Welcome to the first edition of Under the Dome 2019!
January 1, 2019, rang in a new year and a new legislative session. Rep. Nicholas Mattiello was elected Speaker of the House and Sen. Dominick Ruggerio was elected Senate President.
In the coming weeks, committee assignments will be made, new committee chairs will be named, legislation will be filed, and hearings will be held. 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 2019 has been released. The key dates to keep in mind are:
Opening Day January 1, 2019
Last Day for Senate Public Bill Introduction February 14, 2019
Last Day for House Public Bill Introduction February 14, 2019
Winter Break February 18-22, 2019
Spring Recess April 15-19, 2019
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 5012 (McEntee, Craven, Ucci, Tobon) AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- MISCELLANEOUS RULES--MOTOR VEHICLE OFFENSES (Amends towing storage act and clarifies towing and storage issues.)
House Bill No. 5024 (Edwards, Newberry, Filippi, Corvese, Johnston), AN ACT RELATING TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY - JOINT COMMITTEE OF THE REPEALER (Creates the joint committee of the repealer to compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations, and executive orders received from citizens, businesses, and government agencies.)
House Bill No. 5036 (Ruggiero, Azzinaro, McNamara, Abney, Marszalkowski), AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS - DISABILITY BUSINESS ENTERPRISES (Expands the existing disability business enterprises program by allowing Veterans' Affairs, the Social Security Administration and others to verify that a business owner has a disability and is eligible for the current program.)
Congratulations to the 2018 Award Recipients honored at the East Bay Chamber Annual Awards Ceremony Oct. 17, 2018 at the Ramada Banquet and Conference Center.
L-R: Chamber Member of the Year Stephanie Borden, Emerging Leader Juliana Olmstead, Citizens of the Year Angela and Joseph Sousa, Business of the Year Jimmy Stuart's Floor Covering & Cleaning
Thank you to our Sponsors:
Platinum Sponsors: Bank Newport, Navigant Credit Union
Gold Sponsors: Hope & Main, Jimmy Stuart's Floor Covering & Cleaning
Silver Sponsors: C. Brito Construction Company, Farmer & First, PC, CPA's, John Andrade Insurance Agency, Wood's Heating Service
Bronze Sponsors: A.N. Nunes Agency, Automated Business Solution, George C. Lima Funeral Home, Michelle Hughes, CPA, Pilgrim Title, Ramada Banquet & Conference Center, RE/MAX River's Edge Real Estate, RWU, Gabelli School of Business, Saint Elizabeth Manor, East Bay, Slepkow, Slepkow & Associates
Be aware that the Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act (PSSLA) goes into full effect July 1, 2018.
Employers with 18 or more employees – defined as the number of employees in a business’s two highest quarters of 2017 (for businesses formed in 2018, the trigger for compliance begins as soon as the 18th employee is hired) – must begin accruing paid leave July 1, 2018, at a rate of 1 hour of paid leave time for every 35 hours worked. Employees are entitled to accrue up to 24 hours of paid leave in 2018. In the alternative, an employer may give employees 24 hours of paid leave starting July 1, and avoid the need to accrue time. Your policy manual MUST have a section that tells employees how to provide notice to the employer of an unforeseen need to take leave, otherwise an employee does not have to notify an employer that he/she intends to return to work for up to 3 consecutive days. On the fourth day, if the employee returns, the employer must pay that person for the 3 days and no disciplinary action can be taken.
For employers with less than 18 employees – you must also have a policy describing how employees must notify the employer that an employee is out of work with the intent to take UNPAID sick and safety leave. Again, if no policy exists, the employee can be out for 3 consecutive days, return on the fourth day and no disciplinary action can be taken against the individual.
The link to the new law is: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/PublicLaws/law17/law17347.htm
The link to the Department of Labor and Training Regulations is: http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DLT/9466.pdf
An Update from the State House
At 11:57 p.m. on Saturday night the House adjourned, completing its 2018 legislative session. The Senate adjourned shortly thereafter.
It is important to note that bills passed by both the House and Senate are NOT law until signed by the Governor or allowed by the Governor to go into law without her signature. The Chamber will provide a list of new laws in a special edition of Under the Dome in August, after all of the bills have been addressed.
The pay equity bill came to a halt as the Senate and House could not reach a final compromise. The two bills were very different and would have required weeks of negotiations to move forward. A study commission was mentioned as a possible alternative, but it did not come to fruition.
