H.6226 (link below) was filed last week. Currently, the City of Woonsocket has three classes of property rates: 1) tangible personal property and motor vehicles; 2) residential real estate less than four units; and 3) commercial and industrial real estate as well as residential real estate with more than four units. The new proposed legislation appears to break the first class into two subgroups: 1)(i) tangible property and 1)(ii) motor vehicles. This language change was proposed to prepare for the potential motor vehicle tax phase out should the State’s budget include such phase out. The second change comes in the second tax classification. H.6226 clarifies the ability of the City to implement a homestead exemption for residential property. However, new language concerning residential property, grants the City authority “to divide this class into nonowner and owner-occupied and homestead properties and adopt separate tax rates.” If passed non owner occupied residential properties could be taxed at a different rate than owner occupied residential property. The bill has been sent to the House Municipal Government Committee for review.
Wage Lien Bill Passes Senate
S.192, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages passed the Senate 34-0 last Wednesday (3 not voting). This bill would allow employees to place a lien on an employer’s property if he/she believes wages have not been properly paid. The process is as follows:
1. Employee sends letter to employer stating the amount owed in wages and the address of the employer’s property that the employee intends to place a lien against
2. The employer has 90 days (amended from the original 30 days) to file a complaint in Superior Court in order to stop the lien. If no complaint is filed within the 90 days (amended from the original 30 days), the employee can file the lien in the land evidence record of the city/town where the property is located.
3. If the employer files the complaint and the court finds for the employee, the lien can be filed in the land evidence record (automatic award for court fees and attorney fees was removed from the bill).
S.192 will now likely go to the House Labor Committee.
House Committee to Reconsider Passage of Marijuana Study Legislative Commission Bill
H.5551 Sub A, A Joint Resolution Creating a Special Legislative Commission to Study the Effects of Legalizing Marijuana passed on May 16, 2017 is scheduled for reconsideration by the House Judiciary Committee on May 24, 2017. The Resolution calls for the creation of a 17 member commission to “conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and thereafter the potential impact on Rhode Island.” The commission is charged with reporting its findings to the legislature by March 1, 2018. The Senate version S.277, was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 18th and held for further study.
Minimum Wage Hearing Update
The Chamber, in a rare joint hearing of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Labor Committee, registered its opposition to increasing the minimum wage, during what was a lower key hearing than in the House Labor Committee. Jobs for Justice, the lead proponent, continued to state that were it not for employees, there would be no businesses in Rhode Island. They also emphasized the fact that Massachusetts and Connecticut have a higher minimum wage than Rhode Island. Opponents talked about the business community’s need for predictability and the multiple year increases that the state has experienced recently. The business industry advocates also mentioned was the difficulty that the effective date of July 1, 2017 brings with it.
House Finance Committee Endures Marathon Hearing
For five hours, the House Finance Committee listened to testimony concerning bills that are geared to stop the Burrillville Power Plant and H.5369, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Energize RI: Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act of 2017. While the Chamber took no position on the anti-Invenergy bills at this time, the Chamber did testify against H.5369. H.5369 imposes a $15 per ton carbon tax on all fossil fuels for the years 2018 and 2019, and escalates $5 per ton (plus an inflation rate) every year thereafter. The fee would result in a first-year tax of 13.1 cents per gallon on gasoline, 15.5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, 9 cents per gallon on LPG and 14.5 cents per gallon on jet fuel. The tax would go up from that point starting in 2020. There is also a tax on natural gas, propane, coal and all other fossil fuels according to their carbon content. Forty percent of the taxes collected would be returned to individuals over the age of 18 with a bump for heads of households. Thirty percent would be returned to business based on the number of employees. Presumably taxes would be collected all year and returned after tax filing time when the Department of Revenue can determine how many Rhode Islanders are over 18 and how many have children, as well as how many employees each company might have had during the year. H.5369 was held for further study.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6224, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS' COMPENSATION--BENEFITS (Repeals a provision of the workers' compensation law that provides that for injuries on and after July 1, 2023, "material hindrance" includes only compensable injuries causing a greater than sixty-five percent (65%) degree of functional impairment.)
House Bill No. 6226, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- WOONSOCKET (Creates several new subsections in the Woonsocket property tax code.)