Phase 2 of the legislative session begins with a flurry of activity. The following bills are scheduled for hearings this week:
Tuesday, February 28th
The House Corporations Committee will take testimony on H.5159, An Act Relating to Motor and Other Vehicles – Parking Facilities and Privileges. This bill requires large employers – defined as those with 100 employees located in a single complex – to install circuitry and other necessary equipment to support Level 2 or DC fast chargers in new parking lots as well as lots undergoing a 50% expansion renovation. The mandate also applies to big box stores, grocery stores, housing developments with more than twenty units, malls, hotels, and certain municipal buildings.
For businesses, the costs associated with compliance will depend upon the infrastructure needed, equipment desired, software and electricity cost. Electrical conduits may require an upgrade. An existing 240-volt circuit may require only a few hours of an electrician’s labor, while a 480-volt circuit could cost tens of thousands. A December, 2021 Rhode Island report estimated the cost for make-ready work for a Level 2 charging station ranges from $7000 per port to $14000 per station with two ports, and roughly $45,000 - $50,000 per port for a fast-charging station (Electrifying Transportation: A Strategic Policy Guide for Improving Public Access to Electric Vehicle charging Infrastructure in Rhode Island). A level 2 charging unit ranges from $4500 to $8200, but they offer a small mileage range of charging. A DC fast charging unit costs between $28,000 and $140,000 depending on the kW charging capacity. These units allow for 200 plus mileage charging. A business also will likely need to paint striping on the lot and install some type of protective posts to protect the unit. The mandated number of parking spaces dedicated to EV charging stations depends upon the number of total spaces in the parking lot. (10-25 spaces = 1 EV; 26-50 spaces = 2 EV; 51-75 spaces = 4 EV; 76-100 spaces = 5 EV; 101-150 spaces = 7 EV; 151-200 spaces = 10 EV; and 201+ spaces = 6% of the total spaces must be EV-ready) The Chamber supports efforts to encourage voluntary installation of EV chargers, but opposes a blanket mandate. If this is of interest to your company, submit testimony to the Committee at: HouseCorporations@rilegislature.gov
Senate Finance is meeting to discuss adding a new tax bracket for higher-end earners in Rhode Island. S.19 proposes to add a new income tax bracket at a rate of 11.90% on taxable income over $500,000 starting January 1, 2024. S.232 adds an additional tax of 3% on taxable income over $417,500 with the intent to adjust the tax rate for inflation each year thereafter. The Chamber opposes the passage of these bills, because many of the “individuals” affected by these tax increase proposals are small businesses. They are referred to as “pass-through’ entities that include income and expenses associated with their businesses on their personal income tax statements. Rhode Island has a budget surplus at this time. Testimony can be submitted to: SenateFinance@rilegislature.gov Wednesday, March 1st
The House Labor Committee has a full agenda Wednesday at 4:00pm in the House Lounge. H.5370, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – RI Noncompetition Agreement Act voids any non-compete clause that restrains an employee from “engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind.” Under current law, non-compete clauses are not enforceable against non-exemption employees, employees under 18 years of age, and low wage employees.
H.5445, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations - Fair Employment Practices Act is also on the agenda. This bill creates individual liability for any person, employer, or employees who directly or indirectly commit any act declared to be an unlawful employment practice. H.5445 seems to be aimed at overturning a 2017 Rhode Island Supreme Court decision - Mancini vs City of Providence. The case involved a Providence Police Sergeant who alleged he was illegally denied a promotion based on discriminatory factors; and he attempted to sue then Chief of Police, Hugh Clements, Jr. personally. The Rhode Island Supreme Court stated, “allowing for the possibility of individual liability would have a predictably chilling effect on the discretionary management decisions of supervisory employees.” The Chamber encourages members of human resource staffs to submit testimony for the Wednesday hearing.