A Pawsox bill did pass the House and the Senate reluctantly passed it in the hopes of keeping the team in Rhode Island. The final product results in a higher cost to the team with less risk placed on the State. It is unclear whether the deal will be accepted by the team.
H.7800 SubA as amended passed the House and Senate on the last day. This bill was amended in the last hours. The original bill would have required employers to provide paper documents (i.e. 1099 forms, checks etc.) unless the employee opted out to allow electronic documents to be utilized. The bill was amended to say that statements and records “may” be furnished as printed or handwritten records, at no cost to the employee. “The employer may furnish to an employee electronic records, in lieu of a printed or handwritten record, when a written authorization from such employee is provided to the employer.” If this bill is allowed to go into law by the Governor, it will be effective upon passage.
The myriad of bills put forth by the Commission to Study Sexual Harassment in the Workplace saw no action on the House floor. The chamber testified against H.8277 (Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro, Donovan) that would have required employers with 50+ employees to provide sexual harassment training to each new employee within 30 days of hiring, training to new managerial employees and a refresher training course every 2 years for all employees. The Chamber also testified against H.8278 (Tanzi, Kazarian, Ruggiero, Walsh, Regunberg) which called for a ban on non-disclosure agreements involving sexual harassment and other civil rights cases. The bill also would have affected the ability to include such agreements as part of legal settlement actions, leading to more full litigation.
Marijuana popped up in the closing day as the House and Senate passed legislation requiring that any use of a premises for marijuana cultivation be disclosed in any real estate transaction. According to the floor debate, “marijuana cultivation” means a property with 28 or more plants under the Rhode Island medical marijuana law. If a property was used for such a purpose, that use would need to be disclosed when the property is for sale. Proponents claim the equipment and conditions under which plants are grown can lead to mold and other issues on a property. Opponents point to the fact that such disclosure technically requires an owner to admit to breaking federal law, and places the sale of the property in jeopardy. The Governor has not made her intentions known, so it is unclear whether the bill will eventually become law.
Internet Privacy was in play most of the last few days of session. H.7111 SubA called for companies with 10+ employees to change their websites, disclosing to whom they sell collected data; and if applicable, who their third party vendors sell data to as well. To avoid the disclosure requirement, companies could sign confidentiality agreements with vendors AND actively monitor the third parties to ensure compliance with the confidentiality agreements. A customer would have the right to know what data was collected on him/her individually and how the data was used. This collection procedure is problematic, because it requires entities to keep information together with the customer’s name – something cyber security experts say makes it easier for hackers to steal identities. The sponsor – Rep. Evan Shanley – agreed to amend his bill into a study commission to work with the business community over the fall to develop a workable solution. We thank him for his willingness to listen to the business community’s concerns.
S.2638 Sub A, requiring an employer of 100 or more employees to report information as to compensation/hours worked by age/gender/race/ethnicity/job category/occupation/title to DLT did not make it to the House floor for a vote.
The Re-naming of T.F. Green Airport seemed as if it was on its way to the Governor’s desk, but was derailed at the very end. The House voted to adopt a changed as requested by the airport commission to the “Rhode Island International Airport.” The Senate voted to lengthen the name to “Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport.” The bills were never reconciled. The jet fuel tax proposed by the airport commission did not survive the night as well. The commission wanted to tax jet fuel at a rate of 7% and then credit the amount collected back to the airlines against their CTE fees paid to the airport. The commission argued that airlines look at the CTE at airports to determine where they might want to establish hubs. By lowering the CTE, the airport may attract more airlines and more flight routes. Opponents were concerned that the commission may keep the jet fuel tax in future years thus increasing the cost of flights.
During the final hours of session, both the Senate and the House said official good-byes to legislators who have decided to forego running in the upcoming elections. The list of those not seeking re-election as an incumbent include: Senator Paul Fogarty from Glocester, Senator Marc Cote from Woonsocket, Senator Dan DaPonte from East Providence, Representative Joy Hearn from Barrington, Representative Robert Nardolillo from Coventry who is running for US Senate, Representative Tom Winfield from Smithfield, Representative Aaron Regunberg from Providence who is running for Lt. Governor, Representative Patricia Morgan from West Warwick who is running for Governor, Representative Jared Nunes from Coventry, Representative Jeremiah O’Grady from Lincoln, and Representative Helder Cunha from East Providence.
If you wish to run for any office this year, you must file a declaration form found at:
and deliver it to your local board of canvassers by Wednesday 4:00 pm.
