New Senate Leadership Emerges
Senator Teresa Paiva Weed stepped down as President of the Senate after agreeing to take the job as President of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. Rumors of the impending change surfaced Tuesday, followed by an announcement on Wednesday, and a leadership vote Thursday. Paiva Weed served 24 years in the State Senate, representing the people of Newport; and she stated that she plans to resign her senate seat this week. State law requires a special election to be held between 70-90 days following the day of her resignation.
Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence, was elected the new President of the Senate while Michael McCaffrey, D-Warwick, was elected Majority Leader of the Senate. President Ruggerio, currently an administrator for the Laborers International Union, joined the Senate in 1985 and is the senior member of the Rhode Island Senate. Leader McCaffrey, first elected to the senate in 1994, works as an attorney and served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The elevation of Leader McCaffrey leaves a vacancy in the Judiciary Chairmanship, which should be filled early this week.
IMPORTANT -- MARCH 30TH HEARING – TIME FOR ACTION
The House Labor Committee will be holding a hearing on four key issues to the business community: mandatory paid sick/safety leave (H.5413), tipped wage (H.5315), overtime wage threshold (H.5596), and an increase in the minimum wage (H.5057 and H.5595). The hearing will be held at the State House – in the House Lounge – At the Rise. “At the Rise” means following the House floor session. The hearing could start anywhere from 4:30 to 5:30. If you can attend, please come by 4:00 as we expect many proponents of the bill to be in attendance. If you would like to testify, please contact the Chamber so that that staff can assist in signing you up properly. You can also attend without testifying in order to show support for the business community. Finally, if you cannot attend the hearing, please contact your State Representative and express your concerns about these bills.
H.5413, An Act Relating to Labor Relations – Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act. The bill requires every employer to provide employees with 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 56 hours a year. If an employee is not an hourly employee, then it is assumed that the employee is working 40 hours a week in order to calculate sick/safe leave. Leave begins to accrue on the first day of employment; and employees can start taking time off after 90 calendar days.
Unused sick/safe time must be carried over to the following year, unless the employer choses to pay the employee for the unused time. However, no employee can accrue more than the maximum 56 hours in any year. Additionally, if the employee moves to another division of the company, or if the employee is seasonal and comes back to the employer within a year, the unused sick times carries over as does the accrual of time. If a company is sold to another entity, that entity must honor the sick/safe time accrued.
So what can the time be used for….1) an employee’s illness, preventive care appointments 2) care of a “family member” illness or preventative care appointment 3) closure of the employer’s business due to a public health emergency or caring for a child whose school or day care was closed for a public health emergency 4) time off needed when an employee or employee’s family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.
The key is the definition of “family member.” It applies to any child, step-child or foster child regardless of age; parent, step-parent or legal guardian; spouse or domestic partner; and “Any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Lastly, employees are required to give the employer notice of the leave if it was reasonably foreseeable; otherwise, an employer can ask for a doctor’s note or proof of domestic violence after the passage of 3 consecutive work days missed by the employee. The doctor’s note cannot state the details of the reason for absence, and an employer may not ask. In reality this means an employee could be absent from work for 3 days without giving the employer notice, and once that employee returns on day 4, the employer would have to keep the employee – No show, no call, no problem!
H.5315 – An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage – Gratuities,
Raises the minimum wage for tipped workers by fifty cents ($.50) per year commencing on January 1, 2018 until the tipped minimum wage is not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the regular minimum wage
H.5596 – An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Overtime Wages,
Increases the wage threshold that requires employers to pay overtime pay for executive and administrative professionals from $200 per week salary to $1,036 per week beginning January 1, 2020. This means that employers would have to pay overtime to salaried employees making up to $53,872 per year instead of up to $10,400 per year.
H.5057 – An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage,
Increases the minimum wage to ten dollars and fifty cents ($10.50) commencing July 1, 2017. H.5595, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage, increases the minimum wage to $11.00 commencing January 1, 2018, $12.00 commencing January 1, 2019, $13.00 commencing January 1, 2020, $14.00 commencing January 1, 2021, $15.00 commencing January 1, 2022, and then increased based on the cost of living.
Senate Labor Committee Hears Overtime Bill
Last week the Senate Labor Committee posted various bills for hearing with 48 hours’ notice. S.505, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Overtime Wages, was one of those bills. The legislation is identical to H.5596 (see explanation above). The Chamber opposed the passage of S.505. The bill was held for further study, meaning it remains alive through session.
The following bills were filed:
House Bill No. 5964, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES-RETAIL LICENSES (Permits retail Class A alcohol license holders, wholesalers, and suppliers to provide liquor, malt beverages, wine and other alcoholic beverages at tastings to be conducted on premises.)
House Bill No. 5979, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - RHODE ISLAND SALES AND USE TAX REIMBURSEMENT ACT (Provides that in the event sales and use tax revenue exceeds projections, then in such event the tax administrator would reduce the sales tax rate by one percent (1%) until the end of the fiscal year.)
House Resolution No. 5996, JOINT RESOLUTION MAKING AN APPROPRIATION OF $500,000 TO THE COMMERCE CORPORATION TO PROMOTE BEER TOURISM AND THE CRAFT BEER INDUSTRY IN RHODE ISLAND (Authorizes the appropriation of the sum of $500,000 in fiscal year 2017-2018, and annually thereafter, to promote the growth and development of the craft brewing industry and beer tourism.)
House Bill No. 5997, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- PENALTIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS (Adopts a penalty of twelve percent (12%) per annum on administrative penalties that are in default.)