H.5585, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Workers’ Compensation – Benefits, addresses adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations when the employer requires employees to be vaccinated. All related medical conditions would be classified as covered under the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
H.5592, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Inspection of Personnel Files, proposes to change the current state law addressing an employee’s right to look at personnel files. Today, employers have seven (7) days to respond to an employee’s request for a copy of the file; H.5592 reduces the time to five (5) days. The bill expands the definition of “employee” as a current or “former employee.” Employers are required to retain the complete personnel record – without deletion or expungement of information – for three years after the termination of the employee, or longer if the individual has filed an action against the employer. Lastly, the bill increases the penalty for violation of the law from the current $100 fine, to a fine between $500 and $2,500. The Department of Labor and Training (DLT) determines the amount of the fine to be levied and may consider the size of the company, gravity of the violation, willfulness and history. Fines paid go to the DLT. A separate penalty of $500 must be paid to the employee/former employee as liquidated damages.
The Senate Labor Committee is also meeting on Wednesday to take testimony on a S.145, An Act Relating to Labor Relations – Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act. S.145 increases the amount of parental or family leave available to an employee from thirteen (13) weeks to twenty-four (24) weeks in any two (2) calendar years. If an employer provides paid leave to employees for a period of time, the additional weeks added under this proposal may remain as unpaid leave. The bill calls for an effective date “upon passage.” The law, as it stands today, applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Leave is available for the care of family members, defined as “a parent, spouse, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, or the employee himself or herself.” To submit written testimony, use the following link: SLegislation@rilegislature.gov
Thursday, March 2nd
The House Committee on Innovation, Internet & Technology hits the ground running with two data privacy bills. H.5354, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – General Regulatory Provisions – RI Data Transparency and Privacy Protection Act, and H.5745, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – RI Personal Data and Online Privacy Protection Act.
H.5354 requires certain entities that collect “personal data” on the web or through an online service, to post in a conspicuous place, the categories of personally identifiable information it collects along with the names of all third parties to which it may disclose the information. “Personal data” is defined as the collection of a person’s first name or first initial, the last name, and any one or more of the following items: credit card with security code, account number, social security number, driver’s license, passport number, RI ID number, medical or health insurance information, email with security code or password, or biometric data. Failure to post the information, would be a violation of Rhode Island’s Deceptive Trade Practice Law which carries with it a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation that can be initiated by the Attorney General. If the failure to disclose the required information is considered intentional, or if a company sets up a “shell company” to collect the data to avoid disclosure, H.5354 adds an additional penalty of $100 - $500 for each disclosure violation. The bills does exclude the following entities: (1) financial institutions or affiliates covered under Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; (2) data subject to HIIPA rules and regulations; (3) contractors and subcontractors working with the state or a municipality; (4) Tax-exempt organizations under the IRS code; (5) data collection for sales summaries or statistical data that is aggregated and not personally identifiable; and (6) consumer reporting agencies defined by 15 U.S.C 1681a(f).
H.5745 is a 21-page consumer rights bill addressing online privacy. It broadly defines “personal data” and “any information that is linked or reasonably linkable to an identified or identifiable individual.” Businesses that process the personal data of 100,000 RI consumers or more, as well as businesses that process personal data of 25,000 RI consumers plus derive 25% of its gross revenue from the sale of personal data, are captured under this legislation. Exemptions exist for government entities, non-profits, higher education entities, businesses subject to Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Security Exchange regulations, medical research entities and HIPPA. If a business is not exempt, then consumers have various rights. A consumer can request information concerning how the person’s data is being used. The consumer can correct inaccuracies in the company’s record and require the company to delete personal data. A consumer can opt-out of direct targeted advertising efforts. An interesting twist in this bill allows a consumer to designate an agent to act on its behalf. In this case, if an agent requests any action on behalf of the consumer, the business must first confirm the agent’s designation with reasonable efforts prior to acting on the request. Businesses have 45 days to respond to requests from consumers and their agents, and can extend the timeframe for another 45 days if the request is complex or the business is overwhelmed with requests. The Attorney General has sole enforcement authority. For the first two years after passage, the Attorney General can give violators sixty (60) days to cure the problem if that is possible. After the first two years, the Attorney General can prosecute under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act – up to $10,000 per violation.