As you may be aware, the RI Department of Labor sent a letter to businesses stating that the Department would not enforce the Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act (PSSLA) until January 1, 2019. While perhaps well meaning, this letter has only set a trap for Rhode Island businesses. The PSSLA provides employees with the right to seek relief through the assistance of DLT, but it also gives employees a private right of action. DLT has no authority over the court system; and the Court will have no choice but to enforce the law. The only way to delay the effective date of the law is through legislative intervention. The Chamber sent a letter to the leadership of the House and the Senate asking them to remedy this situation.
If the legislature does not act, the PSSLA goes into full effect July 1, 2018. If the legislature delays the PSSLA in its entirety, then businesses will have until January 1, 2019 to change policy manuals, begin the accrual of time off for employees and provide the leave. Lastly, if the legislature chooses to only delay the penalties in the Act until January 1, 2019, then businesses must change their policies, begin accrual, and provide employees with the time off – but if you make a mistake, the penalties provided in the law by the courts and DLT will not be assessed as long as the business corrects the situation before January 1, 2019.
An Update from the State House
The House passed the $9.55 billion budget 66-7 at 9:52 p.m. last Friday night. Had the debate continued much longer, the House was prepared to return to finishing the debate Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Most changes to the budget were technical in nature, although the sports betting agreement was reached. The State will get 51% of the revenue, IGT – the operator of the betting will get 32%, and Twin River will get 17%. In addition, the communities of Lincoln and Tiverton will receive and annual payment of $100,000 for hosting the facilities. Some in the media drew attention to the fact that the amended Article passed with no debate on the floor, but most legislators had agreed on the amount that would be raised from the activity prior to the final vote leaving debate unnecessary.
This Week At the State House
We are coming into what should be the last week of the 2018 legislative session. Many issues remain in play: Pay Equity, the Pawsox Stadium, Internet Privacy Disclosures, Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace, Non-Disclosure Agreements in Employer/Employee Settlement Agreements, Anti-bullying Procedures in the Workplace, Health Insurance Surprise Billing, Harassment Reports for Companies with 100+ Employees…the list is substantial.
The House Speaker said he hopes to reach consensus on Pawsox legislation by Tuesday. H.7290 (Reps. Messier, Coughlin, Johnston, Tobon and Barros) is scheduled for a hearing and possible consideration in the House Finance Committee at 3:30pm in Room 35 of the State House.
H.7111 SubA (Reps. Shanley, Carson, Regunberg, Marszalkowski and Edwards) remains very much in play. This bill is referred to by proponents as the Data Transparency bill. The Chamber sent out an action alert last week asking for your help. The Senate version is S.2277 (Sens. Pearson, Euer, Goldin, Satchell, Seveney). Various business groups met with the House sponsor Monday. The fate of the bill is unclear at this time. While the bill is very difficult for telecom companies to administer, it also has ramifications for the general business population as well.
1. If a company has 10 employees or more and is completely self-contained in its internet customer information collection activity, then the company has no new requirements under this bill. “Self-contained” means the company creates its own website, gathers the data itself, shares it with no one – not even a website operator or payment company.
2. If a company has 10+ employees and uses a third-party to create and operate its website or to take orders, fill orders or uses a payment system that interacts with the website information, then the company must execute a confidentiality agreement with the third party and take steps to “effectively enforce” the agreement. If that happens, the company has no new requirements under the law.
3. If a company has 10+ employees and fails to meet the criteria of #2 above, or if the company shares information with a third party for the third party’s use, then the company must change its website by July 1, 2018, to state what categories of information are collected, disclose the third parties that receive the information and how it is used, and provide information on how a consumer can request specific knowledge about the information on file with the company. If a customer requests information, the company has 30 days to provide a list of the information that has been collected over the past 12 months concerning that specific customer. This means that the data collected must be collected in a way where it is tied to the name of the customer – something cyber security experts advise against to deter hackers from obtaining identity theft information.
This bill is not law in any other state in the country. Illinois passed it, but it was vetoed by the Governor of Illinois.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8320
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SPORTS, RACING, AND ATHLETICS - SPORTS BETTING (Establishes 9 sports betting parlor licenses for on-site/on-line wagering with DBR granted licensing/regulatory power relating to license issuance to applicants/employees/third-party vendors/collection of fees/taxes with local licensing. eff. 11/6/18)
This year’s elections are extremely important to the business community. In many cases, the only contested races will take place in the Primary election September 12, 2018. In order to vote in a party’s primary election, you must either be a member of that party or unaffiliated (independent) and be registered to vote in the district where you live.
