,716
  
STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed two bills pertaining to Block Island that were introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown).

The first (2020-S 2547aa) would amend the airport zoning law to add the terms “approach” and “approach zones” to mean airport land and airspace as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This bill will allow for safe runway length and continued maintenance to accommodate flights,” said Senator Sosnowski. “This will keep our airports safe and operating at peak efficiency. This is particularly important for the people of New Shoreham, since the Westerly Airport is a lifeline to Block Island, between emergency airlifts and transports to Block Island residents, prescription deliveries and tourism.”

The second (2020-S 2504) would amend the maximum peak load of allowable capacity for the net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District to not exceed a maximum. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.

“Currently state law restricts net metering for private solar and wind installations at three percent of a utility’s peak output,” said Senator Sosnowski. “The Block Island Utility District Board of Commissioners have been developing a new policy for further installations. In order for that to happen, we need to lift the cap on net metering beyond the allowed three percent.”

Both bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

7/13/2020SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3709887/13/2020 4:25 PMSystem Account7/13/2020 5:32 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,715
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore, Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, is calling on the RI Commerce Corporation to work with Rhode Island’s small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to expedite access to much needed capital through the Small Business Development Fund, which the General Assembly included in the FY2020 state budget.

“COVID-19 has decimated our small businesses and those that are still in operation are struggling to remain open.  The backbone of our state’s economy needs help and it is imperative that RI Commerce tap into the Small Business Development Fund so that more of our small businesses are not forced to close their doors for good.  Speaker Mattiello and the House Small Business Committee look forward to working with Governor Raimondo to help assist our small businesses by getting them additional stabilization resources during this unprecedented time.” said Representative Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

7/13/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3709877/13/2020 12:16 PMSystem Account7/13/2020 12:16 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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
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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.


NoYesApproved3709797/2/2020 4:14 PMSystem Account7/10/2020 4:03 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,566
  
STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet twice this week to hear testimony on fishing license reform and a contract extension with IGT.

The committee is scheduled to meet jointly with the Senate Fisheries Task Force Tuesday, March 10, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 7, Sections 3-9, relating to commercial fishing license reform.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7247A) introduced by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) that would authorize motion picture tax credits for a production that does not have its primary location within the state, provided a minimum of $10 million in state certified production costs are incurred and paid within a 12-month period.

The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, March 12, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313.

The panel will hear testimony on legislation (2020-S 2337) introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that would enable the state Lottery Division of the Department of Revenue to enter into a contract extension with IGT Global Solutions Corporation and contract extensions with Twin River and affiliates of Twin River.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). The Fisheries Task Force is chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

3/9/2020SenSen. William Conley; Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #202; #111; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3708373/9/2020 12:10 PMSystem Account7/10/2020 1:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,713
  
STATE HOUSE – AARP have awarded their Capitol Caregiver Awards to several members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who were instrumental in passing legislation concerning caregivers during the 2019 legislative session. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were postponed from March 31 to July 8 and the presentation was held as a virtual event.

Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) were recognized for supporting legislation (2019-0031A / 2019-H 5909A) that establishes the Supported Decision-Making Act, which is a less restrictive alternative to guardianship for utilization of the probate courts.

Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) were honored for sponsoring the Family Caregiver Support Act (2019-S 0294 / 2019-H 5867) which requires annual reports to track the number of caregiver assessments given as part of the assessments conducted for Medicaid long term services and supports the creation of a family caregiver support association by the division of elderly affairs.

Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and Representative Casimiro received the award for sponsoring legislation (2019-S 0438 / 2019-H 5385) that increased respite care funding from $140,000 to $325,000 in the state budget.

Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) were presented with the award for their sponsorship of legislation (2019-S 0845A / 2019-H 6114A) which requires that all persons seeking appointment as a limited guardian or guardian of adults be required to undergo a criminal background check.

7/9/2020RepSen. Michael McCaffrey; Sen. Maryellen Goodwin; Sen. Adam Satchell; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Sen. Walter Felag; Rep. Julie A. Casimiro; Rep. Robert Craven; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #106; #104; #201; #208; #112; #237; #189; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3709857/9/2020 3:34 PMSystem Account7/9/2020 3:34 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,712
  
STATE HOUSE – The sponsors of legislation to protect access to birth control in Rhode Island railed against today’s Supreme Court decision allowing some employers to claim a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing coverage.

The Supreme Court today issued a 7-2 decision siding with the Trump administration, saying the administration acted within its authority when it changed an Affordable Care Act rule to allow companies and organizations to cite a religious or moral objection to refuse to cover birth control in their health care plans, without providing any alternative means for coverage.

Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian said today’s decision puts women’s health at risk, and opens the door for many employers right here in Rhode Island to interfere with their female employees’ reproductive health. The decision adds urgency to the need to enact their legislation protecting birth control access at the state level, they said.

“A woman’s right to reproductive freedom is personal. It’s unfathomable that, in 2020, our country is saying it’s OK for her boss at work, or her husband or partner’s boss, to make that decision for her. The federal government has shown that it has no interest in protecting the rights of women, so states must take their own action to prevent an enormous step backwards in reproductive health and freedom, and in maintaining the progress we’ve made in preventing unintended pregnancies,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).

Said Representative Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), “All women deserve access to safe, effective birth control to protect their health, their choices and their futures. Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support women’s reproductive freedom. On their behalf, we urge our leaders and colleagues in the General Assembly to take swift action to pass our legislation to enact the protection at the state level so women in our communities can continue to stay in control of their health care decisions.”  

Senator Euer and Representative Kazarian are the sponsors of legislation (2020-S 2390/2020-H 7987) to enact the birth control coverage protections originally included in the federal ACA at the state level, including restrictions on cost-sharing by patients, requiring plans to cover all FDA-approved contraception drugs, products and sterilization procedures.
7/8/2020RepSen. Dawn Euer; Rep. Katherine Kazarian; #244; #194; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would make treatment for rare diseases more accessible and affordable.

The legislation (2020-H 8078) would create the Rhode Island Rare Disease Medication Accessibility, Affordability and Reinsurance Act, which would provide for establishment of the rare disease medication reinsurance program to be funded by insurer contributions.

“Patients with rare fatal or debilitating diseases have been given new hope because of technological advances in medical research,” said Representative McNamara, “But the cost of those treatments can be exceedingly high, and the rareness of the conditions can compound those costs, leading to financial trouble for individuals, employers and insurers. Sometimes these organizations have no choice but to drop coverage of these expensive treatments all together. This bill would facilitate coverage and fair financing by allocating the costs for those medications as broadly as possible.”

The program would be administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services based on recommendations from a 15-member advisory council. The bill would authorize the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to administer a fund to pay for a portion of the coverage by collecting funds from payers as broadly as possible, based on estimated costs, and distributing the funds to any insurer, plan, or program that paid for a patient to be treated with one of the identified drugs. The bill would not create any new financial liability for the state.
 
Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare, is a longtime advocate of patients’ rights. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed his bill (2020-H 7266) that would allow chronically ill patients to obtain experimental drugs that have not yet been federally approved but which may be in the final stages of FDA testing.
7/8/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3709837/8/2020 1:25 PMSystem Account7/8/2020 1:25 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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State House, ProvidenceRhode Island House and Senate Republicans unanimously stand with Lt. Governor Dan McKee and RI small business coalitions across the state, calling on Governor Raimondo to immediately allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds to help save Rhode Island’s struggling small and micro business enterprises. An online petition has launched, urging the State to allocate at least 10% of the $125B Cares Act funding for small business grants.
 
“This money isn’t a slush fund for the Governor to give no-bid contracts to her financial supporters and friends,” said Minority Whip Michael Chippendale, referring to the recently discovered $2M no-bid Boston consultant fee procured by Governor Raimondo. “The funding was created for RI Small and Micro Businesses that are struggling greatly under this current crisis.”

A clause within the act specifically outlines how states can allocate these funds to help small businesses affected by the pandemic. States like New Hampshire, Alaska, Wisconsin, Mississippi and others have already leveraged this clause, some allocating up to $400M in funds for their small business community. 

“We must save our mom and pop businesses. They are the backbone of our local economy in providing jobs and tax revenues,” said State Representative and small business owner, George Nardone. “Many Rhode Island family livelihoods are at stake.”

“It is time to make our small business community a priority,” said Senator Jessica de la Cruz. “Communities all across our state are suffering due to the loss in revenues generated from the abrupt cut off of commerce.”

Dozens of long-standing Rhode Island businesses have already closed their doors due to the financial strains the COVID restrictions placed on small and micro business operations.

“It is unconscionable that the Governor would hold back these designated relief funds from small business owners who desperately need the help now,” said House Republican Leader Blake Filippi. “We promise to do everything in our power to get this funding out to our small business community – with the goal of giving a much needed boost to our economy.”
 