House Bill No. 5592 Batista, Potter, Alzate, Felix, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- INSPECTION OF PERSONNEL FILES (Amends the definitions of the inspection of personnel files. The act would also amend the penalties by increasing them to not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500).) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5592.pdf
House Bill No. 5593 Morales, Fellela, McEntee, Felix, Kislak, Cortvriend, McNamara, Henries, Speakman, Cruz, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- CONSUMER CREDIT HISTORY EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION ACT -- DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES (Prohibits employers from seeking/using credit reports in making hiring decisions concerning prospective employees/ asking questions about the applicant's financial past during its interviews/including credit history questions within the job applications.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5593.pdf
House Bill No. 5664 Place, Rea, Chippendale, Nardone, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- THE RHODE ISLAND LIMITED-LIABILITY COMPANY ACT (Permits a member or members of a limited-liability company to avoid dissolution by buying the units owned by the other member or members seeking dissolution.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5644.pdf
House Bill No. 5684 Cortvriend, Fogarty, Tanzi, Phillips, Edwards, Solomon, Speakman, AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES -- IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION ACT OF 2015 (Provides identity theft protections by requiring reporting of breaches by certain municipal and state agencies, and requires notice to collective bargaining agents where required and requires an explanation of remediation services.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5684.pdf
House Bill No. 5707 Giraldo, Alzate, Morales, Cruz, Potter, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PAYMENT OF WAGES (Requires employer to furnish items and conditions of employment and a pay stub explaining how wages were calculated/reasons for deductions/allows the employee to file a court action against employer for violation.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5707.pdf
House Bill No. 5708 Morales, Giraldo, Potter, Stewart, Slater, Sanchez, McGaw, McNamara, Felix, Fogarty, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PAYMENT OF WAGES (Requires employers in Rhode Island with thirty (30) or more employees would be required to list competitive salary ranges on their job postings on the company's hiring page or third-party websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed or other job boards.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5708.pdf
House Bill No. 5732 Casimiro, Noret, Morales, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW--GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- GIFT CARD FRAUD (Requires sellers of gift cards to post notice warning of scams/instructing consumers what to do as victims/train employees to identify/respond to fraud/violations punishable by a civil fine of $500.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5732.pdf
House Bill No. 5753 Rea, Costantino, Edwards, Casey, Chippendale, Hull, Roberts, Fellela, Place, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- SMALL BUSINESS TANGIBLE PROPERTY TAX RELIEF ACT (Exempts from taxation up to a maximum of $250,000 of tangible personal property of small businesses. Allows cities, towns, fire districts to increase tax rates on property assessed over excess $250,000.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5753.pdf
House Bill No. 5781 Kazarian, Giraldo, Carson, Cotter, Donovan, Serpa, Batista, O'Brien, Shanley, Casimiro, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE -- GENERAL PROVISIONS (Includes siblings/grandchildren/care recipient for temporary caregiver benefits of 12 weeks/Increases weekly dependent's allowances from $10 to $20 or 7% of benefit rate whichever is greater. Effective January 1, 2024.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5781.pdf
House Bill No. 5808 Donovan, Kazarian, Speakman, Alzate, Fenton-Fung, Casimiro, Carson, Caldwell, Tanzi, Messier, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- RHODE ISLAND WOMEN'S EQUITY INCENTIVE ACT OF 2023 (Creates the Rhode Island Women’s Equity Incentive Act of 2023 to address the inequalities experienced by women in the workforce by offering tax credits up to $2,500 per year to eligible businesses which create full-time jobs for women.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5808.pdf
Senate Bill No. 350 de la Cruz, Rogers, F. Lombardi, Ciccone, Paolino, E Morgan, Raptakis, DeLuca, AN ACT RELATING TO COURTS AND CIVIL PROCEDURE -- PROCEDURE GENERALLY -- CAUSES OF ACTION (Provides for a cause of action against an individual or entity that prohibits the possession of firearms on real property, except residences, by an individual that is authorized and licensed to carry a firearm.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0350.pdf
Senate Bill No. 425 DiPalma, Zurier, Burke, Sosnowski, Kallman, Euer, Acosta, Britto, de la Cruz, Ujifusa, AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES -- IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION ACT OF 2015 (Provides identity theft protections by requiring reporting of breaches by certain municipal and state agencies, and requires notice to collective bargaining agents where required and requires an explanation of remediation services.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0425.pdf
Senate Bill No. 430 Quezada, Euer, Cano, DiMario, Acosta, Lawson, Miller, Pearson, Valverde, Kallman, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Creates new definition for the term "employee", for purposes of wages, workers' compensation, temporary disability and unemployment insurance benefits, which deems a worker to be an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor.) http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0430.pdf
With no hearings scheduled at the State House this week, we will be highlighting a few pieces of legislation that, if passed, will have an impact on Chamber members.Last week the House released 200 new bills and extended its bill filing deadline to February 28th.The Senate introduced 286 new bills.