If you would like to have more choices on who to vote for in the Primary Election, it is recommended that you register as “unaffiliated” so that you can choose which primary to vote in depending who is running in the Primary. The deadline for disaffiliating is June 14, 2018.
To register to vote, check your affiliation, or to change to “unaffiliated,” go to https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ and have your driver’s license in hand.
Also, as stated previously in UTD, anyone wishing to run for office must file a Declaration of Candidacy Form with the Local Board of Canvassers in the City or Town in which you reside. Forms can be filed June 24th, 25th or 26th. Last week, Senator Daniel DaPonte (East Providence) announced he will not seek re-election.
An Update from the State House
Last Week At the State House
The Senate Committee on Environment and Energy discussed S.2747 (Senators Euer, Coyne, Miller, Sosnowski and Calkin). S.2747 creates the Rhode Island Global Warming Solutions Act, which establishes legally enforceable emission reductions in the state. To accomplish these goals, the bill requires the Office of Energy Resources, the Department of Transportation and the State Building Commission to promulgate rules necessary to achieve the emission reduction goals or face a lawsuit in Superior Court. The bill mandates a 5% requirement for electric vehicles sales by 2025, 40% electric vehicles by 2035, and 95% by 2050. It also mandates that all existing buildings – commercial and residential would have to be heated solely by electricity by 2050. Ten percent of buildings heated by oil or propane would have to be switched to electric heat by 2025. No new building with a shovel in the ground on or after January 1, 2035 could be heated with oil or propane. By 2050, all RI buildings must be converted to electric heat.
The Conservation Law Foundation testified that S.2747 was modeled after a Massachusetts bill and that the economy of MA has not suffered from its passage. However, the MA bill does not include the electric car or the electric heat mandate; and the MA bill does not reach its first emissions reduction requirement until 2020, so no economic activity can be related to the passage of the MA Act – good or bad.
This Week At the State House
The Special Legislative Commission to Study Unlawful Sexual Harassment in the Workplace finished its work last week by filing seven bills aimed at curtailing harassment (two additional bills may be filed later this week).
H.8275 (Reps. Vella-Wilkinson, Giarrusso, Serpa, McEntee and Lombardi) requires DCYF and the department of education to identify or develop a program of age appropriate sexual abuse and sexual awareness education to be used in schools.
H.8276 (Reps. Tanzi, Ruggiero, Diaz, Hearn and Amore) extends the timeframe for an individual to bring an allegation of an unfair employment practice to the RI Commission Against Discrimination. The proposed Statute of Limitations would change from one year to two years after an incident has occurred.
H.8277 (Reps Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro and Donovan) requires employers with 50 employees or more to conduct mandatory anti sexual harassment training within three months of a new employee’s hiring, or within three months of an employee’s promotion to a managerial position. All employees must go through a refresher training course every two years. The Department of Administration is required to provide training materials – free of charge – to any business that requests such information. Any business that receives $50,000 or more in state funds or contracts from the state must provide proof that the required training has been completed. Finally, H.8277 encourages companies to complete an annual “climate” survey including sexual harassment issues and equal opportunity questions.
H.8278 (Reps. Tanzi, Kazarian, Ruggiero, Walsh and Regunberg) forbids an employer to require an employee to execute a nondisclosure agreement or a non-disparagement agreement regarding alleged violations of civil rights or criminal conduct. These agreements go beyond sexual harassment and could include a wide variety of issues. Employers could no longer include such confidentiality agreements in any settlements.
H.8279 (Reps. Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro and Messier) expands the definition of employee under the Fair Employment Practices Act: “includes any individual under the direction and control of an employer under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written.” It specifically eliminates the exemption for individuals in domestic service – housekeepers, nannies, etc; and includes volunteers and unpaid interns. The Fair Employment Practices Act covers much more than sexual harassment issues. The Act addresses age discrimination and accommodations for disabled employees among other categories.
H.8280 (Reps. McEntee, Tanzi, Craven, Knight and Vella-Wilkinson) suspends the statute of limitations for alleged violations of discrimination, sexual harassment or civil rights brought to the RI Human Rights Commission and resets the clock to one year once the claim is filed.
H.8281 (Reps. Shanley, Tanzi, McEntee, Regunberg and Vella-Wilkinson) creates a reporting requirement for state agencies and departments for violations of the fair employment practices chapter and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative chapter. Any employer found to have committed an unfair employment practice (refusal to hire based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. or doesn't accommodate a disability) would be listed in an annual report to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President. It is likely that report would be considered a public document. The report would also include a list of agencies that have been accused - not found in violation - of failing to meet their affirmative action plan.
