Welcome to the first edition of Under the Dome 2020!
January 7, 2020, was the official start of a new legislative session. Because it is the second year of a legislative cycle, all leaders stay in place and committee assignments are expected to remain the same.
Governor Raimondo will be giving the State of the State Address to the General Assembly and to the public Tuesday, January 14th at 7:00 p.m. She will outline her legislative priorities for 2020 and is expected to talk about her proposed budget which is set to be released Thursday, January 16th.
During the upcoming year, the Chamber may ask you to contact your legislators when the need arises. Please go to the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s web page, https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ and enter your information as requested (if you live in Rhode Island), so that you will know who represents you as a State Representative and a State Senator. Thank you for your help!
The calendar for 2020 has been released. The key dates to keep in mind are:
Opening Day January 7, 2020
Last Day for Senate Public Bill Introduction February 13, 2020
Last Day for House Public Bill Introduction February 13, 2020
Winter Recess February 17-21, 2020
Spring Recess April 13-17, 2020
For those readers who go to the State House often, be aware that Spring Recess is the same week as the Initial House Bill hearing Deadline (commonly referred to as “cross-over week”).
What Is TCI About?
You may have seen reports in the media about Governor Raimondo signing on to a program called TCI. TCI stands for Transportation Climate Initiative. It is an initiative that environmental agencies, from 12 states and the District of Columbia, have been quietly working on for a few years. The states released a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) December 17, 2019 and have requested public input by February 28, 2020. The MOU can be found at: https://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20TCI_draft-MOU_20191217.pdf
The proposal includes a cap on carbon dioxide emissions generated from the use of transportation gasoline and on-road diesel fuel. A transportation emissions cap would be set and would decrease over time. The goal is reduce transportation emissions by either 20%, 22% or 25% over 10 years. Described at its most simplistic level, fuel suppliers in the TCI region would be assigned a certain allowance for emissions; and each suppler would pay a fee to the program to obtain that assigned allowance. If a supplier wishes to exceed its allowance (for example, sell more gasoline or on-road diesel in a state than the cap allows), that supplier would have to buy credits from another supplier that has not exceeded its allowance. Credits are bought and sold at auctions run by the TCI group; and all of the money raised is proposed to be used by states to fund programs to reduce the need for gasoline or on-road diesel. TCI stated “If the regulated entities in the petroleum industry choose to pass the costs of compliance with a cap and invest program on to consumers, our modeling estimates an incremental price increase in 2022 of $0.05, $0.09 or $0.17 per gallon in the 20%, 22% and 25% Cap Reduction Scenarios, respectively.” TCI did not provide an estimate of the amount that would be raised by program. See the following site for the TCI analysis of the program https://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI%20Modeling-Results-Summary_12.17.2019.pdf
Rhode Island currently has a cap and trade program (TCI calls it a “cap and investment” program) for emissions related to the generation of electricity. The cost of that cap and trade program is folded into the electricity bills of Rhode Island consumers. This TCI program is similar – just geared toward transportation fuels.
TCI hopes to develop a final MOU by Spring of 2020, at which time each state will decide whether or not to ultimately sign on to participate in the program. By the Fall of 2020, TCI plans to have a final model rule drafted for the participants, with a program implementation rollout as early as 2022. To date, New Hampshire’s Governor Sununu has voiced his reluctance to sign the MOU. Massachusetts Governor Baker and Governor Raimondo have voiced support for the MOU.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 7038 (Lombardi, Hull) AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - REGULATORY POWERS OF ADMINISTRATION (Provides that any rate increase with respect to electric distribution companies would be no greater than the increase in the Consumer Price Index or 5.5%, whichever is greater, unless there is approval of a higher rate by the general assembly.)
House Bill No. 7042 (Shanley, Alzate, Solomon, Johnston, Ruggiero) AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- UNANTICIPATED OUT-OF-NETWORK BILLS FOR HEALTH CARE SERVICES (Protects people with health insurance from surprise medical bills for emergency and other services by requiring a non-participating health care provider to bill an insured party only for a co-payment, or deductible.)
House Bill No. 7046 (Lombardi, Hull, Walsh, Fogarty, Lyle) AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- COSMETIC LABELING (Requires that all cosmetics manufactured, sold, delivered, or held for offering to be sold contain a label that completely and accurately lists all of its component ingredient.)
House Bill No. 7083 (Casimiro, McEntee, Carson, Knight, Craven) AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES -- COASTAL AND RIVERINE HOME PROTECTION (Enables cities and towns to provide property tax relief to individuals who take resiliency measures to rehabilitate their property because of flood hazards.)
Senate Bill No. 2003 (Ruggerio, Sosnowski, Coyne, Euer, Miller) AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION ACT (Creates the "Plastic Waste Reduction Act" designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.)