Labor Bills Introduced
S.145, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – RI Parental and Family Medical Leave Act, (introduced by Senators Cano, DiMario, Quezada, Euer, Lawson, Pearson, Burke, McKenney, and DiPalma).The bill increases unpaid family leave from 13 weeks to 24 weeks over a two-year period.If an employer provides paid leave to employees for a period of time, the additional weeks added under this proposal may remain as unpaid leave. The bill calls for an effective date “upon passage.”The law, as it stands today, applies to employers with 50 or more employees.Leave is available for the care of family members, defined as “a parent, spouse, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, or the employee himself or herself.”http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0145.pdf
S.430, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages (introduced by Senators Quezada, Euer, Cano, DiMario, Acosta, Lawson, Miller, Pearson, Valverde, and Kallman) creates a new definition for “employee” by adopting what is commonly known as the “ABC test” instead of the IRS test. To be classified as an independent contractor, not an employee, the person must meet all three of the following factors: 1.The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for performance of the work and in fact, 2.The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business, AND 3.The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business, of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
The Chamber testified against this bill in prior years.The first factor – control - is a key factor in the IRS test.The second factor causes the most difficulty for the business community.Swept up in this broad language could be sole proprietors in the field of technology, bookkeeping, cleaning, public relations, driving, elderly care, etc.It is difficult to imagine all of the potential disciplines that would fall into this category as the work climate evolves with technological advancements.A current individual independent contractor that reclassifies as an employee under this definition and works for more than one entity, would end up covered by multiple unemployment and workers’ compensation coverages that will never be able to be utilized, wasting precious dollars.The third factor could require litigation in order to flush out its meaning.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0430.pdf
H.5105, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage (introduced by Morales, Speakman, Bennett, Cruz, Henries, Vella-Wilkinson, Stewart, Tanzi, Sanchez) proposes to eliminate the minimum wage uniformity clause that was adopted by the General Assembly in 2014.At that time, the business community agreed to increase the minimum wage and asked for the uniformity clause in return.Without the uniformity clause, Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns could adopt differing wages at different times, leaving businesses with no ability to plan for potential increases in labor costs as well as subjecting them to wage confusion and eventual mistakes. Lastly, the new world order of remote work further complicates the idea of municipal minimum wage adoption. Businesses will have the burden of determining which wage is the correct wage to apply – the business location or the employee’s home.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5015.pdf
H.5589, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage (introduced by Morales, Henries, Felix, Kislak, Cruz, Sanchez, Stewart, Potter, Speakman, Handy) increases the minimum wage in years 2026, 2027 and 2028.Under current law, the minimum wage was raised to $13 an hour as of January 1, 2023.The law increases the wage to $14 January 1, 2024 and to $15 January 1, 2025.H.5589 changes the hourly rate in 2025 to $15.50; and then continues the wage increases to $17 as of January 1, 2026, $18.50 an hour January 1, 2027, and to $20 an hour January 1, 2028. http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5589.pdf
H.5600, An Act Relating to Public Property and Works – All Electric Building Act (introduced by Representatives Cortvriend, Potter, Handy, McGaw, Carson, Kislak, Donovan, Speakman, and Cotter) bans municipalities from issuing building permits for any commercial, residential or mixed-use building that is not all electric if the building permit application was submitted after December 31, 2024.“All electric” means the “building or project shall have no natural gas, propane, or oil heaters, boilers, piping systems, fixtures or infrastructure installed to meet building energy needs.” The bill does contain a waiver option if the municipality finds that the requirement renders the project physically or technologically infeasible, at which point systems could be installed, but only for those operations in the building that cannot be electrified. Exceptions would be granted to restaurants, hospitals, medical facilities or biolabs.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5600.pdf
H.5549, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Zero Emission Lawn Care Devices (introduced by Kislak, Ajello) mandates that by January 1, 2025, all lawn care devices sold in the state have zero emissions and that by January 1, 2028, all lawn care devices used in the state have zero emissions.The bill establishes civil penalties of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense.Under H.5549, DEM must accept location and date stamped videos from a cellphone or other camera as legal evidence of someone using a prohibited lawn care device after the deadline.The Office of Energy Resources is authorized to create a rebate program to assist individuals in the purchase of the zero emission devices and to create a trade-in program.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5549.pdf Tax Bills
S.232, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax (introduced by Senators Murray, Acosta, Valverde, Euer, DiPalma, Miller, Lawson, Lauria, DiMario, and McKenney) proposes to add an addition 3% tax on incomes over $417,500.Revenue raised by the tax is earmarked for child care, early learning programs, public education, public colleges and universities, road repair and maintenance and public transportation.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0232.pdf
S.243, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund (introduced by Senators Lawson, Murray, Euer, DiMario, Cano, Britto, Lauria, Mack, and Acosta) creates a fund to provide financial assistance to families with children facing catastrophic illnesses. It is meant to assist in covering costs not covered by insurance or by any state or federal programs.Money for the fund is raised through an employer tax of $1.50 per employee per year.According to the Department of Labor statistics for December, 2022, total employment in the private sector was 433,700.