The House and Senate, along with the Governor are actively meeting to work out a spending plan for FY2019. While there is a small chance the House Finance Committee will vote out a budget this week, next week seems more likely. Once voted out of Committee, the budget must sit on the House floor for seven days before the full House can vote on the document.
The Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony Thursday at the Rise on S.2196 (Senators Nesselbush, Crowley, Paolino, Jabour and Miller) which proposes a tax on sugary beverages. The tax would be paid by wholesalers; however, if the wholesaler fails to pay the tax, the retailer would become responsible for payment. Tier 1: Beverages with less than five grams (5g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will not be taxed. Tier 2: Beverages with more than five grams (5g) but less than twenty grams (20g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will be taxed at a rate of one cent ($0.01) per ounce. Tier 3: Beverages with twenty grams (20g) of sugar or more per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will be taxed at a rate of two cents ($0.02) per ounce. Syrups and powders which, together with fluids, create a sugary beverage will be taxed as well.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8253
BY Williams, Diaz, Slater, Maldonado, Tobon
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS - MINORITY BUSINESS ENTERPRISE (Provides that any minority business enterprise that is certified under the Federal Small Business Act shall be deemed certified by the department of administration as a minority business enterprise.)
House Bill No. 8254
BY McKiernan, Almeida, Perez, Winfield, Fogarty
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES--STEP THERAPY PROTOCOL (Requires health insurers, nonprofit hospital service corporations, nonprofit medical service corporations and health maintenance organizations that issue policies that provide coverage for prescription drugs and use step therapy protocols.)
House Bill No. 8258
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - BUSINESS CORPORATION AND PERSONAL INCOME TAX (Limit to 7 yrs the period within which bus. corp tax/personal income tax may be assessed for taxpayers failing to file returns on date return was due to be filed/10 yrs within which collection actions can begin from date balance assessed with 4 exceptions)
House Bill No. 8264
BY Shanley, Tanzi, McEntee, Vella-Wilkinson, Giarrusso
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Enhances reporting for state agencies required for violations of the fair employment practices chapter and the equal opportunity and affirmative action chapter.)
Senate Bill No. 2934
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- HEALTH CARE--HEALTH INSURANCE (Establishes the Rhode Island reinsurance program and restricted receipt account, from federal funding, administered by the director of the Rhode Island health benefits exchange, to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals on health insurance rates.)
Senate Bill No. 2941
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS (Reserves 5% of energy efficiency funds for low-income residents for assistance to residents who seek financial assistance with electric bills but do not meet eligibility guidelines for other financial assistance programs.)
Senate Bill No. 2950
BY Ciccone, Miller, Lombardi, Nesselbush, Fogarty
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- RHODE ISLAND PARENTAL AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (Allows employee granted unpaid family/parental leave to substitute any accrued vacation/sick/ other appropriate leave for any part of the unpaid leave.)
Senate Bill No. 2953
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- HOSPITAL CLOSURE TRANSITION ACT (Creates the "Hospital Closure Transition Act which would facilitate the acquisition of a closed hospital's assets by an existing hospital by exempting the acquisition from the hospital conversions and health care facilities licensing acts.)
Senate Bill No. 2954
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- HEALTH AND SAFETY--ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT INCENTIVE FOR CERTAIN ELIGIBLE HOSPITALS (Establishes a formula to create a transitional alternative payment method incentive to be used in calculating reimbursement rates that must be paid by health insurance carriers to eligible Rhode Island hospitals.)
New law prohibits driver use of hand-held wireless devices
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island State Police joined with federal and state leaders today to highlight the upcoming new hands-free law in Rhode Island. The law takes effect on June 1 and prohibits a driver from using a hand-held wireless communication device while driving.
At a press conference today at AAA Northeast's Providence headquarters, officials discussed the many benefits of the new law. Distracted driving caused by use of personal electronic devices is a growing problem, leading to needless deaths and serious injuries.
The new hands-free law was sponsored by Senator V. Susan Sosnowski and Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report in 2015, distracted driving claimed nearly 3,500 lives with nearly 400,000 people seriously injured in these crashes.
"Many of us have grown accustomed to using mobile devices in almost every aspect of our lives, including in our cars and trucks. This is especially true for our younger population, which grew up with this kind of technology embedded in their daily lives," said Senator Sosnowski. "It's important not to forget that every time we step into a vehicle, we are taking our lives and the lives of others into our own hands. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous."
