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15,597
  

STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is announcing that The Rhode Island National Guard (RING) Civil Support Team, working with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RI EMA), will be providing a new coronavirus (COVID-19) testing site location within Providence County at Rhode Island College starting tomorrow, March 31.
 

Tests are by appointment only and patients must contact their primary care physician for a referral in order to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 test. 


I’d like to thank RIC, RING, and RI EMA for establishing this crucial testing site for our residents.  These are scary and uncertain times and I thank everyone for doing their part to ensure Rhode Island stays healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please continue to socially distance and isolate for the sake of the community, but, if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please contact your primary care doctor in order to schedule an appointment to get tested for the virus, said Representative O’Brien. 


On Sunday, March 29, RING established a secure testing site in Parking Lot B, the college’s main commuter parking lot, with the goal of testing up to 300 people per day. Approximately 50 medical and security personnel will begin on-site testing for COVID-19 this Tuesday, March 31. Testing will be by appointment only and will occur between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days per week. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will place additional signage to direct increased traffic on the campus. 


3/30/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is calling for Rhode Island’s first-responders to receive a stipend while they combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Baltimore recently instituted a similar stipend, paying firefighters, EMS workers, and police officers an additional $200 per pay period during the crisis.

“Our brave and selfless first-responders have continued to work throughout this pandemic while many of us are encouraged to stay home.  Their dedication to public service puts them at an elevated risk to contract COVID-19 and I believe that they should be compensated for this additional risk to their personal safety and the safety of their families.  With the additional Federal money coming to Rhode Island through the disaster stimulus bill, I think we should take care of our first-responders with this stipend, just like they care for us every single day,” said Representative O’Brien.

3/27/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of March 23-27 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was announced today by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio in collaboration with the Department of Health. The Assembly had previously announced it would not conduct business the week of March 16-20.

3/18/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of March 23-27 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was announced today by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio in collaboration with the Department of Health. The Assembly had previously announced it would not conduct business the week of March 16-20.


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STATE HOUSE – The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of March 30-April 3 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

3/26/2020RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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The House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of March 30-April 3 have been canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson added her support today for the decision of the Disaster Emergency Funding Board to establish a short-term $300 million line of credit for the State of Rhode Island in order maintain financial liquidity for the state.  This line-of-credit decision includes oversight and reporting requirements outlining how the money is used and does not create any additional spending above the current state budget.  

“This prudent decision establishes a line of credit for the state. It does not commit the state to borrowing the $300 million. Our major sources of revenue are at risk due to the economic threat that this virus has created. With the casinos closed, the tax filing date moved to July 15 and the shutdown of small businesses, in addition to the growing strains on state government services like food and soaring unemployment benefits, this judicious decision will go a long way to calm concerns and keep the state liquidity in check. Above all, we need the access to resources to stop the spread of this horrifying virus as quickly as possible. I completely support this decision,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

The Disaster Emergency Funding Board met Thursday at the State House to make this decision. The board is comprised of Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello; Senate President Dominick Ruggerio; and the chairmen of the House and Senate Finance committees, Marvin L. Abney and William J. Conley Jr.  In a letter earlier in the week, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo asked the board to meet and approve borrowing $300 million from the federal government or other sources to fund the state’s response to COVID-19. The state will have until June 30, 2021, to repay the emergency loan.

3/26/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – House and Senate leaders will meet Thursday to consider a proposal by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to borrow emergency funding for the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

State law (R.I.G.L. 30-15-10) establishes the Disaster Emergency Funding Board, a body comprised of the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate and the chairpersons of the House and Senate Finance committees to approve funds for emergency response. The governor declared a state of emergency in Rhode Island on March 9.

In a letter sent yesterday, Governor Raimondo asked that the board meet and approve the borrowing of $300 million from the federal government or other sources to fund the coronavirus response. Under the state law establishing the board, the state can borrow such emergency funding with a repayment period of up to two years.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday, March 26, at 11:30 a.m. in the State Room on the second floor of the State House. The governor is scheduled to speak and her staff will present the proposal to the board. Due to restrictions on more than 10 people in a room to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there will be no access to the State Room, but public comments are welcome and can be emailed to relief-funding@rilegislature.gov. The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

The board includes House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), 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).

3/24/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #120; #85; #199; #202; Larry Berman
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House and Senate leaders will meet Thursday to consider a proposal by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo to borrow emergency funding for the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


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STATE HOUSE – Legislative leaders today approved an emergency measure to borrow up to $300 million to shore up cash flow problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and allow the state to continue to provide vital services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


YesYesApproved3708643/26/2020 1:41 PMSystem Account3/26/2020 1:42 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has announced that the fourth annual Military and Veterans Outreach Day, originally scheduled for March 31, has been canceled.

The event, which has been organized by Representative Vella-Wilkinson since 2017, gives veterans and their families an opportunity to network and get a greater understanding of the resources available to them.

“While this pandemic continues to have a profound effect on all of us, I pray that our veterans and military community stay safe during this crisis,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson.

Veterans and military families are invited to contact Jerry Squatrito, clerk of the House Veterans Affairs Committee directly with any questions or concerns. His email is jsquatrito@rilegislature.gov. He can also be reached at (401) 222-2933.

3/24/2020RepRep. 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 calling on the governor to begin clinical trials of drugs that are being found to be effective against the COVID-19 virus after reading about a recently released peer-reviewed medical study.

Representative O’Brien is referencing an announcement made by Didier Raoult, a French physician and microbiologist.  He holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and specializes in infectious diseases. In 1984, Didier Raoult created the Rickettsia Unit at Aix-Marseille University. He also teaches infectious diseases in the Faculty of Medicine of Aix-Marseille University, and since 1982 has supervised many M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

Dr. Raoult announced that a full peer-reviewed study has been released which shows that after six days, 100 percent of patients treated with Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin were virologically cured.

“Time is of the essence in our state’s fight to defeat the Corona Virus pandemic and we should be using every available tool to combat this virus.  This is why I am calling on the governor to immediately begin state clinical trials to determine the effectiveness in treating COVID-19 with a combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin.  Governor Cuomo of New York called for the same clinical trials to take place last week and they begin today in New York.  Combined with the recent announcement of this drug combination’s effectiveness made by Dr. Raoult, I call on Governor Raimondo to follow the lead of Governor Cuomo and to immediately begin clinical trials in Rhode Island for the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders,” said Representative O’Brien.
3/24/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien is calling on the governor to begin clinical trials of drugs that are being found to be effective against the COVID-19 virus after reading about a recently released peer-reviewed medical study.


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STATE HOUSE -- Representatives Teresa A. Tanzi, Carol Hagan McEntee, and Kathleen A. Fogarty recently presented the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale food pantry with a $7,500 legislative grant to help purchase more crucial supplies for the food pantry. 

“With parents out of work, schools closed, and uncertainty of when the next paycheck will arrive, the work of the Jonnycake Center is more important now than ever. This grant will help ensure that those who use the center will be fed and hopefully give these individuals a slight sense of relief during these trying times,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett). 

“The work the Jonnycake Center does for our community is already crucial and during these uncertain and stressful times, their service is even more invaluable to the community. I thank them for their dedication to make sure that no one goes hungry or unclothed and I urge everyone to donate to their important cause,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

“The Jonnycake Center has been serving our community with distinction for a long time and this grant will help them continue to provide food and clothing during this unsettling time of Corvid-19. There is not a more worthy organization for this grant than the Jonnycake Center and I thank them for providing help to so many,” said Representative Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown). 

 "This legislative grant could not have come at a more important time. South County is suffering from the loss of hospitality jobs and laid off workers are coming to us for food in this time of crisis, in addition to those who count on us for food throughout the year," said Kate Brewster, Executive Director of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale.

 The mission of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale is to provide basic needs, resources, and hope to their community members. They provide food, clothing, and various special programs to help those in need in the community.

 In photo, from left: Kate Brewster, Executive Director, Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty, Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi, and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee at the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale food pantry 


3/24/2020RepRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Rep. Teresa Tanzi; Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty; #226; #166; #217; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3708603/24/2020 11:19 AMSystem Account3/24/2020 11:20 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has taken a number of temporary preventative steps to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Access to the Senate and House chambers and lounges will be limited. In the House, the chamber floor and the House lounge will be restricted to House members, staff, pages and the media at all times until further notice. The Senate will have similar restrictions to the chamber and lounge before, during and after session until further notice. One exception: the lounges will be open when used for committee hearings. The public galleries will continue to be accessible.

Please note that interested individuals can always watch the daily proceedings of both chambers on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. Both sessions are live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Committee hearings will continue. Seating in the committee rooms has been rearranged to increase personal space and decrease the need to be in close contact, and chairpersons have been asked to delay scheduling hearings on issues that traditionally draw large crowds. Additionally, members of the public are encouraged to submit written testimony on bills, which is distributed to all committee members, and it becomes part of the public record on the bill.  Written testimony for all Senate hearings can be sent to slegislation@rilegislature.gov. In the House, all hearing postings include a clerk’s email address that can be used for submitting written testimony.

Both chambers have canceled their annual celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day next week, as well as the Greek Independence Day celebration that was scheduled March 26.

The chambers will be unavailable to outside groups, including mock sessions and other educational gatherings. In consultation with the Secretary of State’s office, all school tours and mock sessions have been suspended. Every effort will be made to reschedule them later in the school year if possible.

Assembly leadership will continue to assess the situation on an ongoing basis with the governor’s office and the Department of Health.

“We are very grateful to Governor Raimondo, Director Alexander-Scott and the team at the Department of Health for their outstanding leadership and communication with us and with Rhode Islanders as we all seek to do our part during this pandemic. We will continue to look to them for guidance, and will take every necessary action to assist them and to protect the public health,” said President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio.

Said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, “We are taking every precaution to keep the public, legislators and staff healthy and safe. Obviously this is an evolving situation and we will continue to communicate with each other and the public. We are in continuous contact with the Department of Health and they have given us the clearance to continue holding our sessions at this time.”

3/12/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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The General Assembly has taken a number of temporary preventative steps to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.


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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush and Rep. Susan R. Donovan honored several “Doctors of Distinction” at the 2020 International Women’s Day celebration held at the State House on March 5.

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the achievements of women and the fight for gender equality. It is also a day to acknowledge the strides the world has taken in advancing women’s rights, freedoms and protections.  The United Nations has recognized and celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 since 1975.

“Today we honored a diverse group of women doctors whose impressive accomplishments have advanced humanity and the cause of International Women’s Day.  Their lives and careers are an inspiration to all, and each honoree represents the true meaning of International Women’s Day. We are grateful for their leadership, hard work and service to Rhode Island, our nation and the world.  And as we honor them, we recognize that they have persevered and thrived in an unequal world that is still seeking gender parity.  I thank the doctors of distinction for all that they have done and will continue to do for the women and men of Rhode Island,” said Senator Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence).

“It is such an inspiration to mark International Women’s Day by honoring such outstanding doctors who are leaders here in Rhode Island. These well-respected women have made tremendous contributions to our communities, not only in health and education, but in many cases, as agents for change in our society. We are so fortunate to benefit from their hard work here in Rhode Island; they truly serve as role models for the young women who will be our next generation of leaders,” said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).

This year, the General Assembly will be honored Maryellen Butke, PhD; Jody A. Underwood, MD, FACLP, DFAPA; Angela Anderson, MD; Megan L. Ranney, MD, MPH; Iris L. Tong, MD, FACP; Lindsay M. Orchowski, PhD; and Carolina Fonseca-Valencia, MD, FACP.

The celebration was held in the State Room of the State House.  After the awards were presented, the award recipients proceeded to both the House and Senate chambers for the reading of the International Women’s Day resolutions.

Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, far left, and Rep. Susan R. Donovan, far right, welcome the “Doctors of Distinction” at the 2020 International Women’s Day celebration held in the State Room of the State House.

3/6/2020RepSen. Donna Nesselbush; Rep. Susan R. Donovan; #179; #242; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush and Rep. Susan R. Donovan honored several “Doctors of Distinction” at the 2020 International Women’s Day celebration held at the State House on March 5.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7812) which would provide for the licensing and regulation of central service technicians (CST), which are any person who decontaminates, inspects, assembles, packages, and sterilizes reusable medical instruments or devices in a freestanding, emergency care facility, freestanding ambulatory surgical center, health care facility, hospital, physician ambulatory-surgery center, or podiatry ambulatory surgery center.

 “This bill is about patient safety and is not trying to set up obstacles to anyone trying to make a living.  Complications from unclean or not properly sterilized medical instruments poses a critical risk to anyone that comes into contact with them and we must make sure that these instruments and devices are safe to use on patients.  The requirements for CST’s stated in this bill are not overly strenuous or expensive and they will ensure that when a patient enters a facility, only properly sterilized and safe instruments will be used on them,” said Representative Millea.

According to the legislation, CST’s will be required to pass a nationally accredited central service exam and to hold and maintain either the certified registered central service technician credential, the certified sterile processing and distribution technician credential, or a substantially equivalent credential.

CST’s who do not meet the requirement would have 18 months from their date of hire to obtain the necessary credentials.

Under the bill, CST’s would also be required to complete 10 hours of continuing education credits per year in order to remain qualified as a CST.

Health care providers, allied health professionals, and interns or students under the direct supervision of a health care provider would be exempt from the regulation and able to fulfill the duties of a CST.

The bill has been referred to the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee.

3/3/2020RepRep. Christopher T. Millea; #248; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7812) which would provide for the licensing and regulation of central service technicians (CST), which are any person who decontaminates, inspects, assembles, packages, and sterilizes reusable medical instruments or devices in a freestanding, emergency care facility, freestanding ambulatory surgical center, health care facility, hospital, physician ambulatory-surgery center, or podiatry ambulatory surgery center.



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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2020-S 2139) that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption has been passed by the Senate.

“Individuals with disabilities continue to face unfair, preconceived, and unnecessary societal biases, as well as antiquated attitudes regarding their ability to successfully parent their own children.  This leads to new parents with disabilities being unnecessarily referred to social workers and governmental staff for evaluations of their parenting abilities to provide proper care and environments for their children, based solely upon erroneous assumptions about the parent’s disability.  This is unfair, unjust, and may also have serious effects on children who may be denied the opportunity to live in a loving home with parents or caretakers who also have disabilities.  Our society is strongest with strong family environments so we should not eliminate loving homes for our kids simply because a parent has a disability,” said Senator DiPalma.

The purpose of the legislation is to protect the best interests of children who have parents with disabilities by establishing procedural safeguards that require adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This would include education of hospital, child protective services and judicial staff in the equal protection rights of parents with disabilities in the context of child welfare, foster care, family law, and adoption.

The legislation states that a parent’s disability cannot serve as the basis of referral to a hospital social worker or the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.  The parent’s disability cannot serve as the basis for the denial or restriction of visitation and custody either if the child’s best interests are taken into account.

Also, when a parent’s disability is alleged to have a detrimental impact on a child, the party raising the allegation bears the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence that the behaviors are, or will likely, endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the child.

Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) is the sponsor of the companion legislation (2020-H 7295) in the House of Representatives.

Senator DiPalma’s bill has been referred to the House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee.

2/27/2020SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2020-S 2139) that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption has been passed by the Senate.



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Brown University’s remains only emergency medical training program in New England that uses animals
 
STATE HOUSE – Advocates and physicians today gathered in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. to limit the use of live animals for medical training in Rhode Island.

While training on animals was once common, over the last 20 years, most medical and physician training programs have discontinued the practice in favor of using human simulators, which feature realistic skin, fat and muscle and more accurately represent the human anatomy than animals do.

Emergency medicine residencies operate without using animals at Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University, the University of Connecticut, and Yale University.

The bill would end animal use in Brown University’s emergency medicine residency, which takes place at Rhode Island Hospital. It is one of only a handful of emergency medical training programs in the country, and the only one in New England, that still uses animals for training doctors. Kent Hospital in Warwick — the state’s only other emergency medicine training program — does not use animals for training.

“Using animals for medical training is outdated, unnecessary and is no longer considered the most effective way to train physicians. Almost every emergency program in the nation has ended this practice,” said Representative Solomon (D-Dist. 22, Warwick). “Human simulators are so advanced today that every single emergency procedure can be taught on them, and the lessons translate more directly to human patients. For the sake of better training and for preventing needless suffering by animals, we should not allow this antiquated practice in our state.”

Said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown), “We are fortunate to have some of the brightest minds in medicine and state-of-the-art facilities available for teaching and learning medicine here in Rhode Island. They have everything it takes to teach emergency medicine excellently, without killing animals. Patients here deserve doctors who are trained using the most modern techniques. Trainees deserve better than to be taught using outdated methods. Our bill will ensure that all medical training in our state meets those standards.”

The legislation (2020-H 7211, 2020-S 2341) would prohibit programs training healthcare providers from using live animals for training if at least one other accredited training program in the state in the same medical discipline does not use live animals, or if there is an alternate teaching method that teaches the procedure or lesson without the use of an animal. Violations would be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $1,000 per animal used.