Bill Withdrawn – Contractor Liability for Subcontractor Wages
Last week, S.36, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages, was withdrawn by the sponsor.This means S.36 is no longer under consideration by the General Assembly.The bill can still be introduced under another sponsor at any time, but it would be unusual.S.36 proposed to create liability for contractors in the event subcontractors failed to pay their employees’ wages or benefits.The bill also established a private right of action against the general contractor for subcontractor employees.http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0036.pdf
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 5584Messier, McNamara, Potter, Diaz, Fellela, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- HEALTHY AND SAFE FAMILIES AND WORKPLACES ACT (Amends the definition of employee to remove apprenticeships and interns and any other individuals pursuant to the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. Section 203 et seq.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5584.pdf
House Bill No. 5585Chippendale, J. Brien, Casey, Quattrocchi, Rea, Newberry, Place, Nardone, Noret, Casimiro, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS' COMPENSATION -- BENEFITS (Requires the employer's workers’ compensation insurance carrier to cover all of an employee’s associated medical expenses from any adverse medical event resulting from the employer mandating that the employee receive the COVID-19 vaccine.)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5585.pdf
House Bill No. 5590Felix, Morales, McNamara, Kazarian, Kislak, Potter, Alzate, Batista, Henries, Cruz, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Commencing 1/1/24, gradually increases the minimum wage for employees receiving gratuities from the current ($3.89) to ($14.95) by 1/1/28 and on 1/1/29 the minimum wage shall be no less than the minimum wage established by the minimum wage law.)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5590.pdf
House Bill No. 5592Batista, Potter, Alzate, Felix, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- INSPECTION OF PERSONNEL FILES (Amends the definitions of the inspection of personnel files. The act would also amend the penalties by increasing them to not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500).)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5592.pdf
Senate Bill No. 166Gu, Valverde, DiMario, Euer, Mack, Miller, Murray, Lauria, Ujifusa, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS -- THE GREEN BUILDINGS ACT (Creates building energy performance standards based on the size of buildings, to achieve, by way of benchmarking and reporting, a statewide analysis of energy use and strategies to increase energy efficiency.)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0166.pdf
Senate Bill No. 173Lawson, DiMario, F. Lombardi, Cano, Britto, Lauria, Mack, Acosta, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- THE COMMUTER TRANSPORTATION BENEFITS ACT (Establishes the commuter transportation benefit chapter. Employers with five hundred (500) or more employees would be required to establish a pre-tax commuter transportation fringe benefit program.)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0173.pdf
Senate Bill No. 200Valverde, Gu, Sosnowski, Lawson, Raptakis, DiMario, Miller, Ujifusa, Mack, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY FOR PACKAGING (Reduces equitable relationships between packaging producers and local governments and communities by establishing the Package Reduction and Recycling Program.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0200.pdf
Senate Bill No. 342DiMario, Euer, Murray, Gu, Valverde, Lauria, Ujifusa, LaMountain, Lawson, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to execute a nondisclosure agreement or non-disparagement agreement, regarding alleged violations of civil rights or criminal conduct, as a condition of employment.)http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0342.pdf
First Phase of the Legislative Session Almost Over
The filing of bills occupies most of the energy in the first phase of the legislative session. That phase will end this Friday and will be followed by a vacation break lasting February 20th through the 24th. The General Assembly then enters phase two of the session with the number of hearings multiplying. Bills can still be filed during phase two of the session, but the number of daily introductions usually diminishes as the session continues.