"Our children are especially vulnerable to distracted driving. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 10 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to be 'distracted' at the time of the crash," said Representative Kathleen Fogarty. "Senator Sosnowski and I are proud to have sponsored this legislation and are gratified to see it going into effect."
"Like so many other types of crashes we see, those involving drivers distracted by their cell phones are preventable," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. "We will continue to work with our partners to educate the public about safe driving behaviors."
The new law allows drivers to use an in-car or other hands-free system or accessory, such as Bluetooth. If a police officer observes someone holding a phone while driving, her or she will be pulled over and may be fined up to $100. The offense may be waived for first offenders only by showing proof of purchase of a hands-free device before the fine is due.
The law does not include any provisions for minors, who already are not allowed to use a cell phone while driving - not even with a hands-free device. The law also does not supersede Rhode Island's no-texting law.
"With education and enforcement, there's no question this new hands-free law will save lives," said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. "We will do our part to ensure motorists understand and abide by the new law, which will make our roads safer for everyone."
At the event today, a variety of hands-free devices were shown and discussed. Many newer cars have features already built in, and Bluetooth devices are widely available at retail stores and online. Those having difficulty with pairing their phones should seek advice from the car or electronics retailer where they purchased the devices.
"Ground-breaking research by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety has highlighted the dangers of manual, visual and cognitive distraction while operating a motor vehicle," says John Galvin, AAA Northeast president and CEO. "We are proud to have supported the efforts of the Governor and the General Assembly in passing a common-sense hands-free law that will reduce crash risk and make all motorists safer on Rhode Island's roadways."
Additional information can be found online on RIDOT's website at www.ridot.net/handsfree.
After completing their break, the legislature is back in action, although the pace is a little bit slower at this point – mirroring the old cliché “the calm before the storm.” The House and Senate Finance committees have begun to discuss the budget in the hopes of completing a spending plan by mid-June (the end of June may more likely); and the remainder of the committees are starting to pass bills for consideration by the full body. Still – a few new bills have been introduced and hearings continue to proceed.
H.8117, a new bill listed below, will be heard by the House Corporations Committee Tuesday. Under current law, The Division of Taxation is required to send a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles listing the names, social security numbers and addresses of those individuals who fail to pay taxes to the State of Rhode Island as required. There is no administrative or appellate review. The DMV will then refuse to register a vehicle or transfer one until the taxes are paid. H.8117 requires the Tax Administrator to send a notice to everyone on the list in order to provide them with the opportunity to pay the amount due or to contest the finding.
S.2226 (Sen. Lynch Prata, McCaffrey, Miller, Metts, and Nesselbush) will be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday. This bill simply requires all hospitals to offer flu vaccinations, during the flu season, to patients (inpatients and outpatients) who are 65 years of age or older. The 2017-2018 season was particularly active. Sadly, between October 1st and April 4th, Rhode Island lost 42 people to flu-related death – 38 were age 65+. Hospitals reported that 822 inpatients age 65+ tested positive for the flu. 605 outpatients age 65+ tested positive for the flu. In addition, the Rhode Island Department of Health has reported that Memorial Hospital ER in Pawtucket was treating about 80 people each day with Influenza like symptoms, at full capacity, thus sending patients with Influenza like symptoms to other Providence area hospitals. Proponents hope that more opportunities to obtain the flu shot will result in less deaths or hospitalizations.
S.2461 (Sen. Metts, and Quezada) adds the same restrictions concerning second-hand exposure to marijuana and vaping. In a nutshell, if a person can’t legally smoke tobacco in a specific location (i.e. in a commercial building, by the door) then if S.2461 passes, a person could not smoke marijuana or use a vapor system in that location. S.2461 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
The opponents of the Burrillville Power Plant have another opportunity to stop the siting of the plant. H.8120 (Rep. Keable, Newberry, Price, Handy, Ruggiero) was filed last Friday and will receive a hearing in the House Committee on Environment and Energy Thursday. H.8120 increases the number of people on the Energy Facilities Siting Board from 3 to 9. Under current law, the Director of the PUC, DEM and the Director of Administration for Planning are the members of the board. This bill would add the Department of Health, Attorney General, 4 members of the public (2 of which must be residents of the proposed host community of a facility, 1 appointed by the Attorney General with specific qualifications, and 1 who is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association with specific qualifications). If H.8120 were to pass it would be very difficult to site any energy facility in the state.