The bill is backed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members. Member physicians spoke in support of the bill at State House event in support of the bill today, and also plan to testify at a hearing for the House bill later today.

“The joint Brown-Rhode Island Hospital emergency medicine program continues to use animals, even though nearly all of its peers across the nation have ceased the practice,” said Dr. Al Puerini, the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians 2017 Physician of the Year, whose 35 years practicing in Rhode Island began with residency at Brown. “House Bill 7211 and Senate Bill 2341 would address not only the substandard animal-based training occurring in that program, but it would also ensure that Rhode Island is a leader in ethical, human-relevant medical training.”

The Physicians Committee is also running outdoor advertising in support of the legislation.

“Multiple studies have shown that medical training simulators improve skill acquisition and retention. Some simulators feature flowing blood, breakable bones, and layers of skin, muscle, and fat,” says Dr. Kerry Foley, a spokesperson for the committee and a retired emergency medicine physician and instructor. “All of these devices are more appropriate for teaching emergency procedures than are animals.”

IN PHOTO: From left, Sen. Bridget Valverde, Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. and Dr. Al Puerini, a longtime Rhode Island physician and  instructor who supports ending the use of animals in medical training. 
2/26/2020RepSen. Bridget G. Valverde; Rep. Joseph J. Solomon; #264; #214; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Advocates and physicians today gathered in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. to limit the use of live animals for medical training in Rhode Island.
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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Senate passed two pieces of legislation relating to juror fees sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).  The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The first bill (2020-S 2266) passed by the Senate raises juror's fees for each day's attendance on the Superior Court from $15.00 per day to $25.00 per day, commencing July 1, 2021.  The wage would increase to $35.00 per day commencing July 1, 2022 and thereafter.

“Although it’s our civic duty and responsibility to serve on a jury when called, the truth is that jury duty can be a cumbersome burden for many, especially those who are losing out on wages while they take time off from work to serve,” said Senator Crowley.  “My hope is that this legislation will help ease that burden for those that want to serve their community but are also experiencing hard financial times when every single paycheck counts.”

The second bill (2020-S 2267) allows jurors to donate their juror fees to the state into the general fund.

“This bill is necessary because the Judiciary told us that they receive requests to donate or waive juror fees from some of our more civically-minded citizens, but, there is currently no legal way or process to do so.  The legislation creates that process so that those who wish to donate their juror fees back to the state are able to waive their juror fee,” said Senator Crowley.

2/26/2020SenSen. Elizabeth Crowley; #148; Andrew Caruolo
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The Rhode Senate passed two pieces of legislation relating to juror fees sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).  The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.



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Legislative package introduced on February 4, 2020
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has reintroduced several bills to stiffen penalties for repeat offenders of driving while under the influence infractions.

“Drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders and especially those whose irresponsible actions cause harm to others, should not be on the road, period,” said Senator Raptakis. “I don’t care how remorseful they seem when they appear before a judge. The punishment for this type of reckless disregard for the welfare of others needs to be much tougher. Until it is, drunks are going keep getting behind the wheel and the mayhem on our roads will continue.”

Senator Raptakis points to the recent local story of a man who was arrested twice for driving under the influence in an 18-hour span.  He has introduced these bills several times in the past and he believes that Rhode Island can no longer afford to wait to pass these important public safety bills.

The first bill (2020-S 2259) sponsored by Senator Raptakis would increase the penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence resulting in death and driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury.

The second piece of legislation (2020-S 2282) would increase from 5 years to 10 years the period in which prior DUI convictions qualify a person for increased penalties for subsequent convictions.

The last bill (2020-S 2286) would require the license plates of a vehicle to be confiscated if the owner is arrested for driving while the license was suspended, revoked or canceled for a number of offenses, including driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a breath test.

“From my point of view, we have done enough study. We’ve heard these bills year after year while people have continued to get hurt and killed on our roads, and the courts have allowed drunks to get back behind the wheel,” said Senator Raptakis. “We know people drive drunk, we know they continue to drive drunk after being convicted and their license has been suspended or revoked, we know they cause damage and death. We need to act and we need to get tough.”

All of the bills have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2/18/2020SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has reintroduced several bills to stiffen penalties for repeat offenders of driving while under the influence infractions.



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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has introduced legislation (2020-S 2183) that would require all public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost.

“We all know how necessary feminine hygiene products are, but what many people do not realize, and I see this as a long time educator, is that a lack of access to these products can cause students to miss crucial school days.  These products are a daily necessity to so many students and just as schools provide toilet paper for the bathrooms, these products should also be readily accessible for our students in need,” said Senator Lawson.

According to the bill, at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, all public schools teaching grades six through 12 shall make feminine hygiene products available in the schools.  The products will be available in all gender-neutral bathrooms and any female designated bathrooms.  The products shall be provided at no cost to the students.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

2/18/2020SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has introduced legislation (2020-S 2183) that would require all public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost.



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The legislation will be narrowed to solely address pending litigation
 
STATE HOUSE – Revised legislation addressing separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing has bene posted for tomorrow. The proposed Substitute A’s scope focuses solely on the issue that is the subject of litigation, which is the requirement that department regulations must be approved by the legislature. House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who sponsored the companion bills in the House and Senate, said they expect to debate outstanding marijuana issues during the remainder of the session.

The companion bills, 2020-H 7013A and 2020-S 2006A, are scheduled for committee votes tomorrow at the Rise of the House and Senate in their respective Judiciary Committees.

Said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) in a joint statement: “For us, this bill was never about the merits of issues around the medical marijuana system in Rhode Island. This legislation was only about separation of powers issues. The fact is that the administration clearly overstepped their authority and attempted to legislate through their regulations. The proposed regulations include provisions that the Governor tried and failed to enact through the Legislature. To then turn around and put those provisions into regulations is an attempt to unconstitutionally skirt the legislative process. However, marijuana issues will be discussed throughout this legislative session. We believe that at this point the best path forward is to enact legislation that addresses the single regulatory approval issue that is the subject of the lawsuit, and we can consider related legislation separately.”

The amended, or “Sub A,” language will be posted on the committees’ agendas today (House Judiciary Committee posting; Senate Judiciary Committee posting). 

The proposal removes a provision in state law that regulations created by the executive branch are subject to the approval of the Legislature. The Governor filed a lawsuit contending that this provision violates separation of powers. Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio believe regulations subsequently proposed by the executive branch constitute a breach of separation of powers in their own right.

1/27/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Revised legislation addressing separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing has bene posted for tomorrow. The proposed Substitute A’s scope focuses solely on the issue that is the subject of litigation, which is the requirement that department regulations must be approved by the legislature. House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who sponsored the companion bills in the House and Senate, said they expect to debate outstanding marijuana issues during the remainder of the session.



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STATE HOUSE — The Senate is scheduled to vote on legislation that would ban 3-D printed guns during its session tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 29.

The Senate is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in its chamber on the second floor of the State House.

The bill (2020-S 2004A), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3-D-printed firearms.

1/28/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on January 28 after 4:30 pm on legislation introduced by Representative Susan Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).  The legislation attempts to protect the environment and wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air.

Balloons not only pose a significant threat to wildlife, they are a nuisance to commercial fishermen and cause dangerous power outages. Most recently on January 12 of this year, a stray mylar balloon caused a power outage that left over 2.500 customers without electricity.

All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as biodegradable end up as litter on our waterways and landscapes. Animals, attracted by their vibrant colors and shapes, mistake them for food causing injury or death to countless sea and land creatures each year. 

According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 737 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during its statewide cleanup in September 2018.  Dead sea creatures continually wash up on our shores, their stomachs filled with plastic debris or bodies tangled in the strings of released balloons.

The bill (2020-H 7261), which is modeled after legislation proposed in New Jersey, would prohibit any intentional release of balloons, except for scientific or meteorological purposes with government permission, hot air balloon launches and indoor releases. Each violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 per offense, although releases of multiple balloons at once would be considered a single offense.

The bill has widespread support from environmental groups across Rhode Island and Fishermen’s Associations.  Norbert Stamps, who supports the legislation, is Vice President of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, Executive Board member of the Commercial Fishermen’s Research Foundation, Board Member of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine and past president of the RI Lobstermen’s Association.

In 2018, the New Shoreham Town Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of balloons on Block Island as a means of addressing this issue. Representative Donovan’s bill would not prohibit balloon sales, only the outdoor release of balloons.

1/27/2020RepRep. Susan R. Donovan; #242; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Welcoming the news that a Smithfield company is ramping up its production of face masks, Rep Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) is urging Honeywell to draw from restaurant and hospitality workers who have lost their jobs for the company’s new hires.

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

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

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

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


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STATE HOUSE -- In response to closings and other major changes the restaurant industry is experiencing due to the Covid-19, Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling on Governor Gina M. Raimondo to help Rhode Island’s struggling restaurants and eateries by granting them a reprieve of having to collect sales tax and meal taxes. The reprieve would last a business quarter according to Representative Williams.
 
“Currently, restaurants are forced to collect a seven-percent sales tax and a one-percent meals tax for every meal that is served.  Now, with restaurants closing and others being forced to significantly alter their businesses due to the Corona Virus impact, our treasured restaurant industry needs help.  This is why I am calling on the governor to waive sales and meal taxes for a business quarter in order to help our struggling restaurants during this stressful and uncertain time.  Our eateries are world-renowned and we must help and protect these Rhode Island treasures. I also hope that the governor will consider similar measures for other Rhode Island businesses that are being severely impacted by this pandemic,” said Representative Williams.   

3/17/2020RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3708583/18/2020 8:29 AMSystem Account3/18/2020 8:30 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea will administer the oath of office to the newest member of the House of Representatives, Rep.-elect Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), during Thursday’s session, which convenes at 4 p.m., March 12, in the House chamber. He was chosen by the voters of District 56 in a special election March 3 to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Rep. Shelby Maldonado.

Giraldo has served as chief of staff for Central Falls Mayor James Diossa since October 2015. Before that, he worked as a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, and as a family literacy instructor at Dorcas Place Family Learning Center. He also served as director of the Central Falls Department of Parks and Recreation for two years before becoming chief of staff.

A graduate of Central Falls High School in 2004, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary education from Providence College in 2008.

He resides in Central Falls with his wife Maité and daughter Valentina.
3/10/2020RepRep. Joshua J. Giraldo; #269; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea today administered the oath of office to the newest member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls). He was chosen by the voters of District 56 in a special election March 3 to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Rep. Shelby Maldonado.

Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has appointed Representative Giraldo to serve on the Health, Education and Welfare, Small Business, and Special Legislation committees.

The 33-year-old Giraldo has served as chief of staff for Central Falls Mayor James Diossa since October 2015. Before that, he worked as a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, and as a family literacy instructor at Dorcas Place Family Learning Center. He also served as director of the Central Falls Department of Parks and Recreation for two years before becoming chief of staff.

A graduate of Central Falls High School in 2004, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary education from Providence College in 2008.

He resides in Central Falls with his wife Maité and daughter Valentina.

3/12/2020RepRep. Joshua J. Giraldo; #269; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2020-H 7247A / 2020-S 2326A) that amends the state’s motion picture tax credit program passed the General Assembly tonight.

The legislation now heads to the governor for consideration.

The legislation amends the current program by allowing productions to utilize tax credits, even if the majority of production is not done within the state, if the production spends a minimum of $10 million within Rhode Island during a 12-month span.

“This is a very appropriate and exciting amendment to our motion picture tax credit program.  With this change, Rhode Island and its numerous natural and man-made assets, such as the Newport mansions, will now have a shot at landing much larger and high-profile movie and television productions.  This is turn will drive national and international tourism into our borders, all without spending a single dollar more than the program currently allows.  If you want to see James Bond running through the Newport mansions or perhaps your favorite Marvel superhero on the streets of Providence, you should support this much-needed bill,” said Representative Abney.

“Our motion picture tax credit program has proven to be successful, but, there are changes to its structure that can be made to further strengthen the program’s benefits to Rhode Island without any additional cost.  This bill does just that, amending our program so that larger and more high-profile productions come to Rhode Island to take advantage of our unique and diverse state, which in turn, will promote Rhode Island’s natural beauty and historic structures to the entire world,” said Senator DiPalma.

According to the current program, a production must shoot the majority of its project within Rhode Island in order to qualify for the tax credit program.  This is turn has caused larger, and often times global, productions to bypass using Rhode Island as a production location.

The majority of the tax credit program will remain the same under the new bill, such as, the amount of the tax credit being 30 percent of the state-certified production costs and capping the program’s total amount at $20 million for any tax year.

3/12/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #199; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2020-H 7247A / 2020-S 2326A) that amends the state’s motion picture tax credit program passed the General Assembly.



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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Michael Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) has introduced legislation that would change the amount of alcohol that the state’s microbreweries can sell at retail.

 The bill (2020-H 8005) would modify limitations on quantities of malt beverages and distilled spirits that can be sold at retail by certain licensed breweries and distilleries for off-premises consumption.

“Rhode Island’s craft beer industry has become an important facet of the state’s economy,” said Representative Morin. “Because of the unique way these microbreweries manufacture and distribute their product, along with the overall interest in craft beers, this would bring the law more in line with the way people are consuming a locally manufactured product by making it more available at a local level.”

Under the legislation, brewers that manufacture less than 2,500 barrels per year would be allowed to sell up to 10 cases per person per day; those that manufacture less than 5,000 barrels per year would be allowed to sell up to five cases per person per day. Distilleries that manufacture less than 7,500 gallons per year would be allowed to sell up to 10 liters per person per day; those that manufacture less than 15,000 gallons per year would be allowed to sell up to five liters per person per day.

All manufacturer licenses conducting retail sales and/or providing samples would be subject to compliance with alcohol server training and liquor liability insurance requirements.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland), Rep. David J. Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester), Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) and Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), has been referred to the House Committee on Special Legislation. Similar legislation (2019-S 0068) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).
3/12/2020RepRep. Michael Morin; #207; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, is praising Commissioner of Education Angélica M. Infante-Green for ordering school districts to develop a remote-learning instruction plan.

Representative McNamara had called for the Department of Education to establish remote learning protocols last week, writing, “With the possibility that the coronavirus (COVID-19) could disrupt school based learning, emergency remote learning approval may allow for the continuation of education for our students. I believe it would also be helpful if the Rhode Island Department of Education could advise local school districts of best practices in remote learning and possible model programs.”

Commissioner Infante-Green has instructed school districts to submit the plans by the end of the day on Thursday, March 19. The department will review the plans and make suggestions to school districts to ensure that students continue to learn.

“I’m delighted that the commissioner has taken these steps to establish remote learning,” said Representative McNamara. “Nothing replaces the one-on-one interaction between teacher and student, but at least we can have options in place during emergencies where children have to stay at home.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first confirmed case of the virus in Rhode Island on Tuesday. Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. CORVID-19 is particularly troubling because it is very transmissible and has a 1 to 2 percent mortality rate.
3/12/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2020-H 7398) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was passed by the House of Representatives.

“We want to make sure that our public policy in regard to addressing the opioid crisis does not have the unintended consequence of hurting patients who are trying to manage chronic pain.  These patients are not addicts, they are suffering with pain associated with cancer, palliative care, and in many cases, chronic intractable pain.  We need to let physicians determine how best to manage their patients’ pain,” said Representative Amore.

Representative Amore has introduced the legislation at the behest of Claudia Merandi, a constituent of District 65, who is also the founder of “Don’t Punish Pain”, a Rhode Island patient-advocacy organization for those suffering from chronic intractable pain.

Chronic intractable pain is defined as pain that is excruciating, constant, incurable, and of such severity that it dominates virtually every conscious moment.  It also produces mental and physical debilitation and may produce a desire to commit suicide for the sole purpose of stopping the pain.

The bill calls for new guidelines for the treatment of chronic intractable pain be based upon the consideration of the individualized needs of patients suffering from chronic intractable pain.  The legislation acknowledges that every patient and their needs is different, especially those suffering from chronic pain.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

3/11/2020RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2020-H 7398) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was passed by the House of Representatives.


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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) have announced plans to postpone a planned meeting to keep the Pawtuxet Village community informed of state and local issues.

The meeting, which was scheduled for Thursday, March 19, at the Aspray Boat House in Warwick, will be rescheduled at a later date.

“Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, has suggested that events where groups of people gather should be postponed or rescheduled in order to limit the spread of COVID 19,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “In the interest of keeping our constituents safe, we’ll reschedule the meeting, but Senator Lynch Prata and I will still be available to constituents during this crisis.”

“I still look forward to meeting with residents of Pawtuxet Village and hearing their concerns once this virus is no longer a risk,” said Senator Lynch Prata, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This is a great opportunity to get all the stakeholders for the community in one room to address those concerns unique to Pawtuxet Village.”
3/12/2020SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #41; #151; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) sent the following letter to the Newport City Council last night:
 
Good evening - 

I am writing to you tonight because I know that you have faced challenges this week regarding the Parade.  I thank you for your efforts to make decisions balancing public health, economic viability and Newport traditions.

In the end, I think you made the right decision.  The unfolding information about this virus is moving very quickly. It is hard for all of us to stay informed and advocate for the correct balance of policy intervention.