PUC Begins Natural Gas Use Study Under 2021 Act on Climate
Last week the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission held its first meeting to create a framework and a timeline for implementing the changes that will be necessary in order to meet the requirements of the 2021 Act on Climate – passed into law in 2021. The Act on Climate mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emission of 45% by 2030, 80% by 2040 and net zero by 2050. The targets are mandates. If the state – which includes all businesses and residents in the state – fail to miss a deadline, anyone can sue the state to enforce the statute. The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) commissioned a study in 2020 which found that in order to meet the 80% reduction requirement, nearly all heating systems must be decarbonized. The PUC is concerned about the maintanence and replacement of pipes in lieu of the 2021 Act on Climate requirements as well as the potential cost to customers given natural gas is one of the more economical heating systems available. As Chairman Gerwatowski stated in his opening address, “everything is on the table” including a natural gas moratorium and phase-down in use.
The Northern RI Chamber was asked to participate on a PUC panel discussion. Specifically, the Chamber was asked to share thoughts about what topics need to be addressed in the study. We provided five items to the Commission: 1. Specifics of what businesses are expected to do and in what timeframe – equipment, heating, business process change requirements; 2. Full transparency surrounding the costs associated with complying with the 2021 Act on Climate as natural gas use is phased down; 3. Full accounting of the technical resources that will be required in order to carry out mandated changes; 4. Disclosure of the alternative sources of energy the business community will be asked to use and the reliability of each alternative so that businesses can make appropriate choices; and 5. A plan for natural storm disruption under the alternative energy paradigms. The Chamber pointed out that, in 2020, it requested RI OER to include in its study, a cost estimate for a manufacturing facility, a commercial building and a restaurant; but money was not available to include the extra analysis. The Chamber asked the PUC to include it in their scope of work.
The PUC will be creating stakeholder groups as it continues to move forward in the study process. The study must be completed this year so that the PUC can submit its plan to the EC4 committee as required under the law. The EC4 must submit a full plan for complying with the statute by December 31, 2025.
This Week At the State House
Tuesday, February 14th
The House Finance Committee is meeting Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30) in Room 35 at the State House. One topic on the agenda is the Governor’s proposal under Article 5. The third part of Article 5 makes changes to the demand-side management program. When originally passed into law, the surcharge on customers’ bills was set for a period of 21 years which means it would sunset in 2028. Article 5 extends the charge to 2030. Last year, $5 million was transferred to the RI Infrastructure bank to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy and demand-side management projects. Article 5 expands the scope of use for that money to include clean transportation, clean heating and energy storage projects. The Article transfers $4.5 million of the fees collected to the EC4 Committee (Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council). The 2021 Act on Climate charged the EC4 with developing a plan to reach the emission reduction targets set in statute. The $4.5 million can be used to develop the plan, invest directly in programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, publishing findings and emissions, and support the Climate Justice Workgroup – including “compensation to community participants.” Lastly, the Article eliminates RI Energy’s performance-based incentives that it received to administer the energy efficiency program.
The Senate Finance Committee is also meeting Tuesday at the Rise in the Senate Lounge to take testimony on Article 6, Section 2 of the Governor’s budget. The Section decreases the minimum corporate tax from $400 a year to $375. This is estimated to affect 65,000 business entities.
Wednesday, February 15th
The Governor’s proposals to lower the sales tax from 7% to 6.85% and to eliminate the litter tax is up for discussion Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. in Room 35. As a reminder, the .15% decrease is estimated to reduce state revenues by $35 million a year. The litter tax, officially known as the Taxation of Beverage Containers and Hard-To-Dispose Material fee, places a fee on beverage wholesalers (defined as those who engage in the “sale of beverage containers to beverage retailers in this state, including any brewer, manufacturer, or bottler who engages in those sales”). The fee starts at $25 and can go as high as $1000 per year. Article 4 eliminates the fee, saving Rhode Island wholesalers just under $1 million. The Committee will also take testimony on Governor McKee’s Article 6 proposal. Article 6 (1) clarifies that municipalities have the ability to license second-hand metal article sales, (2) exempts local licensing requirements for second-hand consignment good, resale goods, thrift goods and antiques, (3) lowers the minimum corporate tax from $400 to $375, (4) eliminates the trade-in value for trucks and motorcycles from sales tax, and (5) creates a food products donation tax credit.