“The stress of being ignored by our Government leaders, first by only allowing box stores to maintain their businesses during the pandemic shutdown, and now, the burden of trying to stay afloat during partial openings, is beyond belief for any business owner,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi, a former owner of multiple small businesses in the State of Rhode Island. “Small and micro businesses employ over 200,000 Rhode Islanders – we are in big trouble if these businesses are not sustained. We are proud to join the Lt. Governor’s effort to recognize this need in our struggling economy.”
 
“Through no fault of their own, small business owners have been thrust into massive amounts of debt during the pandemic closures,” said Senator Thomas Paolino.  “We owe them a bit of relief for their sacrifices to keep us all safe.”
 
“We need to join other states in prioritizing resources to reenergize our local economy,” said Representative Jack Lyle, Jr. “Let’s for once put RI at the top of a national list and be recognized as a leader, by helping out small businesses with assistance grants to pay the mounting bills greatly impacted by COVID, such as mortgages, maintaining inventory, and taxes.”
 
“The financial debt will continue to mount, despite the partial openings,” said Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere. “The slow-to-build customer flow is going to persist in impacting our small businesses in the months ahead.”
 
“The remedy is simple,” said Representative Justin Price. “It is time for the Governor to stop withholding this important lifeline for our small businesses and use these funds for their intended purposes.  The fact that we have waited this long to start a RI small business grant relief program is unfathomable.”
 
Members of the RI House and Senate Republican Caucuses have long been the voice of the small and micro business community at the State House.  In 2019, the House and Senate Republican Caucuses fought for the statutory reduction in the state sales tax from 7% to 6.5%; introduced legislation exempting virtual currency from taxation; and championed small business assistance with the raised federal tax, which passed into statute.  The House and Senate GOP also successfully rallied against proposed new taxes and fees for funeral homes, hotels, hunting or shooting ranges, interior design businesses and commercial building services; and exempted natural hair braiders from a requirement for licensure. During the abbreviated 2020 session, House and Senate Republicans championed a reduction in the corporate sales tax from $400 to $250; supported the Real Jobs RI Program; introduced the “Freedom to Travel and Work Act,” which creates a regulatory framework to accept out-of-state professional business licenses to work in Rhode Island; and actively campaigned against the proposal to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would have raised the gas tax, making the cost of doing business in RI more expensive.
 
 
 
To join House and Senate Republicans in signing the petition, please visit https://www.change.org/p/office-of-governor-gina-raimondo-governor-raimondo-allocate-federal-covid-19-relief-funds-to-save-ri-small-businesses-now
 
 

7/7/2020RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Sen. Dennis Algiere; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. George A. Nardone; Sen. Jessica de la Cruz; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Sen. Thomas J. Paolino; Rep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; Rep. Justin Price; #218; #84; #169; #251; #262; #238; #230; #253; #219; Sue Stenhouse
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NoYesApproved3709827/8/2020 12:08 PMSystem Account7/8/2020 12:08 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on Education will be meeting tomorrow, July 9 at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on FY 2021 education related budget articles.  The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence).

The committee will hear testimony on the following budget items:
 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.  Public testimony will be accepted in two different ways. 

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 # (or specific topic) 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, July 9, 2020 at 11a.m.
Documents provided at the hearing will be made available on the General Assembly website: http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HFIN.aspx.

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.

7/8/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3709817/8/2020 11:04 AMSystem Account7/8/2020 11:04 AMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – In advance of reconvening the week of July 13, both chambers of the General Assembly have scheduled hearings next week.

For further details, please click on the links below.

Tuesday, July 7
  • The House Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 35 to consider authorization of municipal bonds for Cranston, Newport, Warwick and Burrillville.
  • The Senate Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearing on elements of the 2021 state budget bill.
  • The House Judiciary Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge to consider several bills, including:
    • 2020-H 8077 — Sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), this bill would put a question on November’s ballot asking voters whether to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name.
    • 2020-H 7541A/2020-S 2136B — Sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), this legislation updates the state’s laws establishing parentage so they include all types of parents, including  LGBTQ parents.
    • 2020-H 7947 — Sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
    • 2020-H 7896 — Sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), this bill would require that electors that cast emergency ballots in the 12 day period prior to any election day sign an electronic pollbook giving a reason why they cannot get to the polls and vote be cast immediately into a voting machine.
 Wednesday, July 8

  • The House Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 35 for hearings on elements of the 2021 state budget bill and legislation (2020-H 7624) sponsored by Representative Slater to establish minimum staffing standards for quality care at nursing homes.
  • The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 313 to consider the confirmation of David Spinella as Chief Hearing Officer in the Division of Administrative Adjudication in the Department of Environmental Management and a bill (2020-S 2504) sponsored by committee Chairwoman Susan V. Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) amending the maximum allowable capacity for net metering systems in the Block Island Utility District and Pascoag Utility District.
  • The Senate Labor Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the annual bill to update workers’ compensation (2020-S 2915), sponsored by Labor Committee Chairman Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence).
  • The House Labor Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge for a hearing on the annual bill to update workers’ compensation (2020-H 8085), sponsored by Labor Committee Chairwoman Williams.
 