I want to thank you for your efforts and I am absolutely available to all of you for anything you need.  Please do not hesitate to contact me on anything related to this virus.  Whatever you need from the State, please let me know immediately. 

Have a good evening. 
 
Lauren Carson
State Representative House District 75

3/12/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate today made technical amendments to the House version of legislation to outlaw 3-D printed firearms, ghost guns and other untraceable or undetectable firearms in Rhode Island. The bill will now go back to the House for final approval before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

The House Judiciary Committee made the same amendments to the Senate version of the bill yesterday, and scheduled it for a vote before the full House of Representatives tomorrow. It will then return to the Senate for final approval before it can be sent to the governor.

The legislation (2020-S 2004B, 2020-H 7102Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. Patrica A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), would make it unlawful in Rhode Island for anyone to manufacture, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, possess, or have 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.
3/11/2020SenRep. Patricia Serpa; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #121; #208; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – As short-term rentals have increasingly become a major segment of the tourism market, governments have grappled with the appropriate ways to regulate them to ensure safety and fairness, and prevent them from becoming a nuisance to residential neighborhoods.

To help Rhode Island cities and towns with that effort, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7850) to enable municipalities to classify dwellings that are rented for more than 30 non-consecutive days in a year as commercial properties.

The bill is aimed at helping municipalities to collect appropriate taxes from properties that are, for all intents and purposes, operating as businesses, and to prevent de facto unregulated hotels or bed-and-breakfasts from changing the character of residential neighborhoods.

Representative Ruggiero said the bill is particularly aimed at the proliferation of non-owner-occupied buildings that are being purchased solely for use as short-term rentals.

“Short-term rentals on third-party platforms like AirBnB present a new set of challenges to local and state regulators. When the short-term rental concept began five years ago, homeowners defrayed their property taxes by renting rooms in their homes,” said Representative Ruggiero. “This has morphed into investors buying up properties in neighborhoods, taking affordable housing off of the market and running businesses in residential neighborhoods, which can alter a neighborhood.”    

Under the bill, a city or town council would need to adopt an ordinance in order to begin reclassifying properties in the manner described in the bill. The “30 non-consecutive days” stipulation would prevent the reclassification of ordinary rental properties, although they are already considered commercial if they have more than five units.

 “This is a local governance issue, since every municipality is different. The state should not be telling a municipality how to manage short-term rentals, but this enabling legislation gives towns one more tool in the tool box, providing they pass an ordinance,” said Representative Ruggiero.  

The bill was introduced Feb. 26 and is before the House Municipal Government Committee. It is cosponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).

3/11/2020RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Upon the recommendation of Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, tonight’s House Judiciary Committee hearing has been postponed and will be rescheduled to a later date because a large crowd was expected for the hearing.  All other House committee hearings will be held as scheduled this evening.

The following is the statement from Director Alexander-Scott, forwarded to us by Neil Hytinen, chief public affairs officer of the RI Department of Health:

“Director Nicole Alexander-Scott is informing the Speaker it is her strong suggestion that as much as possible large events be postponed or rescheduled in order to limit the spread of COVID 19. Because COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within roughly 6 feet), cancelling or postponing large events is an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Rhode Island. Measures such as these are most effective at limiting the spread of disease when implemented before a community is seeing widespread transmission. Additional details and guidance on mass gatherings will be forthcoming today.”

3/11/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – With the governor’s signature today, legislation sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata and Rep. David A. Bennett to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 to $11.50 an hour on Oct. 1 has become law.

“Putting more money in the pockets of those with the lowest wages helps their families and the economy overall, because people at that end of the wage spectrum pump that money right back into the local economy, buying necessities. It also means less demand for public assistance. A stronger minimum wage will mean a stronger economy for Rhode Island,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “I believe very strongly that all working people deserve to be able to afford a decent life. Minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation since it began, and Rhode Island’s remains behind neighboring states’. Each time we raise it, it means a bit of relief and a bit more dignity for those workers who struggle the most to afford life in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island’s minimum wage has been $10.50 since Jan. 1, 2019. The minimum wage is $12.75 in Massachusetts and $11 in Connecticut.

“As the costs of daily life continue to increase, we must not forget those who are on the bottom of the economic ladder.  There is still much more work to be done to address this issue, but this minimum wage increase is a good first step to ensuring that Rhode Islanders have a roof over their heads and food on the table for themselves and their families,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Senator Lynch Prata, who is chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Bennett, who is chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, have been the primary sponsors of every law enacted to raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage since 2012, when minimum wage was $7.40.

“Nobody should work full-time and live in poverty,” said Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. “Over the past few years, we’ve turned our economy around by investing in our workers. From new job training programs to investments in education, we’re working to ensure that every Rhode Islander has a good, family-supporting job. I’m proud that we’ve increased the minimum wage four times since I took office, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to continue building on that progress.”

Governor Raimondo signed the legislation (2020-S 2147A, 2020-H 7157A), which was approved General Assembly March 4, at a ceremony held at the headquarters of the RI AFL-CIO.

“The working people of Rhode Island are grateful for the leadership of Governor Raimondo, Senate President Ruggerio, and House Speaker Mattiello on the early passage of the minimum wage bill this year,” said RI AFL-CIO President George Nee. “It sends a strong signal that hard work is honored and appreciated in Rhode Island.” 
 

3/10/2020SenRep. David Bennett; Sen. Erin Lynch Prata; #161; #151; Meredyth R. Whitty
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With the governor’s signature, legislation sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata and Rep. David A. Bennett to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 to $11.50 an hour on Oct. 1 has become law.
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is fully supporting legislation (2020-H 7050), which he cosponsored, that would mandate public school classroom sizes be limited to 20 students for kindergarten through grade two classes.

Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) is the lead sponsor of the legislation and the bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

“Overcrowding in our classrooms has become an annual problem in our schools, a problem which hurts our children and their education the most.  We also know that early learning is vital to a student’s future academic success, so it is imperative that we give our youngest students an optimal learning environment.  By capping the amount of students in a classroom, we are giving them the best possible shot at receiving a proper education and our children deserve no less,” said Representative O’Brien.

“The importance and impact of early education is beyond argument at this point so we should be giving our young students the best possible classroom environment to begin their educations.  It is also non-debatable that over-stuffed classrooms do our children a tremendous disservice to the learning process.  This bill will help our children and their education, as well as the teachers who are stretched beyond any reasonable means of teaching properly.  Both our youngest students and our teachers deserve better and that is why I introduced this bill,” said Representative Millea.

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

3/10/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) has introduced two bills that would limit non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment.

The first bill (2020-S 2558) would place limits on the terms that can be included in an agreement that settles a claim of sexual harassment, retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and stalking. It expressly grants the complainant the right to disclose factual information relating to his or her claim five years after the execution of the nondisclosure settlement agreement. If the complainant discloses his or her factual information, the respondent may no longer be bound by the nondisclosure agreement.

 “If this bill is approved, it would help put an end to the practice of using nondisclosure agreements to forever cover-up abusive behavior in the workplace and society by providing victims the option to publicly identify those individuals who abuse or harass others,” said Senator Sheehan. “Putting a five-year limit on NDAs involving sexual misconduct provides victims a window for truth and accountability that will help put a stop repeat offenders.”

The second bill (2020-S 2563) would define “nondisclosure agreement” and identify mandatory and permissible nondisclosure agreement language.

A non-disclosure agreement is a confidentiality contract that prohibits the disclosure of factual information related to a claim by a party to the agreement. Such agreements were initially used by high-tech firms to protect trade secrets, but victims’ rights advocates say that they are increasingly being used to shield those in power from allegations of rape or abuse.

“With a limitation on nondisclosure agreements, countless victims will be free to come forward to identify sexual misconduct after a five-year period, making it harder for abusers to dodge accountability and consequences for their actions,” said Senator Sheehan. “I find it unconscionable and unjust as a matter of public policy to permit perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault to perpetually hide behind a veil of secrecy of nondisclosure agreements.”
3/10/2020SenSen. James Sheehan; #90; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – In light of concerns about COVID-19, the General Assembly is reminding the public that anyone who would like to testify on legislation but wishes to avoid public gatherings that they may submit written testimony on any bill instead of attending committee hearing.

While both the House and the Senate are continuing business as usual, including sessions and committee meetings, those who wish may submit their testimony in writing and avoid the crowded capitol building.

Written testimony submitted on any bill is distributed to all members of the committee hearing the bill at the time of the hearing. It also becomes part of the public record of the bill, just as spoken testimony is.

A reminder that written testimony is welcome is now being included in every committee meeting posting, along with the address to which it should be sent.

In the Senate, testimony for any bill being heard before any committee may be emailed to slegislation@rilegislature.gov.

In the House, testimony should be emailed to the clerk of the committee hearing the bill. The email address of the appropriate committee clerk is included on the committee posting when the bill is posted for a hearing.
3/9/2020RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has scheduled a vote tomorrow on legislation to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs.

The committee meets tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10, at the rise of the Senate session (sometime after 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate lounge on the second floor of the State House.
Scheduled for consideration is:
  • 2020-S 2124 — Sponsored by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), this bill would provide for medical assistance health care for expectant mothers and establish medical assistance coverage and reimbursement rates for perinatal doula services.
 
Among the bills scheduled for hearings are:
  • 2020-S 2241 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) would adopt the interstate compact to award prizes for curing diseases.
  • 2020-S 2465 — sponsored by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) establishes the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund to provide finance assistance to families for medical expenses not covered by state or federal programs or insurance contract.
The committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday, March 12, at the rise of the Senate in the Senate lounge for hearings on several bills, including:
  • 2020-S 2239 — Sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), this bill would require the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to study and report to the General Assembly the impact of using Medicaid funds for treatment of chronically homeless individuals.
  • 2020-S 2526 — Also sponsored by Chairman Miller, this bill would require drug manufacturers to establish, fund and manage state-approved drug take-back programs, free of charge to the consumer and pharmacy.
3/9/2020SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to consider one bill and to hear testimony on a variety of legislation.

On Tuesday, March 10 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will consider legislation (2020-S 2004B), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), which would provide certain definitions relative to undetectable firearms and would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public  buildings.

The committee will also hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2020-H 7322, sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), makes it a felony to isolate an elder or dependent adult and would expand the persons entitled to notice when a guardianship or conservatorship petition is filed in the probate court for dependents or elderly adults.
  • 2020-H 7481, sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), provides that the permissive use of a wireless communication device for the purpose of navigation of a motor vehicle shall only be applicable in cases where the device is mounted or otherwise affixed to the vehicle and not held in the motorist's hand.
  • 2020-H 7632, sponsored by Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), permits all Rhode Island police departments, including police departments of higher education institutions, to enter into non-emergency mutual aid agreements regardless of any geographical boundary.
On Wednesday, March 11 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on several bills relating to firearms, including the following pieces of legislation:
  • 2020-H 7034, sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), mandates arming campus police at public higher educational institutions and includes campus police in the definition of "law enforcement officer" for the purposes of the "Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights."
  • 2020-H 7263, sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), bans the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons which are not properly registered.
  • 2020-H 7327, sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown), increases the age from 18 to 21 years for lawful possession, sale, or transfer of firearms or ammunition. Full-time law enforcement, state marshals and members of the U.S. military would be exempt from these prohibitions.
  • 2020-H 7741, sponsored by Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), creates an appeal process in which an applicant for a concealed firearms permit or firearms transfer, could appeal to the agency which denied the permit.

3/9/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting on Thursday, March 12 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 310 of the State House to hear and/or consider the following bills:
  • 2020-S 2446, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), places the jurisdiction of minors in the Family Court when it comes to matters involving protective orders of domestic assault.
  • 2020-S 2449, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), invests the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the explicit authority to address issues affecting the conduct of judicial business and order whatever response(s) he or she deems necessary.
  • 2020-S 2450, sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), sunsets the provision allowing first-time violators to avoid fine by acquisition of hands-free device prior to imposition of fine effective 9/1/20.
  • 2020-S 2604, sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), eliminates the provision a person who solicits a ride in a motor vehicle or backs up a motor vehicle on a freeway is guilty of a misdemeanor. Adds $100 fine for advertising a motor vehicle for sale on a state highway to the schedule of violations.

3/9/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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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 2327) 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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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Education is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony on several bills relating to schools and curriculum.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 11, 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 the following bills:
  • 2020-S 2034 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), would require all school districts to designate an athletic trainer to be available for high school athletic practices and games.
  • 2020-S 2176 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), would allow students in public schools to possess and use sunscreen without a physician's note or prescription, if the product is regulated by the FDA for over-the-counter use.
  • 2020-S 2183 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), would provide that feminine hygiene products be provided in all public schools.
  • 2020-S 2401 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), would permit students in grades nine through twelve to possess/use over-the-counter medication and products without a doctor’s or parent’s note during school.
  • 2020-S 2628 — This bill, introduced by Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), would establish the implementation of trauma-informed practices in schools throughout the state.
The panel will also consider the appointment of Michael Fascitelli to the Board of Trustees of the University of Rhode Island, which requires the advice and consent of the Senate.
The Senate Committee on Education is chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

3/9/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The right of Rhode Islanders to access the shoreline has been inalienable since it was written into the state constitution in 1843. Yet exactly where the public shoreline ends and private property begins has always been as tumultuous and unsettled as the waves washing along Rhode Island’s shores.

A 1982 state Supreme Court case established the boundary of the public’s shore access at the mean high tide line, defined as the average of high tides over an 18.6-year cycle, which continually changes with the shifting sands of the coast. The Supreme Court’s decision has led to much conflict because it is nearly impossible for anyone walking along the shore to know where that shifting line is. 

While many efforts to clarify the definition over the years have gotten mired, Rep. Terri Cortvriend and House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi have proposed legislation (2020-H 7755) that takes a different route to finally secure the public’s constitutionally guaranteed shoreline rights.

The legislation would prevent the criminal prosecution of anyone who attempts to exercise their constitutional shoreline rights on a sandy or rocky shore within 10 feet of the most recent high tide line.

By exempting this area from criminal prosecution, the bill shifts away from the trickier effort of redefining where private property ends and public property begins. The legislation also offers a definition of accessible shoreline that is far easier to determine by beachgoers, property owners and any law enforcement officers investigating trespassing complaints.

As sea level rises, Rhode Island could be forced to contend with this issue more, said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).

“I have been working this session on several issues related to sea level rise, and through that work became more aware of the need to address this ambiguity. As tides bring the edge of the water further and further up the shore, and also erode the land there, we are going to face more situations where waterfront property owners and beachgoers are in conflict. Along the way, I’ve also found that this is an economic issue for the state, because beaches and shores play such an integral role in our tourism industry. We are constitutionally obligated to protect Rhode Islanders’ lateral access to the shore, and failure to do so could potentially cost us money. We think we’ve found an approach that can work, and we look forward to exploring it this session,” said Representative Cortvriend.

Both lawmakers represent coastal communities and were initially working on separate bills, but decided to partner in a bipartisan effort to finally resolve this issue.

“Our legislation doesn’t attempt to interpret the constitution or define where private property ends and public property begins; it only says someone can’t be criminally prosecuted for attempting to exercise their constitutional shoreline rights within a defined area of the shore. Our goal is to provide a more practical definition of where these activities can take place, and to get the criminal law out of these disputes, which will go a long way resolve much of the conflict that has only increased in recent years,” said Leader Filippi (R-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly).

The bill was developed with assistance from Professor of Marine Affairs Dennis Nixon, who teaches and researches coastal zone law at University of Rhode Island, and has the support of Clean Ocean Access and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association.

“This bill takes the Supreme Court’s final guidance and will change the law of criminal trespass to account for the fact the boundary is constantly in motion, subject to natural erosion and accretion, and will always be impossible to determine by the casual citizen out for a stroll,” said Nixon. “By using the shore’s most recognizable feature, the wash line, as a starting point, providing a narrow path to pass with that as an obvious visual reference will enable citizens to take advantage of their constitutional privileges of the shore without fear of criminal trespass. At the same time, it will also preserve mean high water as the official legal boundary in deeds and titles for purposes of distinguishing public and private rights.”

Said Clean Ocean Access Executive Director Dave McLaughlin, “I am beyond grateful to see H7755 introduced in the General Assembly, as Clean Ocean Access was founded on a call to action to protect our right to access the shoreline to enjoy the ocean. Whether you collect seaweed, enjoy riding waves, fishing or simply find peace by being near or in the ocean, we need to make sure that everyone resident of the state can enjoy the ocean and shoreline, and have the ability to move around freely at the water’s edge.”

The bill was introduced Feb. 26, with Representative Cortvriend as the lead sponsor and Leader Filippi as a cosponsor, along with Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), and has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
3/9/2020RepRep. Terri Cortvriend; Rep. Blake Anthony Filippi; #258; #218; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rep. Terri Cortvriend and House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi have proposed legislation to prevent the criminal prosecution of anyone who attempts to exercise their constitutional shoreline rights on a sandy or rocky shore within 10 feet of the most recent high tide line.
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Subcommittee on Human Services will be meeting on Wednesday, March 11 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony regarding the FY 2020 revised budget for the Eleanor Slater Hospital.  The subcommittee will hear a new deficit projection and Federal funding compliance review.

Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowsi (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) is the chairman of the subcommittee.

3/9/2020RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting three times this week to continue hearing FY 2021 budget articles, to vote on motion picture tax credit legislation, and to hear testimony on the proposed deal between IGT and Twin River.

On Tuesday, March 10 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on Article 14 -- Sections 1 and 5(a-i and ii) and 5(b), (c), (d), (f), which relates to medical assistance and Article 20 -- Section 13, which relates to healthcare reform.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-S 2326A), sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), which would authorize motion picture tax credits for a production that does not have its primary location within the state, provided a minimum of $10,000,000 in state certified production costs are incurred and paid within a 12 month period.

The House of Representatives have already passed companion legislation (2020-H 7247A) sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).

On Wednesday, March 11 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on legislation (2020-H 7523), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), that enables 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.

On Thursday, March 12 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following FY 2021 budget articles:
  • Article 1 -- Section 17 -- Neighborhood Opportunities
                              Section 23 -- Rhode Island Housing Transfer
 

3/9/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear several bills relating to Rhode Island public schools.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 11, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in the House Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will hear several bills relating to schools, including:
  • 2020-H 7291 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), would require elementary/secondary schools to have at least one school employee trained to administer/assist with the self-administering of seizure rescue medication prescribed to treat seizure disorder systems and the use of prescribed electrical stimulation.
  • 2020-H 7292 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), would create minority teacher recruitment by allowing the commissioner of education to implement strategies to reach a goal of 200 minority teachers in the state by 2025.
  • 2020-H 7442 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland), would create a moratorium on the creation of any new charter public schools until there is a revision in the school funding formula to better reflect ELL and special education services.
  • 2020-H 7507 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), would require schools to comply with recycling and composting laws and promotes the donation of unspoiled nonperishable food by schools.
  • 2020-H 7508 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), would establish the implementation of trauma-informed practices in schools throughout the state.
  • 2020-H 7797 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), would direct school districts experiencing high rates of student absenteeism to establish attendance review teams to address this absenteeism.
  • 2020-H 7800 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), would make explicit that parents and guardians of children with disabilities in private school have the same rights and remedies as parents of children in public school. It also provides a procedure in superior court to enforce these rights and remedies.
  • 2020-H 7810 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), would require all students in kindergarten to grade twelve to perform a minimum amount of community service each school year and would grant them the option to perform certain forms of community service for academic credit.
The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

3/9/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, has called for the Department of Education to establish remote learning protocols as Rhode Island continues to develop its strategy in fighting and containing coronavirus.

In a letter to Commissioner of Education Angélica M. Infante-Green, Representative McNamara wrote, “With the possibility that the coronavirus (COVID-19) could disrupt school based learning, emergency remote learning approval may allow for the continuation of education for our students. I believe it would also be helpful if the Rhode Island Department of Education could advise local school districts of best practices in remote learning and possible model programs.”

The committee met Thursday to hear a presentation on the Department of Health’s efforts to combat and contain the virus. Dr. Philip A. Chan, an infectious disease specialist and consultant medical director for the Department of Health, gave a comprehensive overview of COVID-19, and spoke to the committee about the importance of containing the virus to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed as it did in China.

“We have not seen confirmed cases in people without risk factors,” said Doctor Chan. “In the cases we’ve seen, they’ve either traveled to Italy or had contact with another case. The second we start seeing people without known risks, that elevates it up a notch and we have to have another discussion about everything.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first confirmed case of the virus in Rhode Island on Tuesday. Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. COVID-19 is particularly troubling because it is very transmissible and has a 1 to 2 percent mortality rate. Click here to see a video of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting.
3/6/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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Legislation would restore rate to two-thirds minimum wage, where it started
 
STATE HOUSE – A $1 raise in Rhode Island’ hourly minimum wage in October is on its way to the governor’s desk after approval by the General Assembly yesterday.

But the approximately 22,000 Rhode Islanders who are paid the tipped minimum wage — $3.89 — will be left behind by that raise.

For that reason, Rep. Moira Walsh is renewing her call for passage of her legislation to gradually increase the tipped minimum wage and tie it to raises in the standard minimum wage.

The standard minimum wage is $10.50, and it will rise to $11.50 in October under a bill approved by legislators yesterday. When both minimum wages were set in 1956, the tipped minimum was two-thirds the standard, 60 cents and 90 cents, respectively, and the two were tethered so that if the standard minimum increased, so would the tipped minimum.

In 2000, Rhode Island eliminated a provision that set the tipped minimum as a percentage of the standard minimum wage, leaving it at $2.89, where it had already been for four years, and where it stayed until the General Assembly approved legislation raising it by 50 cents in 2016 and another 50 cents in 2017.

Representative Walsh’s bill (2020-H 7466) would institute a 50-cent increase on Jan. 1, 2021, and continue to raise the tipped minimum wage by 50 cents each year until it is equal to at least two-thirds of the standard minimum wage. Then it would be linked to the standard minimum wage, rising by two-thirds of any increase made to the standard rate.

Representative Walsh, who worked as a waitress her entire adult life before becoming a legislator, said she is sponsoring the bill because tipped employees need and deserve a reliable base wage, and a commitment that their minimum wage will not be left to wither untouched again for decades again as inflation and others’ wages rise.

“Just getting fifty cents or a dollar this year isn’t going to mean much if servers have to keep coming back here every year for a few cents to try to make up for lost ground and not fall behind again. If tipped employees are going to have a minimum wage that is less than their non-tipped counterparts, it’s only fair that it should be a rate that better reflects the original intention of the law establishing it, and that it should rise alongside minimum wage proportionately,” said Representative Walsh (D-Dist. 3, Providence). “Tipped employees face the same rising costs of living as everyone else, so when it’s determined that minimum wage should increase, so should the tipped minimum wage.”

Representative Walsh said the bill provides security for both employees and employers, because it would set out a predictable series of annual increases to bring the rate into the two-thirds proportion where it would become linked to the standard minimum wage.

While some advocates for hourly employees have argued for eliminating the lower minimum wage for tipped employees altogether, Representative Walsh said many in the restaurant industry are concerned that doing so will open the door for employers to start demanding that servers hand over their tips because they are already paid a “fair” wage.

“Although tips can add up for those who work in fine dining, for the many who work in less-expensive family restaurants and diners, tips are often as little as a couple of dollars on a breakfast check. Fast turnover is the only way for them to earn a decent wage, so every time the restaurant is anything less than very busy, they suffer. No working person deserves to be paid a fraction of minimum wage for hours of work,” said Representative Walsh.

She added that the issue is inextricably linked with family and childhood poverty. The vast majority of servers, particularly at less expensive restaurants, are women, many of whom are single parents.

The bill, which had a hearing before the House Labor Committee yesterday, is cosponsored by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Rep. John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence), Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).

3/5/2020RepRep. Moira J. Walsh; #232; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) 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.

The legislation (2020-H 7266) would create the Rhode Island Terminally Ill Patients Right to Try Act of 2020, which would establish the conditions for the use of experimental treatments. Under the legislation, a clinical trial patient would have the right to continue the experimental treatment in a hospital setting, provided the patient or guardian signs a waiver of liability in favor of the hospital and its staff.

“When a drug trial is canceled, it can be devastating for individuals who saw a result from that trial,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “That’s a situation that many Rhode Islanders are in today. The relevance of this bill has become more pronounced in today’s world of clinical trials. I want Rhode Island to do all it can to give these people hope. I want Rhode Island to give terminally ill patients the ‘right to try’ anything that might help them.”

As an example, Representative McNamara points to a clinical trial that took place right here in the Ocean State. Sixty volunteers at Butler Hospital participated in the clinical trial of an investigative Alzheimer’s drug called Aducanumab. While the drug was found to keep the disease from further degenerating the condition of the patients, the trial was abruptly canceled by the drug company last March. The company later reconsidered its decision, and the drug is on an FDA fast track to becoming the first new drug approved in 16 years that actually targets the disease.

  “Right to Try” laws have been approved in 40 states. In 2018, Congress caught up and passed a similar federal bill. The Goldwater Institute, a public policy research and litigation organization, reports that, “The results show that the impact of Right to Try isn’t merely theoretical. Since the Texas Right to Try law went into effect in June 2015, at least 78 patients in the Lone Star State have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA. While the FDA would have allowed these patients to die, Houston-based oncologist Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand continued their treatment through the Texas law.”

The bill is named after the late Neil Fachon of East Greenwich, who had been accepted into a newly opened clinical trial. Because of governmental red tape, Neil was denied the drug for a period of time and the Fachons had to hire a lawyer. Neil passed away on Feb. 19, 2017.

Terminal patients who have exhausted their conventional treatment options have few, if any places, to turn. They can attempt to enroll in a clinical trial, but many of the sickest individuals do not qualify. The only other option for them is to obtain potentially life-saving drugs by requesting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grant them expanded access. But only a few hundred patients are granted such access each year because of the complicated, time-consuming and expensive process currently required by the FDA.

Under the McNamara bill, a terminally ill patient may make a request for an experimental drug and a manufacturer of an experimental drug, biological produce or device may make it available, but is not required to do so. The legislation provides protections for all parties (patients and medical professionals) and insurance companies are also protected because there is no requirement for them to cover the cost of any investigational drugs.

The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2020-S 2242) has been introduced by Sen. Jessica de la Cruz (R-Dist. 23, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield).
3/5/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7592) which would allow minors who were sentenced as adults to be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence.

“Kids make mistakes, sometimes truly awful mistakes, but we have to realize they were still committed by children, children without fully developed brains and the necessary biological and social development to realize the significant impacts and consequences of their crimes.  If we truly believe in our judicial system of rehabilitation, those who committed crimes as children and after growing up inside a cell, realize the error of their previous ways, deserve a shot at freedom,” said Representative Casimiro.

The bill would not apply to those serving life without parole or those committing heinous crimes and would apply to those prisoners whose offenses were committed after January 1, 1991.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

3/5/2020RepRep. Julie A. Casimiro; #237; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Auditor General reported 36 findings and 14 management comments resulting from the annual audit of the state’s financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2019. These findings and management comments include recommendations to address deficiencies in controls over financial reporting and compliance matters, or present opportunities for enhanced efficiency or effectiveness of State operations.

The State’s audited financial statements were available in December 2019 as included in the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This most recent communication prepared by Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle is directed to the Finance Committee of the House of Representatives and the Joint Committee on Legislative Services — those vested with official oversight of the annual audit. Government Auditing Standards require communication of deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting and material noncompliance based on the annual audit.

The state must implement the recently completed strategic plan to coordinate needed replacements/enhancements to its key statewide financial and administrative systems. This is essential to ensure that critical legacy financial systems, such as the payroll system, will be available to support state operations. The strategic plan report details the need for, and the benefits to be derived from, an enterprise applications modernization effort. The strategic plan report highlights that “the risks of inaction far outweigh the cost of upgrades in capability.” The auditor’s finding, repeated for many years, highlights that important functionalities are minimally met through legacy systems and multiple departmental processes without intended integration and efficiencies. 

Management focus, training and implementation resources have been insufficient to ensure that departments and agencies are assessing and documenting internal control consistent with management’s overall responsibility for the adequacy of the design and operation of internal control. Internal controls safeguard public resources and support accurate financial reporting. The state should commit to providing additional training and implementation materials to assist departments and agencies in documenting their internal control. An internal control assessment and documentation effort should be implemented to coincide with the implementation of a fully integrated ERP system.

The auditor’s reported that the increasing complexity of Medicaid program operations adds to the challenge of accurately accounting for all Medicaid financial activity within the state’s financial statements. This complexity results from federal program requirements, various state initiatives, and the continuing challenges of the RIBridges eligibility system. Medicaid is the state’s single largest activity - representing nearly 40% of the annual budgeted outlays of the state’s General Fund.  

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) authorized more than $188 million in system payouts and manual disbursements in fiscal 2019, representing provider advances, payments to managed care organizations for contract settlements and/or non-claims based financial activity, and other program disbursements. The processing of these disbursements is manual and external to the state’s other established control procedures.

Responsibility for monitoring the investment activity and other compliance aspects of funds on deposit with a fiscal agent (trustee) can be improved and should be vested with the Office of the General Treasurer. Controls over cash disbursements can be strengthened by ensuring authorized signers on state bank accounts are current and faithful performance bonds are maintained for key Treasury personnel.

The processes followed for periodic physical inventories of capital assets and the evaluation of inventory results can be improved to ensure that accurate capital asset records are maintained. An asset was erroneously reported as unlocated and removed from the inventory records.

The state can improve controls over recording federal revenue to ensure (1) amounts are consistent
with the limitations of grant awards from the federal government and (2) federally claimed expenditures are consistent with amounts recorded in the state’s accounting system. The auditors found a grant award deferral had not been recognized and a request for additional grant award funding was still pending for fiscal 2019 program costs.

Overall, the state has not sufficiently addressed information technology (IT) security risks. The state needs to ensure its IT security policies and procedures are current and assessments of compliance for all critical IT applications - systems posing the most significant operational risk - are prioritized.

The state does not follow uniform enterprise-wide program change control procedures for the various IT applications operating within state government. This increases the risk that unauthorized or inappropriate changes could be made to IT applications without detection.

Processing functionalities within Division of Taxation’s STAARS system result in a volume of returns held in suspense pending resolution. This complicates financial reporting estimates due to the uncertain effect of returns that had not fully processed at fiscal year end. STAARS system user access rights need to be assessed and tailored to ensure access is consistent and appropriate with each employee’s responsibilities.

The Department of Transportation’s use of multiple systems to meet its operational and financial reporting objectives results in unnecessary complexity and control weaknesses since these systems were never designed to share data.

The resources necessary to effectively manage and administer the OPEB (retiree healthcare) system to ensure all system functions are met and adequately controlled should be assessed. A unified database or computer application is needed to maintain membership data for each of the state’s OPEB plans to improve controls over the administration of the benefit programs and the accumulation of data for actuarial valuations.  

The Auditor General’s report also includes 14 management comments, which are less significant findings that highlight opportunities for enhancement of financial-related operational, policy or accounting control matters.  For example, four of the management comments are summarized as follows:
  • The Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation requires additional administrative support and should periodically update its projected debt service requirements to reflect operating and other economic factors.
  • Legal case tracking software must be acquired and implemented organization-wide to enhance the administrative management and control of pending legal matters.
  • Certain operating and long-term liability metrics for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority warrant enhanced oversight by the state to ensure the sustainability and availability of public transit service.
  • A formal funding policy should be adopted for the State’s OPEB plans which incorporates statutory provisions and key actuarial funding policies.
Management’s response to the findings and management comments and planned corrective actions are included in the report. Further communications resulting from the annual audit will include the Single Audit Report, which focuses on the State’s compliance with requirements related to federal assistance expenditures.

A link to the report and audit summary is provided below:
Link to report:
http://www.oag.ri.gov/reports/2019_FinStmt_FindingsMC.pdf
Link to summary:
http://www.oag.ri.gov/reports/2019_FinStmt_FindingsMC_Summary.pdf

3/5/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Dennis E. Hoyle, CPA
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STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association presented its 13th annual Paul W. Crowley Award to Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) Wednesday during a ceremony at the State House.

The award is given each year by the Association to a Rhode Island citizen or organization who, in his or her professional and personal capacity, has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to improving the quality of education for the children of Rhode Island. The award is named after the late Rep. Paul Crowley of Newport, who was dedicated to educational issues throughout his career as a state representative.

Senator Gallo co-chaired the Joint Legislative Committee to Establish a Permanent Education Foundation Aid Formula, which she helped to establish through her sponsorship of the Education Equity and Property Tax Relief Act. The Commission made recommendations to establish a fair, student-based funding formula for state aid to education in Rhode Island. Senator Gallo subsequently championed the education formula, winning enactment of this landmark legislation into law. It has been fully funded each year since.

“Representative Crowley’s tireless commitment to public education is well known in Rhode Island, and it is an incredible honor to receive this award in his name,” said Senator Gallo. “It has been my distinct privilege to serve Rhode Island schools, and especially our educators and students. RISSA has been and continues to be a valuable partner in this work, and I’m grateful to the RI Superintendents for this recognition.”

Senator Gallo has been instrumental in numerous education initiatives, including sweeping education reforms enacted in 2019 that put in place curricula aligned with high standards and improved accountability and governance. She led the charge for funding of full-day kindergarten statewide, enacted in 2015. She was an early supporter of the state’s successful application for a federal Race to the Top grant and sponsored formal Resolutions which won General Assembly approval to declare the Legislature’s support for the state’s effort.

Sen. Gallo has been instrumental in passage of numerous laws to improve education in Rhode Island, from ensuring quality afterschool care is available for elementary and secondary students to providing more accurate tracking of high school graduation rates, and from the creation of a new “bachelor’s degree in three” program at state institutions of higher learning to ensuring that teachers receive the best training at the college level.