H.7905 (Rep. Craven) will be heard in the House Labor Committee Thursday. H.7905 allows for employers, in workers' compensation actions, to shift the legal burden to employees to prove they were not intoxicated at the time of injury or death, after a showing that the employee had a positive test for intoxicating substances. Passage would mark a small victory for the business community.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8109
BY Marszalkowski, Morin, Ruggiero, Marshall, Edwards
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- MANUFACTURING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT--TAX INCENTIVES (Establishes the "refundable investment tax credit act" to provide for a refundable investment tax credit for certain investments in the construction of facilities, acquisition of tangible property, and the training of employees in the state.)
House Bill No. 8117
BY Costantino, Lima, Marshall, Bennett, Winfield
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- REGISTRATION OF VEHICLES (Requires tax administrator to send written notice to persons failing to file tax returns/pay taxes informing them they will be prevented from renewing operator license/vehicle registration and procedures to contest determination.)
House Bill No. 8120
BY Keable, Newberry, Price, Handy, Ruggiero
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - ENERGY FACILITY SITING ACT (Makes changes to the membership of the energy facilities siting board by increasing the size of the board from three (3) to nine (9) members, and also imposes additional requirements on applicants for energy facilities. Effective 1/1/2019.)
House Bill No. 8122
BY Abney, Marshall, Ruggiero
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LICENSES GENERALLY (Simplifies the process of doing business in Rhode Island by eliminating unnecessary licensing requirements of various business entities.)
Bristol Chiropractic developed a reputation for providing great patient-centered chiropractic care to the East Bay area over the past 5 years by providing only the best available conservative treatment options for the most common musculoskeletal complaints. From pain management, both acute and chronic, to improving posture and providing solutions to the problems caused by the demands of the modern workplace, Bristol Chiropractic has established itself as a valuable ally in your journey to health.
Currently led by Dr. Robert B. Edwards II, DC, a Rhode Island native, Bristol Chiropractic seeks to expand its services in the East Bay. Dr. Edwards believes that healthcare is at its best when your team of providers is working together on your behalf, and as such he hopes to improve interdisciplinary relationships to accomplish this. More and more progressive research surfaces each year supporting the efficacy of chiropractic care as an adjunct to traditional healthcare, but the problem is that this research is slow to be shared. Dr. Edwards hopes to use these findings as talking points to show how chiropractic can significantly benefit the community.
Over the next several months, Dr. Edwards will focus on reaching out to establish relationships with other businesses in the area. If you would like more information on how chiropractic care can impact your workplace, or how it can help you or a loved one reach a personal goal, please contact us. We hope to have the opportunity to serve you.
Bristol Chiropractic is located at 685 Metacom Ave in Bristol, RI, in back of Bristol Total Fitness. Hours are flexible, M-W-F 8am to 6pm and Tuesday 8am-12pm. Hours will be expanding for summer. We accept many major health insurances including Medicare, Blue Cross, Tufts, and Harvard Pilgrim. You can reach the office by phone at (401) 396-9892, or email Dr. Edwards directly at email@example.com.
Last week at the statehouse over one thousand people showed up on a Tuesday afternoon to support the right to own guns. Proponents of new gun restriction laws also were in the building; but what this author finds refreshing is that everyone was respectful. Individuals exercised their right to petition the government with dignity. Wednesday the state house closed due to weather forcing the Senate Labor Committee minimum wage hearing to be cancelled and rescheduled for Wednesday, March 14th in Room 212 At the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm). Thursday the Chamber testified against a mandate to provide 13 weeks of unpaid pregnancy leave to part time workers (benefit is available day one of hire); against a bill that requires businesses to give 40 hours of leave to pick up a child at school necessitated by an emergency, illness, or behavioral problem; and in favor of legislation to allow seasonal businesses (open less than 20 weeks a year) to treat seasonal employees similar to contract employees by providing a start and finish date and thus make them ineligible for unemployment benefits at the end of the season.
What’s Going On This Week
While the Senate Labor Committee takes up minimum wage bills on Wednesday, the House Labor Committee will take testimony on the same bills Thursday, in Room 101, At the Rise. H.7199 (Reps. Bennett, Craven, Ranglin-Vassell, Knight and Regunberg) raises the minimum wage to $11 on January 1, 2019. H.7397 (Reps. Walsh, Lombardi, Ranglin-Vassell, Hull and Maldonado) raises the tipped wage fifty cents per year until the tipped wage equals the state’s regular minimum wage. H.7636 (Reps. Ranglin-Vassell, Regunberg, Ajello, Hull and Bennett) incrementally raises the minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2026. H.