Thursday, July 9


  • The Senate Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge for hearings on elements of the 2021 state budget bill, the confirmation of Rebeka Mazzone to the Industrial Recreational Building Authority, and hearings on several municipal bond authorizations for Cranston.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 313 to consider the confirmation of  Louis DeSimone Jr. to the Board of Elections and several bills, including:
    • 2020-S 2824 — Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), this bill would create a new process with standards for deciding whether an applicant’s past conviction of a crime should disqualify the applicant from receiving a state occupational license, permit, certificate or registration.
    • 2020-S 2598 — Sponsored by committee Chairwoman Lynch Prata, this bill would require that electors that cast emergency ballots in the 12 day period prior to any election day sign an electronic pollbook giving a reason why they cannot get to the polls and vote be cast immediately into a voting machine.
  • The House Municipal Government meets at 4:30 p.m. in the House Lounge for hearings on municipal bond authorizations for Pawtucket, South Kingstown, Tiverton and Cranston.
 
The House is expected to reconvene for session on Thursday, July 16, and the Senate expects to reconvene sometime the same week.

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.

7/3/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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NoYesApproved3709807/3/2020 3:16 PMSystem Account7/3/2020 3:16 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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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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NoYesApproved3709786/30/2020 12:25 PMSystem Account6/30/2020 12:25 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
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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
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NoYesApproved3709776/29/2020 2:46 PMSystem Account6/29/2020 2:46 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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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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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 Whitty
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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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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 Whitty
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
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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 Whitty
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
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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 Whitty
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
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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.


NoYesApproved3709646/18/2020 9:06 PMSystem Account6/25/2020 9:59 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,702
  
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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NoYesApproved3709746/23/2020 4:25 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,686
  
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.
NoYesApproved3709586/17/2020 6:29 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 4:09 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,700
  
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.


YesYesApproved3709726/23/2020 2:39 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 4:09 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,701
  
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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NoYesApproved3709736/23/2020 2:45 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 2:45 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
15,699
  
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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NoYesApproved3709716/23/2020 2:00 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 2:00 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,698
  
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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NoYesApproved3709706/23/2020 1:00 PMSystem Account6/23/2020 1:00 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,695
  
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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NoYesApproved3709676/22/2020 2:32 PMSystem Account6/22/2020 3:43 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,697
  
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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NoYesApproved3709696/22/2020 3:15 PMSystem Account6/22/2020 3:42 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,694
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/21-Vella-Wilkinson_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3709666/22/2020 9:07 AMSystem Account6/22/2020 9:07 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
15,693
  
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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NoYesApproved3709656/19/2020 2:30 PMSystem Account6/19/2020 2:31 PMNo presence informationAndrew Caruolo
15,691
  
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.


NoYesApproved3709636/18/2020 8:59 PMSystem Account6/19/2020 11:36 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,683
  
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
6
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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.


NoYesApproved3709556/16/2020 6:32 PMSystem Account6/18/2020 9:07 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,687
  
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.
NoYesApproved3709596/17/2020 7:31 PMSystem Account6/18/2020 8:18 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,682
  
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
5
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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.
NoYesApproved3709546/16/2020 1:34 PMSystem Account6/18/2020 8:11 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,688
  
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
24
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NoYesApproved3709606/18/2020 6:27 PMSystem Account6/18/2020 6:27 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
15,660
  
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. 



NoYesApproved3709316/1/2020 11:14 AMSystem Account6/17/2020 7:34 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,615
  
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.



NoYesApproved3708864/21/2020 1:38 PMSystem Account6/17/2020 7:34 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,611
  
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.


NoYesApproved3708824/17/2020 1:45 PMSystem Account6/17/2020 7:34 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
15,685
  
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. Trafford
15,684
  
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 Caruolo
15,666
  
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.
NoYesApproved3709376/3/2020 2:27 PMSystem Account6/16/2020 6:39 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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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. 


NoYesApproved3709416/5/2020 2:56 PMSystem Account6/12/2020 4:27 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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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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NoYesApproved3709506/12/2020 9:53 AMSystem Account6/12/2020 9:53 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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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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NoYesApproved3709496/11/2020 9:46 AMSystem Account6/11/2020 9:46 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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