Senator Gallo previously served as Co-Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Permanent Commission on Civic Education. Through this commission, she established an annual Civic Education Day and hosted a Civic Education Summit.
3/5/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) that would set a maximum class size for public school kindergartens through grade two.

The legislation (2020-S 2179) would mandate that public school classroom size be limited to 20 students for kindergarten through the second grade.

“Reducing class size is a proven strategy for improving student achievement,” said Senator Gallo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, “Research has also shown that smaller class sizes are effective in closing racially or socioeconomically based achievement gaps. This is especially true in the early grades, where small classes allow teachers to spend more time working with individual students, giving them the skills they need that will follow them through their academic careers.”

Exceptions would be made for emergencies and temporary situations not to exceed three days, and for mid-year enrollments when it would be impractical to assign the student any class but an existing class of maximum size.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2020-H 7050) has been introduced by Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston).
3/4/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The citizens in House District 75 have a strong concern for the environment and would like to see Rhode Island invest wisely in infrastructure.

That was the result of a constituent survey recently conducted by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport.)

About 100 constituents completed the survey, conducted in February, rating various issues in terms of how important they believe they are for the state.

Two of the top two issues are environmental. The issue that was rated “very important” by the most respondents, nearly 70 percent, was climate change and sea level rise. Coming in third, rated “very important” by nearly 63 percent of those responding, was managing plastic waste in the environment.

The issue with the second-highest number of “very important” ratings, about 67 percent, was infrastructure investment in roads, bridges, gas and water infrastructure.

“These are very enlightening responses,” said Representative Carson. “I share my neighbors’ deep concern about environmental issues, particularly climate change and waste, and I believe the people of Aquidneck Island are particularly attuned to the importance of properly maintaining our bridges and roads, as well as our utility infrastructure. I’ve devoted much of my legislative career to addressing these concerns, and will stay focused on them to help bring about the changes that the people of District 75 would like to see.”

This session, Representative Carson and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) together formed the Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus, a community group to give voice to the importance of mitigating and adapting for the earth’s changing climate. The energized citizens’ group has its next meeting Monday, March 9, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, 2658 East Main Road.

Representative Carson was also the sponsor of a law that now requires local planning board members to participate in a free training program on the effects of rising sea levels and development in flood plains. The law was a recommendation of the House Commission on Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Rise, which she led, and which was created by a bill she sponsored in her first term.

She has sponsored numerous other bills concerning sea rise and other environmental concerns, particularly food waste. This session, she has introduced legislation to require schools to comply with recycling and composting laws to address food waste in cafeterias. She has also led a House commission that explored incentives for encouraging food waste reduction.

After a weeklong gas outage that left Aquidneck Island in the cold in January 2019, Representative Carson was among those who demanded deeper investigation into the infrastructure failings that set the outage in motion. She has also worked to connect the community to information about the Pell Bridge access ramp redesign project.

Other issues that ranked highly with constituents who took the survey are election integrity and clean campaign financing, addressing health care delivery systems and costs, education reform, and gun safety.

3/4/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

The bill (2020-H 7073) would authorize a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral hormonal contraceptives, provided that the pharmacist has completed a training program approved by the state board of pharmacy.

“Taking time off work, finding transportation to a clinic and paying for a doctor’s visit is a lot of work to get birth control,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Pharmacist-prescribed birth control would improve the quality of life for so many women, which is an important goal of our evolving health care system.”

Rhode Island would join 12 other states that have existing laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control.

“Pharmacists are highly underutilized health care professionals,” said Representative Valla-Wilkinson. “Laws that keep developing and whose policies are incorporated into practice will allow the profession to expand and better serve patients. Prescribing birth control is a major step in pharmacists’ ability to take some of the workload off physicians, use their knowledge to the fullest, and enhance the patient’s health care experience.”

The legislation would limit prescriptions to those patients who are at least 18 years of age, unless the patient has evidence of a previous prescription from a primary care practitioner or women’s health care practitioner.

The pharmacist would also be required to provide a self-screening risk assessment tool that the patient must use prior to the pharmacist’s prescribing the birth control.

“Some states have found a decrease in abortion rates following enactment of this law,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, research shows that access to effective birth control leads to lower abortion rates, likely by helping to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2020-S 2388) has been introduced by Sen. Mark McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick).
3/4/2020RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare has rescheduled a meeting to hear a briefing on Rhode Island’s preparedness for the coronavirus.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, March 5, at the rise of the House (about 5:00 p.m.) in the House Lounge on the second floor of the State House to hear the briefing from Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott or her designees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first confirmed case of the virus in Rhode Island on Tuesday. Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

3/4/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) will be honoring several doctors of distinction at the 2020 International Women’s Day celebration being held tomorrow, Thursday, March 5 at 3 p.m. in the State Room of the State House.

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the achievements of women and the fight for gender equality. It is also a day for acknowledging the strides the world has taken in advancing women’s rights, freedoms and protections.  The United Nations has recognized and celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 since 1975.

This year, the General Assembly will be honoring Maryellen Butke, PhD; Jody A. underwood, MD, FACLP, DFAPA; Angela Anderson, MD; Megan L. Ranney, MD, MPH; Iris L. Tong, MD, FACP; Lindsay M. Orchowski, PhD; and Carolina Fonseca-Valencia, MD, FACP.

3/4/2020RepSen. Donna Nesselbush; Rep. Susan R. Donovan; #179; #242; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater will be holding a press conference to highlight legislation (2020-S 2544 / 2020-H 7621) they introduced that would amend Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program.

Senator Miller and Representative Slater will be joined by members of the Medical Marijuana Patients Coalition.

The press conference will be held today, March 4 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Lounge of the State House.

The press conference will release a new report by the Rhode Island Patient Coalition, focusing on issues of affordability and access for the Rhode Island medical marijuana program. Members of the coalition will discuss the ways that the program is an incredibly important lifeline, the newly released report on the problems that need to be addressed in the program, and legislation the Coalition is supporting to fix the affordability, access, and safety issues.

The legislation would create a hardship designation for patients on Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid.  The bill also establishes a discount medicine program, eliminates plant tagging, allows unlimited compassion center licenses, reduces the compassion center license fee to $5,000, and redefines debilitating condition.

3/4/2020RepSen. Joshua Miller; Rep. Scott Slater; #118; #155; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today approved legislation introduced by Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) that would require hospitals to adopt sepsis protocols.

The legislation (2020-S 2224) would require hospital medical staff to adopt, implement, periodically update and submit to the Director of Health, evidence-based protocols for the early recognition and treatment of patients with sepsis and septic shock.

Sepsis, an extreme reaction to infection that spreads via the bloodstream, kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in the U.S. annually — more than AIDS, breast and prostate cancers, and stroke combined. Yet fewer than half of Americans have heard of it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Sepsis exacts a significant toll on human life,” said Senator Pearson. “It has been sudden, tragic and devastating for families that have quickly lost an otherwise healthy family member. There is some pretty compelling evidence that these protocols work in the states that have established them, and it’s time to bring them to Rhode Island.”

Under the proposed legislation, the Director of Health would make information on best practices for the treatment of patients with sepsis and septic shock available to health care practitioners. This would include:
  • An evidence-based screening tool that can be used at initial evaluation of adult and pediatric patients in the emergency department
  • An evidence-based treatment protocol for adult and pediatric patients that includes 19 time-specific treatment goals
  • Nurse-driven testing protocols to enable nurses to initiate care for patients with suspected sepsis
  • Incorporation of sepsis screening and treatment tools into the electronic health record where possible
  • Mechanisms to prompt escalation of care within the facility, and, when appropriate, to stabilize and transfer to a facility able to provide a higher level of care
  • Strategies for appropriate hand-offs and communication regarding the care of patients with sepsis and for the reassessments of patients at regular intervals
  • Hospital specific antibiotic guidelines for use in treating patients with sepsis and a mechanism for reevaluating a patient’s antibiotic treatment based on culture results that provides reassessment and de-escalation of antibiotic treatment when appropriate
  • Staff education on sepsis policies and procedures during the onboarding process and at least annually and when new practice guidelines are published or existing standards are updated to ensure that care reflects current standards of practice.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

3/3/2020SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2020-S 2326A) that amends the state’s motion picture tax credit program passed the Senate tonight.

The legislation amends the current program by allowing productions to utilize tax credits, even if the majority of production is not done within the state, if the production spends a minimum of $10 million within Rhode Island during a 12-month span.

“Our motion picture tax credit program has proven to be successful, but, there are changes to its structure that can be made to further strengthen the program’s benefits to Rhode Island without any additional cost.  This bill does just that, amending our program so that larger and more high-profile productions come to Rhode Island to take advantage of our unique and diverse state, which in turn, will promote Rhode Island’s natural beauty and historic structures to the entire world,” said Senator DiPalma.

According to the current program, a production must shoot the majority of its project within Rhode Island in order to qualify for the tax credit program.  This is turn has caused larger, and often times global, productions to bypass using Rhode Island as a production location.

The majority of the tax credit program will remain the same under the new bill, such as, the amount of the tax credit being 30 percent of the state-certified production costs and capping the program’s total amount at $20 million for any tax year.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

3/3/2020SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) that would preserve the history and open space of the State House grounds.

The legislation (2020-H 7210) would prohibit the development of any land contiguous to the State House unless approved by the General Assembly. The bill comes on the heels of a plan to construct a combined bus hub and business development on State House land along Gaspee Street that would be connected with the Providence Train Station.

“While I appreciate the zeal of state planners and their efforts to develop the city, we must never forget that the Rhode Island State House — and by extension its grounds — ultimately belongs to the people,” said Representative Solomon. “It’s more than symbolic, it’s more than iconic. It’s over 100 years of history, and an important reminder to every legislator and public officials of the importance of what is done here. It is not ever to be bought and sold.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

3/3/2020RepRep. Joseph J. Solomon; #214; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week will hold hearings on the Senate’s package of prescription drug affordability bills, among other bills.

The committee meets tomorrow, Tuesday, March 3, at the rise of the Senate session (sometime after 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House for hearings on several bills, including:
  • 2020-S 2520 — Sponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), this bill would allow pregnant women with an annual family income above the applicable Medicaid income limit to be eligible to purchase health insurance through one of the Medicaid managed care plans.
  • 2020-S 2389 — Sponsored by Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), this bill would establish single-payer universal health care for Rhode Island residents.
The committee also meets Thursday, March 5, at the rise of the Senate session in the Senate lounge, when it will hold hearings on the bills in the Senate’s prescription drug affordability package. Among the bills being heard are:
  • 2020-S 2324 — Sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), this legislation would limit health plans to modifying formularies at renewal time with 60 days’ notice and require that modification be identical among all substantially identical benefit plans.
  • 2020-S 2319 — Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) this bill would cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs at the federal limits for high-deductible health plans, currently $1,400 for individual plans and $2,800 for family plans.
  • 2020-S 2321 — Sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport), this bill would create a state-administered program to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada, which has drug safety regulations similar to those of the United States. Such programs are allowed under federal law, with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

3/2/2020SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – Representative Lauren H. Carson recently honored the Newport man behind a statewide project to identify and educate the public about sites that were significant in Rhode Island’s participation and promotion of the slave trade.

Newporter Charles Roberts is leading the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project, an effort to raise awareness about Rhode Island’s considerable role in the trans-Atlantic slavery trade.  

The project plans to install medallions all over Rhode Island marking significant sites. Each medallion would be affixed with a QR code that visitors could scan with a smartphone to access information about the events that occurred there. The first medallion has been installed at Patriots Park in Portsmouth, with two more coming soon at Smith Castle in North Kingstown and Bowen’s Wharf in Newport.

From colonial times to the 1800s, Rhode Island’s economy was closely tied to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Between 1644 and 1807, about 2,000 ships sailed from Rhode Island to bring back slaves from Africa, to be sold in the Caribbean Islands, to southern plantation owners or back in Rhode Island. Many of Rhode Island’s earliest banks were capitalized with the profits of the slave trade.

Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) invited Roberts to the House of Representatives Feb. 25 to announce the project and presented him with a House resolution (2020-H 7643), cosponsored by fellow Newporter Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), honoring his work.

“Rhode Island’s complicated history on slavery and race can serve to inform conversations about race and economics today. I commend Mr. Roberts for the vital work he’s been doing to bring about the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project and shed light on a very dark element of our state’s past. I very much look forward to its completion, and urge Rhode Islanders to use it to learn more about our past and the brutality that lay behind much of the economic prosperity that Rhode Island was known for in its early days,” said Representative Carson.

For more information about the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project, visit  rishm.org.

IN PHOTO: Newport representatives Lauren Carson, second from right, and Marvin L. Abney, second from left, welcome Charles Roberts of the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project, and his wife and Margaret Baker, to the State House.
3/2/2020RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; Rep. Marvin Abney; #224; #199; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear a briefing on Rhode Island’s preparedness for the coronavirus.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, March 5, at 3 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House to hear the briefing from Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.

Over the weekend, two Rhode Islanders tested “presumptive positive” for the virus, the first cases recorded in the state. Coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

3/2/2020RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to hear testimony on a proposed budget article related to health and safety.

The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 3, at the rise of the Senate (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will also hear testimony on the proposed state budget, particularly Article 21 relating to health and safety.

The committee will also hear testimony on legislation (2020-S 2114) introduced by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) that would require that the tax imposed on little cigars be imposed in the same manner as the tax imposed on cigarettes, that 25% of such tax revenue would be applied to smoking cessation programs, and requires that little cigars be sold in packs of 20 or more.

The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
3/2/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Education is scheduled to meet jointly with the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Wednesday to hear a presentation on the work of the Rhode Island Foundation.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 4, 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 a presentation by Neil D. Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, called “Chart a Course, Stay the Course: Rhode Island’s Path to a World Class Public Education System” and “Health in Rhode Island: A Long Term Vision.”

The Senate Committee on Education is chaired by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick). The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services is chaired by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).
3/2/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; Sen. Joshua Miller; #88; #118; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear a presentation on housing bonds.

The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, March 4, at the rise of the Senate (about 5 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

The panel will hear a presentation on prior-approved housing bonds from Carol Ventura, executive director of RI Housing, and Mike Tondra, Chief of Housing and Community Development of the Office of Housing and Community Development.

The Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee is chaired by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston).

3/2/2020SenSen. Frank Lombardi; #205; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Senators Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, will be hosting the eighth annual Rhode Island Education Summit.

The summit will be held in the cafeteria of the Department of Administration, One Capitol Hill, on Monday, March 9, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Attendees will be invited to partake in three sessions:

·        Micro-credentials: Goal-oriented and Personalized Learning
·         Professional Learning Units and Support for Districts
·         Current Programs and Initiatives
 
In the first session, which takes place from 3:55 to 4:45 p.m., speakers will include Jason Lange, cofounder and president of BloomBoard Inc., and Laureen Avery, director of Northeast Reginal Office of UCLA Center X.

In the second session, which takes place from 4:45 to 5:35 p.m., speakers will include Lisa M. Foehr, chief of the Division of Teaching and Learning of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Steven Labounty-McNair, education specialist in the Office of Educator Excellence and Certification Services of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Barbara Mullen, chief equity and diversity officer of the Providence Public School Department.

The final session, scheduled for 5:35 to 5:55 p.m., will feature Mary Barden of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, and Colleen Callahan of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.

Each seminar will be followed by a short question and answer period. The summit will be broadcast the following day on Capitol Television, Cox Channel 15, Cox HD channel 1013, and Verizon Fios channel 34.
3/2/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; Sen. Harold Metts; #88; #91; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Oversight is scheduled to meet Tuesday to hear an update on the vendor that provides transportation to the elderly and Medicaid beneficiaries.

The committee will meet Tuesday, March 3, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

Since Jan. 1, 2019, Missouri-based Medical Transportation Management has been responsible for coordinating transportation services for Medicaid beneficiaries and individuals over the age of 60 for non-emergency medical services. The transition has been a rocky one, with many complaints that the service has either been delayed or that drivers never showed up. Going into its second year, complaints continue and many problems have been left unresolved.

The Oversight Committee met twice in February to review hundreds of complaints lodged against the vendor. During the hearings, it was revealed that the company would pay a $1-million penalty and agree to future monetary sanctions until all problems have been resolved. The committee met again in April, May and November to continue overseeing the improvements.

Last year, the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers investigated the company due to a complaint filed by a taxi company alleging that MTM conspired with taxi operators to operate outside of their authorized territories and charge illegal rates.

The House Oversight Committee is chaired by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).
3/2/2020RepRep. Patricia Serpa; #121; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to hear and/or consider a variety of legislation.