The House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will meet Thursday in Room 203 At the Rise. H.7827 (Reps. Handy, Regunberg, McKiernan Barros and Williams) creates what is called the Rhode Island Global Warming Solutions Act. Its stated purpose is to “create a fair, workable, cost-effective, legally enforceable, system by which Rhode Island will be able to reduce its economy-wide carbon emissions by at least eighty percent (80%) below 1990 levels by 2050. It achieves this goal by directing the Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources to adopt, within one year of the effective date, “mandatory and enforceable regulations that the commissioner believes are reasonably necessary to achieve” the emissions requirement for electricity generators and indirect electricity users. The Commissioner must consult with other agencies to develop the regulations. The Department of Transportation is charged with performing the same task for the transportation emissions that come from personal vehicles, trucks, etc. The Director must meet the 80% emissions reduction regardless of the expense, science or mandates that might be necessary. This is truly the most difficult piece of the legislation in that it would, in reality, require Rhode Islanders to reduce driving or purchase electric vehicles (although a large majority of Rhode Island electricity is generated by natural gas). H.7827 also includes the same requirement for building codes, with regulations to be drafted by the state building commissioner. Should any Commissioner or Director fail to enact regulations that achieve the reductions in emissions, any individual could bring an action in Providence Superior Court to force the regulations – no matter how costly – to be promulgated.
H.7851 (Reps. McEntee, Handy, Regunberg, Fogarty and Tanzi) bans large retailers – defined as those with annual retail gross sales volumes of $5 million or more – from providing plastic bags to customers effective January 1, 2021. Retailers can charge customers up to 25 cents per paper bag unless that customer is a SNAP or EBT card holder at which time no fee may be charged. In addition, no retail establish, large or small, could provide polystyrene disposable food containers at point of sale starting January 1, 2021.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 7832
BY Maldonado, Tanzi, Barros, Diaz, Ajello
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - SUGARY DRINKS (Creates a tax on sugary drinks for the purpose of reducing the demand for those beverages, and discouraging the excessive consumption of, sugary drinks.)
House Bill No. 7847
BY Phillips, Morin, Casey, Solomon, Ucci
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Repeals the monthly surcharge and prepaid wireless E-911 charge and replaces them with a budget appropriation by the general assembly to fund the E-911 system.)
House Bill No. 7849
BY Solomon, McKiernan, Shekarchi, Casey, Morin
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - ESTABLISHING A SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FUND (Establishes a small business development fund to encourage formation of private capital investment by federally-licensed investment companies.)
House Bill No. 7851
BY McEntee, Handy, Regunberg, Fogarty, Tanzi
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION ACT (Prohibits large retail establishments from providing plastic checkout bags/all retail establishments providing polystyrene food containers with enforcement by municipalities with opt out election effective January 1, 2021.)
House Bill No. 7868
BY Tanzi, Regunberg, Maldonado
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- HEALTHY BEVERAGE ACT (Creates the "Healthy Beverage Act" and requires children's meals provided by restaurants include certain healthy beverage options if the beverage comes with the meal.)
House Bill No. 7887
BY Barros, Shanley, Maldonado, Kazarian, Blazejewski
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - THE PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP BOTTLE RECYCLING ACT (Creates a beverage container recycling program using redemption centers which includes the use of automated devices to accept containers for recycling.)
House Bill No. 7893
BY Williams, Morin, Vella-Wilkinson, Walsh, Hull
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - PAYMENT OF WAGES (Enables employees to file a lien against their employers personal or real property for unpaid wages.)
House Bill No. 7899
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- THE EDWARD O. HAWKINS AND THOMAS C. SLATER MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT (Prohibits employers from refusing to hire/discharge/discriminate against medical marijuana users testing positive for marijuana use.)
House Bill No. 7900
BY Slater, Diaz, Handy, Blazejewski, Maldonado
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE HOME ENERGY RATE AFFORDABILITY ACT (Creates the Home Energy Rate Affordability Program to ensure that utility rates are affordable for low-income households.)
House Bill No. 7937
BY Phillips, Newberry, Shanley, Barros, Johnston
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SALES AND USE TAXES - ENFORCEMENT AND COLLECTION (Eliminates the ten dollar ($10.00) fee requirement for the sales tax permit.)