Thursday, February 16th
On Thursday at the Rise, both the House and Senate Finance Committees will be discussion Minority Business Enterprise Requirements in contracting (House in Room 35, Senate in the Senate Lounge). Section 7 of the Article 3 changes the Minority Business Enterprise participation requirement for procurements and construction projects. Under current law procurement and construction projects must award at least 10% of the dollar value of the entire project to MBE companies. The Article increases the percentage to 15% and further requires that of the 15%, half must go to a woman owned business (7.5%).
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 5425 Kislak, Edwards, Carson, Donovan, Speakman, McGaw, Tanzi, Boylan, Potter, Cortvriend, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS -- THE GREEN BUILDINGS ACT (Creates building energy performance standards based on the size of buildings, to achieve, by way of benchmarking and reporting, a statewide analysis of energy use and strategies to increase energy efficiency.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5425.pdf
House Bill No. 5445 Tanzi, Cortvriend, Kazarian, Hull, J. Lombardi, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or employee from directly or indirectly committing any act declared to be an unlawful employment practice or the employee or employer may be held personally liable.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5445.pdf
House Bill No. 5447 Diaz, Ajello, Edwards, Tanzi, Kennedy, Ackerman, Slater, Shallcross Smith, Morales, Caldwell, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE -- GENERAL PROVISIONS (Increases the taxable wage base upon which employees make contributions to the TDI and TCI funds, increases individual benefit rates for lower wage individuals, and creates an opt- in option for self-employed workers.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5447.pdf
House Bill No. 5492 Place, Newberry, Nardone, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- RIGHT TO EARN A LIVING ACT (Establishes procedures to challenge agency regulations or public service restrictions that prevent persons from entering into businesses, professions or public services unless they serve legitimate public health, safety and welfare objectives.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5492.pdf
House Bill No. 5508 Potter, Baginski, Dawson, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS' COMPENSATION--PROCEDURE (For purposes of liability of third persons for damages relating to claims for workers compensation, provides that reimbursement not be provided for certain damages, and reduces any award by any percentage of the employees comparative negligence.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5508.pdf
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that businesses can now file Form 1099 series information returns using a new online portal, available free from the IRS.
Known as the Information Returns Intake System (IRIS), this free electronic filing service is secure, accurate and requires no special software. Though available to any business of any size, IRIS may be especially helpful to any small business that currently sends their 1099 forms on paper to the IRS.
“The IRS is excited to offer any business, especially small companies, a great new way to electronically file their 1099s for free,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Doug O’Donnell. “This simplifies filing for those issuing 1099s and helps recipients receive information timely. The launch of IRIS can help reduce the millions of paper Forms 1099 we project will be filed in 2023 and demonstrates our commitment to finding useful and innovative ways of reducing paperwork on the business community and others issuing 1099s. This is part of the larger effort underway to make improvements and transform operations at the IRS.”
Filers can use the platform to create, upload, edit and view information and download completed copies of 1099-series forms for distribution and verification. With IRIS, businesses can e-file both small and large volumes of 1099-series forms by either keying in the information or uploading a file with the use of a downloadable template. Currently, IRIS accepts Forms 1099 only for tax year 2022 and later.
The IRS encourages any business, especially those that now file on paper, to switch to e-filing through the platform and share in its benefits.
These benefits include: · E-file security standards keep information safe and protected. · The portal is an accurate filing method that automatically detects filing errors and provides alerts for missing information. · Filers can submit automatic extensions and make corrections to information returns filed through the platform. · The IRS acknowledges receipt of the return in as early as 48 hours. · The platform keeps issuer information from year to year, and prior years filed through this platform, providing convenience to 1099 filers. · E-filing eliminates trips to the post office and can reduce office expenses for paper, postage and storage space.