On Tuesday, March 3 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear and/or consider the following pieces of legislation:
  • 2020-S 2426, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), requires conservation and preservation restrictions to be liberally interpreted in favor of the grants awarded.
  • 2020-S 2430, sponsored by Sen. William J. Conley (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), creates "Consumer Privacy Protection Act."
  • 2020-H 7103Aaa, sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), would provide that applications to purchase certain firearms be sent by the seller of the firearm to the police department of the city or town in which the purchaser resides, or to the State Police if the purchaser resides in Exeter or in another state, and would provide for the use of electronic mail in forwarding the application to the police department.
On Thursday, March 5 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House, the committee will hear and/or consider the following bills:
  • 2020-S 2080, sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), establishes a statewide public safety computer aided dispatch records management system.
  • 2020-S 2269, sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), requires a licensed buyer of certain precious metals or articles, tools, and electronics to take a digital photograph of their purchase and upload it to the attorney general's license sales tracking system database.
  • 2020-S 2417, sponsored by Sen. Jessica de la Cruz (R-Dist. 23, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Glocester), the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act would limit law enforcement access to electronic data and information.
  • 2020-S 2480, sponsored by Senator Conley, exempts agencies of municipalities and the state from releasing information as to the residency of municipal or state police officers regarding public records requests.

3/2/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting three times this week to continue hearing testimony on proposed FY 2021 budget articles.

On Tuesday, March 3 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on Article 8 - Taxes and the Governor’s Budget Amendment 2, which proposes to increase the tax credit available for contributions made for scholarships from $1.5 million to $2 million beginning in FY 2022.

On Wednesday, March 3 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear the following articles:
On Thursday, March 5 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear the following articles:
  • Article 15 – Human Services
  • Article 9 – Section 9 - Motor Vehicle Offenses
  • Article 3 – Section 5 – Uniform Controlled Substance Act
The committee will also hear testimony on Article 1 – Section 22 of the FY 2020 supplemental budget, which proposes that the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals shall transfer to the State Controller the sum of $500,000 from the Asset Forfeiture restricted receipt account by June 30, 2020.

3/2/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to vote on three bills and to hear testimony on a variety of legislation.

On Tuesday, March 3 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in the House Lounge of the State House, the committee will be voting on the following bills:
  • 2020-S 2004B, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), that would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings.
  • 2020-H 7151, sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), prohibits the use of display fireworks/aerial consumer fireworks without a permit between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. on any day and would make a violation of this permit requirement a civil violation punishable by a fine of $75.00 and court costs.
  • 2020-H 7259, sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), provides for specific fines and sanctions to operators of motor vehicles who fail to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a vulnerable road user causing injury, serious injury, or death to the vulnerable road user.
On Wednesday, March 4 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in the House Lounge of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
  • 2020-H 7141, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), provides that past criminal misdemeanors and felonies for possession of marijuana not be used against a person from entering the cannabis industry or any government assistance programs.
  • 2020-H 7519, sponsored by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), provides that child support garnishment be paid first before any other garnishment including a garnishment for the payment of taxes.
  • 2020-H 7540, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), places the jurisdiction of minors in the Family Court when it comes to matters involving protective orders of domestic assault.
  • 2020-H 7596, sponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), provides for the sealing and unsealing of court files in residential eviction proceedings.

3/2/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — A special legislative commission chaired by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) to study privacy protection on the Internet has developed three bills which have been introduced by commission members.

The 11-member Rhode Island Online Data Transparency and Privacy Protection Commission was tasked with studying and making recommendations on legislation for protecting individuals from disclosures of information.

“Privacy is a fundamental right,” said Representative Shanley. “The Internet has changed our understanding of privacy, and consumers need to be better informed about what information is shared with other businesses and how that information is shared. Everyone has the right to protect their families from cyber-crimes and identity thieves.”

The first bill (2020-H 7778), the Rhode Island Data Transparency and Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Representative Shanley, would require online service providers and commercial websites that collect, store and sell personally identifiable information to disclose what categories of personally identifiable information they collect and to what third parties they sell the information. The bill would not prohibit the collection or sale of personally identifiable information and does not require the retention or disclosure of personally identifiable information by online service providers or commercial websites

The second bill (2020-H 7723), the Consumer Personal Data Protection Act, introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) would regulate data brokers. Data brokers would be required to annually register; to provide substantive notifications to consumers; and to adopt comprehensive data security programs.

The third bill (2020-H 7724), the Student Cloud Computing Privacy and Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), would prohibit use of student information by cloud computing service providers for specified purposes; protect student personal information; and require cloud computing service providers to establish and maintain appropriate security measures.

“I thank Representative Shanley for his hard work, leadership, and thoughtfulness as chair of the commission,” said Christina Fisher, executive director for Massachusetts and the Northeast for TechNet, a national, bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives that promotes the growth of the innovation economy. “I greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with him on these critical issues and look forward to our continued partnership in Rhode Island.”

Tim Wilkerson, president of the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, said, “I applaud Representative Shanley on the tremendous leadership he exhibited throughout the Commission process. I was honored to serve on the Commission and appreciate the thoughtful debate that resulted.”

Businesses are now collecting personal information and sharing and selling it in ways not contemplated or properly covered by the current law. Some websites are installing tracking tools that record when consumers visit webpages and sending personal information, such as age, gender, race, income, health concerns, religion, and recent purchases to third-party marketers and data brokers.

Those third-party data broker companies are buying, selling, and trading personal information obtained from mobile phones, financial institutions, social media sites, and other online and brick and mortar companies. Some mobile applications are sharing personal information, such as location information, unique phone identification numbers, and age, gender, and other personal details with third-party companies.

“Many consumers are wholly unaware of how much of their personal information is floating around cyberspace, being sold back and forth by various companies,” said Representative Shanley. “It’s a blatant violation of privacy and we need to make sure consumers are equipped with the tools to protect themselves.”
3/2/2020RepRep. Evan P. Shanley; Rep. John Edwards; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; #236; #144; #222; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Liana Cassar was appointed to the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee this week by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.

Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), who also serves on the House Committee on Small Business, said she is eager to get to work on the many issues before the committee. The Health, Education and Welfare Committee considers matters relating to the health care system, public education, human services and children and families. 

 “I’m glad to be able to serve on the Health, Education and Welfare Committee. I’ve dedicated much of my career to working on issues that impact public health and wellness. I’m excited to have this opportunity to put my experience and my passion to work on this committee. I am eager to work with my colleagues in the House to help craft legislation that can and will make a difference in the lives of Rhode Islanders,” said Representative Cassar. 

Representative Cassar is a strategy and operations consultant working with nonprofit organizations and small businesses. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut. She holds a master’s in public health from Boston University and an MBA from Simmons College.

2/28/2020RepRep. Liana M. Cassar; #267; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Arthur J. Corvese has introduced legislation to prohibit attendees of rallies, demonstrations, parades or assemblies from using protective gear or masks that would circumvent law enforcement crowd-control measures or obscure their identity.

The legislation is meant to ensure that law enforcement is not at a disadvantage when trying to protect lives and safety when violence breaks out at such events.

“We live in very volatile political times,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). “Whether your perspective is derived from television, radio, the newspapers or social media, it is glaringly obvious every day that America is a polarized nation. Members of the extreme right and the extreme left face off every day with words and actions. In certain cities, such as Boston and Portland, Ore., confrontations between these extremes have turned violent. Local law enforcement officers perform a herculean job in maintaining order while allowing First Amendment rights to be expressed. However, their duty to keep the peace must not be hampered by individuals on both sides of the political divide who are looking to commit violence in the name of their respective causes. This bill would assist our local law enforcement in protecting all participants and maintaining the public peace, while ensuring First Amendment rights are preserved.”

The legislation (2020-H 7543) would prohibit people at parades, rallies, demonstrations or assemblies from the possession or wearing of gas masks, riot helmets, face visors, body armor, vests, neck protection, knee pads, riot shields or any other equipment meant to defeat law enforcement tactics to control crowds. It would also prohibit attendees from wearing a mask, hood, makeup, robe, helmet, disguise of any type or facial alteration with the intent of avoiding their identification.

Violations would be punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000.

Similar bills have been passed in other states and municipalities to assist law enforcement in the proper performance of their duty. New York City has long had a law against gatherings of two or more people wearing masks to hide their identities, and the police chief in Portland, Ore, which has been the scene of numerous violent clashes between right- and left-wing protesters, has called for a similar law.

The legislation is supported by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association as well as the Fraternal Order of Police.

“The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is in support of House Bill 7543 introduced by Representative Corvese. Law enforcement appreciates the intent of the bill to recognize that the public has the right to organize in public to exercise their rights under the First Amendment, but to do so in a way which also protects the rights and safety of law enforcement and the public we serve. The RIPCA looks forward to working with Rep. Corvese and all of the legislators on this issue,” said Sidney Wordell, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association.

Said Robert Quinn, president of the Rhode Island Fraternal Order of Police, “The Rhode Island State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, would like to thank Representative Corvese and the cosponsors of this legislation because it will assist law enforcement to identify and possibly apprehend individuals who cause property damage and/or harm or injure anyone.”

Cosponsors of the legislation include Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton).

2/27/2020RepRep. Arthur Corvese; #11; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Coyne to outlaw 3-D printed firearms, ghost guns and other untraceable or undetectable firearms in Rhode Island.

“Ghost guns, 3-D printed guns and undetectable plastic guns are designed especially for criminal activity. They are meant to dodge the legal safeguards that protect public safety. 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). “I’m very grateful that the Senate has expedited this common-sense legislation, which addresses a loophole that has developed via new technology while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

The legislation (2020-S 2004Aaa), a version of which was also approved by the Senate last year,  would make it unlawful in Rhode Island for any person to manufacture, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, possess, or have 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.

The bill will now proceed to the House, where Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) is sponsoring companion legislation. That bill (2020-H 7102) is scheduled for consideration by the House Judiciary Committee this evening.

Regardless of lawsuits, federal decisions and restraining orders preventing their original authors from posting them online, blueprints for 3-D printed firearms remain available on Internet, allowing anyone with access to a 3-D printer to create an untraceable plastic gun. Investigators initially believed such a gun was used in the New Year’s Day murder of Cheryl Smith in her Pawtucket home, although the state crime lab later said it was not likely.

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

The bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).
1/29/2020SenSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #208; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Coyne to outlaw 3-D printed firearms, ghost guns and other untraceable or undetectable firearms in Rhode Island.


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STATE HOUSE – House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi has introduced legislation that would have Rhode Island join an interstate compact aimed at finding cures for deadly diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV and diabetes.

Known as the “Cure Bill,” the legislation (2020-H 7394) would add Rhode Island to a multistate compact that would offer very large monetary prizes to those who identify a cure to a disease identified for eradication by the compact. The prizes would be funded by the money saved – via Medicaid and other sources – over the first five years by compact member states as a result of the disease being cured.

The bill aims to offer an alternative model of incentivizing research into cures, rather than treatments, for major diseases. Proponents say the pharmaceutical industry’s model encourages research into development of treatment rather than cures, and academic research models can discourage innovation and risk-taking and because funding can be discontinued if researchers can’t demonstrate progress.

The prize money offered by the compact would likely be in the multibillions, and could encourage venture capitalists to fund research aimed at capturing it.

“It’s been half a century since the world has seen a major disease like polio actually cured. Since then, much of the development has focused on treatment. But actually curing a disease like cancer would save millions of lives, end victims’ suffering and save untold billions of public and private dollars,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “This interstate compact is an innovative, inventive means of creating an incentive that doesn’t cost taxpayers anything beyond what these diseases are costing us now. If it works and a prize is paid out, the prize comes from the money we would have been spending on the disease. And after five years, we benefit from enormous savings as well as the cure. Joining this compact is a commitment without a risk, and the potential to do a tremendous amount of good, here in Rhode Island and for the world.”

The compact would be established once at least six states have passed similar legislation to join it. So far only Ohio, where the bill originated from an idea by a state lawmaker, has enacted it, but it has been introduced in numerous other states.

The compact would identify the diseases it wants to target, and also determine the five-year taxpayer savings for each member state if the disease is cured. Once a cure is verified, in order to claim the prize, the developer would have to hand over the patent to the compact, which would then work with a manufacturer to produce and distribute the cure. Its price would be limited to the actual costs associated with producing and distributing it, except that non-compact states and governments would pay a royalty to offset other expenses, creating extra incentives to join the compact. The more states that join the compact, the greater the potential prize money.

Having the compact take charge of distributing the cure at costs would also ensure against unnecessarily high prices for it, meaning that patients worldwide would be better able to access any lifesaving medicine developed in this way.

Leader Shekarchi introduced the legislation yesterday. It is cosponsored by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland), Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).

1/31/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi has introduced legislation that would have Rhode Island join an interstate compact aimed at finding cures for deadly diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV and diabetes.


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STATE HOUSE – Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) will be introducing legislation that will establish a nursing home minimum staffing standard, raise wages for caregivers, and provide needed training opportunities for caregivers.

The legislation will be highlighted at a rally held at the State House on February 5 at 3:30 p.m. in the State House Rotunda.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages have created a need for qualified caregivers which leads to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses,” said Whip Goodwin.

 “Rhode Island is the only New England state without minimum staffing requirements for our nursing homes.  We also have one of the largest elderly populations in the country.  These two facts are a recipe for disaster if we do not act now to reverse the falling number of quality and qualified caregivers,” said Representative Slater.

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.  Rhode Island is the only New England state with no minimum staffing requirements in our nursing homes.  Only 10 other states have not guaranteed staffing requirements for nursing home residents.

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 rely 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 healthcare needs.

Rhode Island has the highest proportion of adults ages 85 and older in the nation, a number that will dramatically increase as the Baby Boomer generation enters the long term care system.  By 2030, Rhode Island will see an increase of 100,000 residents aged 65 and older.  In order to effectively manage this upcoming increase of patients in need of care, Rhode Island must institute nursing home reforms before it is too late.

2/4/2020RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Scott Slater; #104; #155; Andrew Caruolo
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Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) will be introducing legislation that will establish a nursing home minimum staffing standard, raise wages for caregivers, and provide needed training opportunities for caregivers.


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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the high price of prescription drugs.

The eight bills aim to reduce the cost of prescriptions by providing a pathway to import less-costly drugs from Canada, providing more market transparency, raising consumer awareness around price changes and limiting patients’ share of the costs.

“Rhode Island’s population is one of the oldest in the nation, and the high prices consumers pay for prescriptions have a significant impact on us. Most older Rhode Islanders have limited means, and the high costs mean many people are cutting back on essentials of living or taking less than their prescribed amount of expensive drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is not going to address this on its own, so it’s up to the state and federal governments to take action,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

The eight-bill package was announced today at a legislative reception with AARP Rhode Island, which has been advocating for several of the bills.

The package includes:
  • A bill limiting changes to a health plan’s drug formulary — its list of covered drugs — to protect consumers. Sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), this legislation (2020-S 2324) would generally limit plans to modifying formularies at renewal time with 60 days’ notice and require that modification be identical among all substantially identical benefit plans.
  • Legislation (2020-S 2319) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) to cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs at the federal limits for high-deductible health plans, currently $1,400 for individual plans and $2,800 for family plans.
  • A bill (2020-S 2317) sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) to prohibit cost sharing for patients 45 or older for colorectal screening examinations, laboratory tests and colonoscopies covered by health insurance policies or plans. 
  • Legislation (2020-S 2322) sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) to limit the copay for prescription insulin to $50 for a 30-day supply for health plans that provide coverage for insulin.
  • A bill sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) requiring pharmacists to advise patients about less-expensive generic alternatives to their prescriptions or when it would cost them less to pay for their drugs outright instead of using their insurance. The bill (2020-S 2323) would also bar pharmacy benefits managers from imposing gag orders on pharmacists that prevent them from making such disclosures.
  • A prescription drug transparency act (2020-S 2318), sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio. This bill would requires pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to provide wholesale drug acquisition cost information to the Department of Health and pharmacy benefit managers to provide information related to drug prices, rebates, fees and drug sales to the health insurance commissioner annually. Such transparency would help payers determine whether high prescription costs are justified.
  • A bill (2020-S 2321) sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport) to create a state-administered program to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada, which has drug safety regulations similar to those of the United States. Such programs are allowed under federal law, with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Legislation (2020-S 2320) sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) to create a prescription drug affordability board tasked with investigating and comprehensively evaluating drug prices for Rhode Islanders and possible ways to reduce them to make them more affordable.
The bills are all expected to be introduced during the Senate session this afternoon.

2/5/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Sen. Michael McCaffrey; Sen. Maryellen Goodwin; Sen. Walter Felag; Sen. Louis DiPalma; Sen. Elizabeth Crowley; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Sen. Melissa A. Murray; #85; #106; #104; #112; #147; #148; #208; #263; Greg Pare
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The Senate today introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the high price of prescription drugs.


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STATE HOUSE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2020-S 2147A) that would increase the hourly minimum wage to $11.50 per hour was passed by the Senate tonight.

“As the costs of daily life continue to increase, we must not forget those who are on the bottom of the economic ladder.  There is still much more work to be done to address this issue, but, this minimum wage increase is a good first step to ensuring that Rhode Islanders have a roof over their heads and food on the table for themselves and their families,” said Senator Lynch Prata.

The current hourly minimum wage is $10.50 per hour and was instituted on January 1, 2019.  If the legislation is passed by the General Assembly, the minimum wage would raise to $11.50 per hour starting on October 1, 2020.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

2/5/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2020-S 2147A) that would increase the hourly minimum wage to $11.50 per hour was passed by the Senate.


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STATE HOUSE – House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi has introduced legislation to require health insurers in Rhode Island to cover the full cost of life-saving epinephrine injectors, commonly known by the brand name, EpiPen.

The legislation (2020-H 7265) would address the high cost of the device, which is used to open the airway of severe allergy sufferers during an anaphylactic attack. Mylan, the manufacturer of the brand-name Epi-Pen, raised its price by about 500 percent between 2009 and 2016 at time when it controlled up to 95 percent of the market for the device. Even patients with prescription coverage may be saddled with high costs for the drug, which can be more than $600 per twin-pack.

The injectors expire 18 months from when they are manufactured, so patients need to purchase new ones frequently regardless of whether they are ever used. Patients also need to have one available at all times, so they may need to keep several at once. Many of those at-risk for anaphylaxis are children, who may be exposed to their allergen at school or through other children. 

Leader Shekarchi said he introduced the legislation because he believes no one should be left at risk for death because they can’t afford the price of epinephrine injectors.

“A lot of families simply can’t afford to spend $500 or $600 on an injector that they hope they’ll never use. Unfortunately, that means a lot of those families have little choice but to take a chance on that hope, and go without this lifesaving medicine,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “No one should be put in that position. Epinephrine is an absolutely necessity for people whose lives are at risk from anaphylaxis, and it should be totally covered by insurance. Nothing should make a person with severe allergies take a chance on living without it.”

The bill would require that all group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide prescription benefits in Rhode Island cover prescribed epinephrine injectors and cartridges without any copayment or deductible. The requirement would take effect for plans issued or renewed beginning Jan.1, 2021.

The bill is similar to legislation adopted in Illinois last year, when that state became the first to adopt such a requirement.

The legislation, which was introduced Jan. 23 and has been assigned to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, is cosponsored by Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

2/6/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi has introduced legislation to require health insurers in Rhode Island to cover the full cost of life-saving epinephrine injectors, commonly known by the brand name, EpiPen.


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Rhode Islanders may lose seized property even when they broke no law
 
STATE HOUSE – In Rhode Island, a family can lose cash, a vehicle or other property as a result of a criminal investigation, and may never get them back, even if the result is ruling of not guilty.

The reason is a state civil asset-forfeiture law that has been described as “awful” by the Institute for Justice, which rates Rhode Island’s forfeiture law a D-.

Sen. Harold M. Metts is once again sponsoring legislation that aims to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws to prevent Rhode Islanders from having their property unfairly seized or from facing an uphill battle to get them back when no crime has been proven.

“Rhode Island’s asset forfeiture law is really stacked against the common person. Police have a low burden of proof to seize property. But the person whose property was taken — even if there was no crime or they had nothing to do with one — has a higher standard of proof, and bears the entire burden of proving it should be given back. They are guilty until proven innocent. Nearly everything about this law goes against the American ideals of justice, and it is absolutely ripe for reform,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).

In order to seize property, law enforcement need only have probable cause that a crime has occurred. But to get it back, the owner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their property wasn’t forfeitable, and must also bear the burden of proof that they had no involvement in any illegal use of their property. Often those involved cannot afford the cost of a lawyer to navigate the process, or the cost of a lawyer exceeds the value of the property seized, and the affected person gives up trying to get it back.

Additionally, police departments are allowed to keep 90 percent of forfeiture proceeds, providing them an incentive to wield forfeiture power.

Senator Metts’ bill would generally require a court order for property to be seized, and would provide a pretrial hearing process in order to determine that a seizure was done legally. It would protect innocent owners of property by placing the burden of proof on the state to prove that an owner knew the property was being used in connection with a crime. It would require automatic return of property within three days in cases of not-guilty findings, dismissal of charges, an innocent owner finding, and other situations where the property need not be forfeited. It would also exempt homesteaded real estate, vehicles worth less than $10,000, and U.S. currency totaling $1,000 or less from being seized.

The legislation also provides for greater reporting and oversight of seized property, and places some limits on retention and sale of seized property by law enforcement agencies.

The 29-page bill is designed to protect the rights of private property owners while maintaining the core purpose of asset forfeiture, which is to ensure that those who commit crimes are not allowed to keep ill-gotten profits.

Nationwide studies have demonstrated that asset forfeiture typically hits minority and poor communities the hardest.

“Like many justice issues, forfeiture hurts the poor and people of color, who are also the people who are least likely to have the resources to fight to get their property back. But this is an  issue that unites people throughout the political spectrum. This bill has the support of many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who feel strongly that government’s ability to take individuals’ personal property should be very limited,” said Senator Metts.

2/6/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rhode Islanders may lose seized property even when they broke no law
 
STATE HOUSE – In Rhode Island, a family can lose cash, a vehicle or other property as a result of a criminal investigation, and may never get them back, even if the result is ruling of not guilty.


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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to prohibit housing discrimination against those who receive government assistance to pay their rent.

The legislation (2020-S 2134) adds “lawful source of income” to the list of statuses — such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and marital status —  that landlords may not use as a basis for their decisions about to whom they will rent, or which units they will rent to them. The bill would not apply to owner-occupied dwellings of three units or less.

The bill defines “lawful sources of income” as income or other assistance derived from Social Security; Supplemental Security Income; any other federal, state or local general public assistance, including medical or veterans assistance; any federal, state or local housing assistance, including Section 8 Housing; child support or alimony.

The bill is meant to address the challenges and discrimination that many housing assistance recipients face finding an apartment in Rhode Island. Here, unlike in Massachusetts, Connecticut and 12 other states plus Washington, D.C., landlords are allowed to refuse to rent to those receiving housing assistance. Some advertise “No Section 8,” and advocates say that stipulation is sometimes used as a pretext for discrimination against not only the poor, but also families with children, minorities and others.

“We must make discrimination-free housing a civil right. Rhode Island should not be divided into haves and have-nots, with certain families stigmatized just because of the type of assistance they receive. That dynamic weakens and segregates our communities,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “Needing housing assistance is not an indication that anyone is going to be a bad tenant. The vast majority of those receiving this assistance are families with children, often single mothers who are simply facing an uphill battle to afford the high cost of living in Rhode Island. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about that. Refusing to rent to them is just discrimination, and we should not sanction it as a state.”

In addition to protecting tenants from being refused housing based on their income, the bill protects them from other unlawful housing practices, including segregation.

The bill includes language that would still allow landlords to ask whether a prospective tenants is at least 18 years old, and allow them to check a prospective tenant’s income, its source and its expected duration only for the purpose of confirming the renter’s ability to pay rent.

The legislation, which has passed the Senate each year since 2017, now goes to the House, where Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) plans to introduce a companion bill.

Cosponsors in the Senate include Sen. Frank A. Ciccone II (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Tiverton, Little Compton, Newport) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence).

A study released last year by Southcoast Fair Housing found that although Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients can afford more than one-third of listed apartments in Rhode Island, they are ultimately rejected from 93 percent. Over 9,300 households in Rhode Island rely on HCV to afford housing.

2/11/2020SenSen. Harold Metts; #91; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to prohibit housing discrimination against those who receive government assistance to pay their rent.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has introduced a bill (2020-H 7437) that would extend the reimbursement to school districts or municipalities for newly hired school resource officers.

The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

“As an educator, I have witnessed first-hand the immediate and beneficial effects that school resource officers have on our schools and students.  In the wake of school shooting after school shooting, it is imperative that we protect our students and staff and having SRO’s in our schools is necessary part of ensuring safety.  I applaud the Town of North Providence for taking advantage of this important cost-sharing program that will protect our community’s most-vital asset – our children,” said Representative O’Brien.

The FY 2019 budget item in Article 9 established a voluntary three-year pilot program to fund school resource officers at half the costs associated with employing new officers at public middle and high schools.  The state reimburses 50 percent of the cost, while municipalities share the rest of the cost.
In order to qualify for reimbursement, the new school resource officer must have been hired after June 30, 2019 and the officer must not be replacing a school resource officer who has since retired.

North Providence has hired several new school resource officers due to the program.

“The safety and security of our students, staff, and visitors in our schools is paramount and school resource officers are the best equipped and trained to deal with security situations.  This is an important program that will keep our schools safer, it’s as simple as that,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

2/12/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has introduced a bill (2020-H 7437) that would extend the reimbursement to school districts or municipalities for newly hired school resource officers.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7488) which authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances restricting vaping in public places and areas near schools, day cares and hospitals.

The bill has been referred to the House Municipal Government Committee.

“As we have done in the past with cigarettes, there are public places where second-hand smoke from vaping devices is not appropriate and this bill will allow our cities and towns to determine their own rules and regulations for public vaping.  As the science behind vaping is still being studied and our children are being enticed by this addictive new device, it is imperative that we protect individuals in public spaces that have no interest in vaping or breathing in vaping byproducts,” said Representative Canario.

The ordinances, regulations, or restrictions on vaping products and nicotine vaping products that municipalities may establish could include the restriction of using these products in public areas, sidewalks and enclosures, areas around schools, day care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals.

2/12/2020RepRep. Dennis Canario; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7488) which authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances restricting vaping in public places and areas near schools, day care and hospitals.



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STATE HOUSE – The Senate yesterday passed legislation to update Rhode Island’s laws regarding parentage so that they are fair to all types of parents, including those in the LGBTQ community. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata sponsored the legislation (2020-S 2136A), which would repeal outdated and discriminatory state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.

“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).

She added, “The last time our parentage laws were updated was in the 1970’s. Our society has changed considerably since then. This bill represents a legislative solution to a serious equality and rights issue for all loving and nurturing parents.”

The Rhode Island Parentage Act 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 bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

2/13/2020SenSen. Erin Lynch Prata; #151; Andrew Caruolo
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The Senate yesterday passed legislation to update Rhode Island’s laws regarding parentage so that they are fair to all types of parents, including those in the LGBTQ community. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata sponsored the legislation (2020-S 2136A), which would repeal outdated and discriminatory state law regarding parentage and replace it with a uniform act that provides procedures establishing parentage, genetic testing, surrogacy agreements and assisted reproduction.



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STATE HOUSE – House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney’s (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) legislation (2020-H 7247A) that amends the state’s motion picture tax credit program passed the House of Representatives tonight.

The legislation amends the current program by allowing productions to utilize tax credits, even if the majority of production is not done within the state, if the production spends a minimum of $10 million within Rhode Island during a 12-month span.

“This is a very appropriate and exciting amendment to our motion picture tax credit program.  With this change, Rhode Island and its numerous natural and man-made assets, such as the Newport mansions, will now have a shot at landing much larger and high-profile movie and television productions.  This in turn will drive national and international tourism into our borders, all without spending a single dollar more than the program currently allows.  If you want to see James Bond running through the Newport mansions or perhaps your favorite Marvel superhero on the streets of Providence, you should support this much-needed bill,” said Representative Abney.

According to the current program, a production must shoot the majority of its project within Rhode Island in order to qualify for the tax credit program.  This is turn has caused larger, and often times global, productions to bypass using Rhode Island as a production location.

The majority of the tax credit program will remain the same under the new bill, such as, the amount of the tax credit being 30 percent of the state-certified production costs and capping the program’s total amount at $20 million for any tax year.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

2/13/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney’s (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) legislation (2020-H 7247A) that amends the state’s motion picture tax credit program passed the House of Representatives.



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STATE HOUSE – The House has introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the high price of prescription drugs.

The eight bills aim to reduce the cost of prescriptions by providing a pathway to import less-costly drugs from Canada, providing more market transparency, raising consumer awareness around price changes and limiting patients’ share of the costs.

“Patients deserve to know what their drugs will cost, to pay a cost that is fair and reasonable and to be able to take advantage of all available opportunities to save on those costs. No one should have to skimp on or do without essentials because of prescriptions whose prices are artificially inflated to provide outsized corporate profits. Health care should be about patient care, not huge profits,” said House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

The eight-bill package includes:
  • Legislation (2020-H 7121) sponsored by Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) to create a prescription drug affordability board tasked with investigating and comprehensively evaluating drug prices for Rhode Islanders and possible ways to reduce them to make them more affordable.
  • A bill (2020-H 7525) sponsored by Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) to create a state-administered program to import wholesale prescription drugs from Canada, which has drug safety regulations similar to those of the United States. Such programs are allowed under federal law, with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • A bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) requiring pharmacists to advise patients about less-expensive generic alternatives to their prescriptions or when it would cost them less to pay for their drugs outright instead of using their insurance. The bill (2020-H 7528) would also bar pharmacy benefits managers from imposing gag orders on pharmacists that prevent them from making such disclosures.
  • A bill limiting changes to a health plan’s drug formulary — its list of covered drugs — to protect consumers. Sponsored by Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), this legislation (2020-H 7576) would generally limit plans to modifying formularies at renewal time with 60 days’ notice and require that modification be identical among all substantially identical benefit plans.
  • A prescription drug transparency act (2020-H 7579), sponsored by Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln). This bill would requires pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to provide wholesale drug acquisition cost information to the Department of Health and pharmacy benefit managers to provide information related to drug prices, rebates, fees and drug sales to the health insurance commissioner annually. Such transparency would help payers determine whether high prescription costs are justified.
  • Also sponsored by Representative Ackerman, a bill (2020-H 7396) to prohibit cost sharing for patients 45 or older for colorectal screening examinations, laboratory tests and colonoscopies covered by health insurance policies or plans. 
  • Legislation (2020-H 7526) sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) to limit the copay for prescription insulin to $50 for a 30-day supply for health plans that provide coverage for insulin.
  • Legislation (2020-H 7559) sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) to cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs at the federal limits for high-deductible health plans, currently $1,400 for individual plans and $2,800 for family plans.
All eight bills have companion legislation that has been introduced in the Senate. The first five bills are also part of a prescription affordability package supported by AARP-Rhode Island. All the bills have been assigned to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

2/13/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. Mia Ackerman; Rep. Anastasia Williams; Rep. Thomas E. Noret; Rep. Stephen Casey; Rep. Grace Diaz; Rep. Brian Kennedy; #187; #41; #191; #10; #249; #192; #46; #13; Larry Berman
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The House has introduced a package of bills aimed at addressing the high price of prescription drugs.


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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett to raise the state’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour on Oct. 1.

The legislation (2020-H 7157A) now goes to the Senate, which last week approved identical legislation (2020-S 2147A) sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

“Putting more money in the pockets of those with the lowest wages helps their families and the economy overall, because people at that end of the wage spectrum pump that money right back into the local economy, buying necessities. It also means less demand for public assistance. A stronger minimum wage will mean a stronger economy for Rhode Island,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “I believe very strongly that all working people deserve to be able to afford a decent life. Minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation since it began, and Rhode Island’s remains behind neighboring states’. Each time we raise it, it means a bit of relief and a bit more dignity for those workers who struggle the most to afford life in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island’s minimum wage has been $10.50 since Jan. 1, 2019. The minimum wage is $12.75 in Massachusetts and $11 in Connecticut.

Representative Bennett, who serves as chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Lynch Prata have been the primary sponsors of every law enacted to raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage since 2012, when minimum wage was $7.40.
2/13/2020RepRep. David Bennett; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett to raise the state’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour on Oct. 1.


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Legislation has 26 sponsors in House, 19 in Senate
 
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar this week introduced their legislation to lift the ban on abortion coverage for state employee health plans and ensure that abortion care is covered by Medicaid. The bill has a total of 26 sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate.

“Today, we took the next step in ending the unfair, discriminatory system we have in place here in Rhode Island with the introduction of this legislation. With 19 cosponsors in the Senate, the support for this bill is clear. And that’s because it’s common sense that no one should be denied coverage of a basic medical procedure because of where they work or how much money they make. Medicaid patients and those covered under state employee health plans deserve the same coverage as someone with private insurance. The explicit denial of health coverage for abortion that is currently written into law has to end and we’ll be working hard over the next few months to reach that goal,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

The bill would add Rhode Island to the ranks of 16 states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, whose Medicaid programs cover abortion.

“The Equality in Abortion Coverage Act that Senator Valverde and I have introduced this week has strong support in both chambers because our colleagues understand that access to safe, legal abortion includes economic access. A third of the members of the House have signed on in support of this legislation,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence). “Access to healthcare services is determined in most cases by an individual’s health insurance. Right now, there are people for whom there is a barrier to access to abortion solely as a result of their insurance coverage. Ensuring that Medicaid and state insurance plans cover abortion ensures equal access to health services so that people have the opportunity to make their own choices about their lives and their families.”

The legislation (2020-H 7618) eliminates sections of law that expressly prohibit state employees’ and Medicaid recipients’ insurance from covering for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest or where the life of the mother would be endangered, as required by federal law. In compliance with the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services, it adds language that specifies that no federal funds shall be used to pay for them, except as authorized under federal law. The law would take effect upon passage.

The legislation is part supported by the Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, The Womxn Project, ACLU of Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, the Women’s Health and Education Fund, RI NOW, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Humanists of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, Coyote RI, National Association of Social Workers Rhode Island Chapter, United States of Women (Rhode Island), CaneIWalk, Swing Left Rhode Island, The Collective, Our  Revolution​ RI and Catholics for Choice.
2/14/2020RepSen. Bridget G. Valverde; Rep. Liana M. Cassar; #264; #267; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has reintroduced legislation (2020-H 7330) that would terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault.

Representative O’Brien notes that 28 other states in the country have a similar law on the books.
“Sadly, this is still a tragic issue in our society and that is why I reintroduced this legislation again this session.  Survivors of rape and their children should be free of the fear of being sued by their attacker for child custody,” said Representative O’Brien.  “Rapists operate out of hate and are incapable of providing the love that a child needs, therefore, they should not have any rights pertaining to that child.”

Representative O’Brien’s legislation would apply when the parent has been convicted of sexual assault upon the birthmother and a child results from the sexual assault.  After a fact finding hearing by the Family Court establishes the paternity of the child through DNA testing, the father’s parental rights would be terminated by order of the court.

Termination of the convicted father’s parental rights will include the loss of all parental rights without limitation, including the adoption of the child.  The convicted father will also have no right to any visitation with the child and will have no right to any inheritance from the child conceived as a result of the sexual assault.

“Unfortunately, many of these devious individuals sue for custody, even though they have no chance at winning the case.  These vile perpetrators do this to relive the rape and to further harass their victims.  This bill will put an end to this heinous practice,” added Representative O’Brien.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

1/29/2020RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has reintroduced legislation (2020-H 7330) that would terminate all parental rights of convicted rapists when a child is born from the assault.



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STATE HOUSE — In conjunction with the Dominican Independence and Heritage Award Committee of Rhode Island, Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) and former state Sen. Juan Pichardo will host the Dominican Republic Independence Anniversary and Heritage Celebration on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m. at the Rhode Island State House in the library on the second floor.

The celebration will commemorate the anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti, which took place on Feb. 27, 1844.

“The celebration of this important historic moment is the perfect time to reflect on the impact Dominican culture continues to have on Rhode Island,” said Representative Diaz. “We have seen how the experience and customs of Dominicans have helped shape the state both culturally and politically. On this day every year, I am proudest when we introduce so many skilled and talented Dominican-Americans from all walks of life to celebrate their achievements.”

This year’s ceremony will recognize outstanding individuals who represent the best of the Dominican-American community’s efforts to make Rhode Island a better place for the last 16 years, including Wilda Gutierrez for outstanding community leadership, Manny Perez for outstanding contribution to Dominican art, Alejandro Antonio Tavarez for outstanding Dominican business leadership for Pocho Express, Manuel Nunez for outstanding contribution to Dominican sport in Rhode Island, Maria De Los Angeles Rodriguez Peña for outstanding Dominican youth talent, Danira Ortiz for outstanding Dominican leadership in education, Sabrina Uribe Ruggierio for outstanding Dominican public servant in Rhode Island, Julio Cesar Defillo Draiby for outstanding Dominican professional, and Rep. Scott Slater for outstanding service to the Dominican community in Rhode Island.

The keynote speaker this year will be Yaniris Felipe, Hispanic Media Relations U.S. Market for the Dominican Republic Tourism Board in Miami.

The ceremony will also recognize two Dominican institutions — the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic and the Consulate General of the Dominican Republic in Boston. The newly elected board will be sworn in during the ceremony.

The event will also include efforts of the United States Census to encourage Dominican-Americans to be counted.

Representative Diaz and former Senator Juan Pichardo are the founders of the Dominican Independence Award Committee and annual celebration, which has shed light on the many contributions of Dominican-Americans in Rhode Island for the last 15 years.

2/24/2020RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed the Plastic Waste Reduction Act that was introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

The legislation (2020-S 2003A) is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.

“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” said President Ruggerio. “Several Rhode Island jurisdictions, including 14 local communities have already enacted similar policies to promote and encourage the use of recyclable bags, and I think it’s appropriate to be consistent throughout the state.”

Plastics that enter the marine environment break down through wave action and sunlight into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life, putting Rhode Island’s fishing industries and aquatic ecosystems at risks. The legislation also acknowledges that plastic bags and thin plastic films are the predominant contaminant of recycling loads in Rhode Island, and that single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale.

"Rhode Island is ready to say goodbye to plastic bag pollution," said Amy Moses, Vice President and Rhode Island Director of Conservation Law Foundation. "Plastics pollute at every stage of their lives - from extracting and refining fossil fuels to contaminating our recycling and choking wildlife. The Senate President's bill is a solid compromise and it will keep Rhode Island's lands and waters free from this toxic litter."

 Under the legislation, retail sales establishments would be prohibited from making available any single-use plastic checkout bag or any paper checkout bag that is not a recyclable paper bag or a paper carryout bag at restaurants.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2020-H 7306) has been introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown).
2/26/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) recently delivered a legislative grant to the Portsmouth Police Department that will be used to buy equipment that aids the department’s Accident Reconstruction Team.

“The dedicated officers of the Portsmouth Police Department protect and serve the residents of Portsmouth with distinction and honor every single day.  It is my pleasure to help the department secure an important piece of equipment that will assist in their investigations for many years to come,” said Representative Canario.

“This equipment will help the Portsmouth Police Department to operate on a more efficient basis, ensuring that the people of Portsmouth are receiving top-quality service from their police department.  It is a privilege to help them effectively serve our residents and I commend every officer for their dedication to the people of Portsmouth,” said Representative Edwards.

The $11,000 legislative grant will be used to purchase a measurement scanning and mapping tool that is commonly referred to as a total station.  This toll will allow for accurate measurements of serious motor vehicle accident scenes and can also be utilized to map crime scenes.  This will make investigations for more efficient for the department.

Rep. Dennis M. Canario and Rep. John G. Edwards present a legislative grant check to the Portsmouth Chief of Police and the Accident Reconstruction Team.  From the left: Lieutenant Garrett Coyne, Lieutenant Michael Morse, Rep. Dennis Canario, Chief Brian Peters, Rep. John G. Edwards, Officer Bruce Celico, and Officer James Thulier

2/26/2020RepRep. Dennis Canario; Rep. John Edwards; #197; #144; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) that would allow school committees to budget funding for school field trips.

The legislation (2020-S 2327) would guarantee that all students have the same ability to attend field trips. It would also allow schools to raise funds to supplement field trip funding.

Last year, many school districts canceled field trips in the wake of an advisory opinion given by former Commissioner of Education Dr. Ken Wagner. He construed current policy to mean that school departments may not charge students to participate in public school field trips. Since several school districts interpreted the decision to mean that no fund raising could be done for these trips either, many officials were left confused, believing that the policy effectively eliminated the field trips.

“That advice was confusing to many, and as a result, school districts have been canceling their field trips.” said Senator Gallo, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “That is an incredibly unfortunate — and I’m quite sure unintended —consequence of the letter. The goal of this legislation is to provide clarity.”

The legislation proposed by Senator Gallo would require that the field trips meet Rhode Island’s basic education program regulations and would allow parents or guardians to donate toward the cost of the trip.

“The bill does not, however, allow schools to directly ask families for money to pay for field trips because schools can’t do that,” explained Senator Gallo. “Schools can let families know that donations are always welcome, but asking parents to contribute would  create a two-tier education system — one for students who can afford to pay for valuable experiences like field trips, and one for students who can’t. That is not what public education is about. Students who sit next to each other in a public school classroom should have the same opportunities available to them.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, which has passed similar legislation (2020-H 7069A) introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).
2/26/2020SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Students in Rhode Island schools will not be denied the right to possess and apply sunscreen under legislation sponsored by Rep. David Bennett and unanimously approved by the House of Representatives today.

The legislation (2020-H 7123A), which has passed the House each year since 2017, ensures that students, as well as teachers and parents on school property, will be allowed to have and use sunscreen at school, despite state regulations that prohibit anyone other than a school nurse from administering medications, including Food and Drug Administration-approved substances like sunscreen, or possessing them without a doctor’s note or prescription. Students in kindergarten through grade 5 would be required to have a permission note from a parent or guardian, and the bill specifies that school personnel are not required to assist students with application, nor shall they be held liable for any damages concerning sunscreen.

The bill will now head to the Senate, where Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-S 2176).

Representative Bennett, who works as a nurse, said he sponsored the bill because regular sunscreen use has long been recommended as a means to prevent sun damage and skin cancer, and any policy that stops children from using sunscreen flies in the face of public health and safety.

“The dangers of unprotected sun exposure are well-known. Kids, in particular, need protection both because their skin is more delicate and because even one bad sunburn as a child vastly increases a person’s chances of getting skin cancer. We are really throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we are telling kids they can’t have sunscreen in school because of a medication policy that’s supposed to be protecting their health,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “Schools send kids outside for recess every day. Some have a field day in June, when the kids are out in the sun all day long. Of course those kids should be able to have sunscreen and reapply it. This is common-sense legislation.”

Under current law, a student can go to school wearing sunscreen, but cannot bring the product to school and reapply it there. Most sunscreens recommend reapplication every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Similar legislation or regulations have been adopted in 12 other states, and is pending in 15 others, according to the Personal Care Products Council, which supports the legislation along with a coalition that includes the Rhode Island Dermatology Society, the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation, and many other medical societies. 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a single blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Representative Bennett said he hopes the legislation not only allows students to use sunscreen at school, but encourages them to wear it regularly.

“There’s no question that it’s safer for kids to put on sunscreen when they go outside. I know a lot of parents are really careful to slather it all over their kids all the time, but then they send them to school where they aren’t even allowed to have it. That’s unsafe and it sends kids a conflicting message about the very real danger of unprotected sun exposure. Instead, we should be telling them, ‘Listen to your mom. Wear sunscreen.’”

The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton), Rep. James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick). 
2/26/2020RepRep. David Bennett; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has introduced legislation (2020-S 2465) which would establish the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to families with children stricken by a catastrophic illness for medical expenses not covered by any other state or federal program or any insurance contract.

“As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, we are seeing too many families who at best are financially crippled due to a child’s catastrophic illness, or at worst, are unable to provide treatment for their sick and suffering children.  This is simply not right.  This fund will help with this all-too-real problem that many families in our state face, and I hope that if enacted, it will provide a measure of relief for families going through extremely difficult times,” said Senator Lawson.

The fund would be available to all children who are residents of Rhode Island and are 21 years old or younger.  Catastrophic illness is defined as any illness or condition of which the medical expenses are not covered through a government program or private insurance that exceeds 10 percent of the first $100,000 of annual family income, plus 15 percent of the excess income over $100,000 for a family annually.

The amount of reimbursement for the medical expenses would be established through a sliding fee scale based on a family’s ability to pay, which takes into account family size, income, and assets.  All medical records for any child that apply for the fund would be kept confidential.

The legislation also establishes a 9-member commission to oversee the fund consisting of department directors, such as the Director of the Department of Human Services, healthcare professionals, and members of the public.  The General Treasurer would be the custodian of the fund and responsible for disbursements of the fund according to the direction of the commission.

Monies for the fund would be generated through a $1.50 annual surcharge per employee for all employers who are subject to employment security laws.  The surcharge will be collected by the Director of the Department of Labor and Training and transferred to the control of the General Treasurer to deposit into the fund.

The commission shall submit an annual report to the governor, the Senate, and the House of Representatives regarding the number of participants, average expenditures per participant, and other data relative to the ongoing administration of the fund.

“Establishing this safety-net is simply the right thing to do for our children and families suffering from catastrophic illnesses and conditions.  No Rhode Island resident deserves to be plunged into bankruptcy or have to watch their child suffer due to an inability to pay costly, but, also necessary medical treatment,” concluded Senator Lawson.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

2/26/2020SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7641) which would allow grand juries to issue reports to the public after review and acceptance by the Superior Court.

“As we have seen with the recent refusal to make the 38 Studios grand jury materials public, there are some cases in which the public’s right to know what happened supersedes the privacy protections of the grand jury process.  If enacted, I believe this bill should only apply to very specific cases and not all grand jury investigations, but in certain circumstances, the public has the absolute right to know the truth and this piece of legislation will allow that to be possible,” said Representative Millea.

According to the legislation, a grand jury would be able to submit a report to the Superior Court for public release.  A minimum of 12 grand jurors must request and sign off on the request to the Superior Court.

Within 30 days of receiving the report, the Superior Court would notify in writing all individuals or entities named in the report.  These individuals or entities would then have 30 days to review the report and provide any written responses to the report to the Superior Court.  Individuals and entities mentioned in the report will also have to indicate whether or not they feel the report should be released to the public.

The Superior Court may take into account several factors in determining whether or not to release the grand jury report to the public, including:
  • The grand jury and the Attorney General were acting within the statutory jurisdiction of such persons in convening the grand jury;
  • The report is based on facts revealed in the course of the grand jury investigation and is supported by a preponderance of the evidence;
  • The report does not contain material that is personal in nature and which is not related to any lawful inquiry;
  • The report does not disclose the identity of a confidential informant;
  • The filing of such report as a public record does not prejudice the fair consideration of any criminal matter.
If the Superior Court determines the grand jury report is not appropriate for public release, the Attorney General may appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.  If the court does choose to make the report public, any person or entity named in the report may also appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

“The grand jury process is an important and vital tool within our judicial system and I am a firm believer in its effectiveness and necessity.  However, there are cases that are so big, and affect so many different Rhode Islanders in different ways, that there needs to be a mechanism in order to bring these materials into the light for public review.  This bill will do that, while also protecting the safe guards of the grand jury system,” concluded Representative Millea.

2/26/2020RepRep. Christopher T. Millea; #248; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Christopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7641) which would allow grand juries to issue reports to the public after review and acceptance by the Superior Court.



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STATE HOUSE — A newly formed coalition called Revenue for Rhode Island launched its campaign  to raise revenue for the state by adding one new tax bracket for the top 1% of earners. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence and Pawtucket) and Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), will add one new tax bracket —  from 5.99% to 8.99% on adjusted gross income above $475,000. The legislation would raise $128.2 million in new tax revenue, and would only impact the top 1% of tax filers.
 
“This legislation will give us the flexibility needed to properly fund vital programs and services for Rhode Islanders who need them most, and invest in Rhode Island’s future while promoting a more efficient and equitable tax structure,” stated Senator Conley. “This is a reasonable proposal that asks the wealthiest among us to pay a small percentage more, while having no impact on anyone making less than $475,000 a year.”
 
“With Rhode Island once again facing a sizable budget deficit, it is imperative that our state raise revenues so that crucial and often life-saving programs and services remain available to Rhode Islanders in need. With this modest revenue proposal, our state will have the funds to properly support our citizens and our infrastructure, establishing Rhode Island on firm footing for future success,” said Representative Alzate.
 
“Our cities and towns are being asked to do more with less,” said East Providence Mayor Roberto DaSilva. “This additional revenue can prevent deep cuts to education, Medicare and city services and help ease the burden on local property taxpayers, who have funded state-wide cuts over the years. Asking the top 1% to give a little more is a sensible solution that will help all Rhode Island families.”
 
“It is very hard to support myself as a college student and at home with the low wages we make as caregivers for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Seaniah Ballah, a Rhode Island College student and Direct Support Professional at The ARC of Blackstone Valley. “I have established meaningful relationships with my clients and I simply love the work that I do. And although I love supporting my clients at medical appointments, facilitating in-home activities or assisting them when we try out a new recipe for dinner, I do not know how long I can continue working a job that can also be very demanding on my body and mind, with such low pay.”

Ballah continued, “Our state's priorities are upside down when we give millionaires big tax breaks and don't invest in residents living with developmental disabilities and the direct support staff who care for them. Instead of calling on the most fortunate Rhode Islander’s to pay their fair share, politicians under-invest in Medicaid or even cut the program, which pays to care for adults with developmental disabilities. We need a more equitable path forward where multi-millionaires pay their fair share so that people like me and my coworkers – and the people we care for – get the support and services they need.”

RI AFL-CIO President George Nee stated, “For too long, lower and middle class families have paid a higher percentage of their income in overall taxes than the wealthiest Rhode Islanders. We have given big federal and state tax breaks for the wealthy – from the Bush federal tax cuts to Governor Carcieri’s state income tax cut to President Trump’s most recent tax cuts. In Rhode Island, when you factor in income tax, property tax and sales tax, the poorest Rhode Islanders pay 50% more as a percentage of income compared to the wealthiest 1%. This proposal would put the top 1% more in line with the next 79% of taxpayers.”

Nee concluded, “This bill will raise revenue that can be used for schools and public education, infrastructure improvements, increased state funding to cities and towns, funding for our Veterans Home, senior citizens, and individuals living with developmental disabilities. It’s time, as a state, that we recalibrate our priorities and make our budget work for all Rhode Islanders.”
 
Revenue for Rhode Island coalition members include the RI AFL-CIO, NEARI, RIFTHP, SEIU State Council, SEIU District 1199, Economic Progress Institute, RIASSE Local 580 SEIU, Coalition of Labor Union Women RI, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Providence Central Federated Labor Council, RI Association for Infant Mental Health, RI Coalition for the Homeless, RI National Organization for Women, The Right from the Start Coalition, URI American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the Women's Fund of RI.

2/26/2020RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Karen Alzate; #202; #255; Greg Pare
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