Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
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If you are considering running for a General Assembly seat – House or Senate- the deadline is approaching quickly. The Chamber can be most effective when business people run for office. Declarations for candidacy must be filed June 28th 29th or 30th at the Local Board of Canvassers in the City or Town where you are registered to vote.
The Declaration of Candidacy is the document you sign to start the process of becoming a candidate. You “declare” yourself as a candidate for a particular office and if you wish to run as a party candidate, you also “declare” yourself to be a member of that party. All candidates for all public and party offices must file a Declaration of Candidacy.
More information can be found at Welcome to your Voter Information Center
This Week at the State House
Welcome back from legislative break week! Over the next two months, the Chamber may call upon you to contact your legislators as the General Assembly seeks to wrap up the 2022 session.
Tuesday, April 26th
The Chamber will, once again, make the argument for full restoration of the Unemployment Trust Fund. The Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge. One topic of debate will be the amount of ARPA funds that should be used to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund. As previously reported, approximately $300 million of the Fund was used to assist workers who became unemployed due to business closures during the COVID 19 pandemic. Included in the $300 million, was about $37 million in fraudulent claims. These numbers are expected to be updated by the Department of Labor during the Tuesday hearing. The Governor, in his proposed budget, has included $30 million for the Fund – if it makes a difference in the tax schedule (it is unlikely to do so). Since the start of the pandemic, Rhode Island businesses have jumped two schedules in unemployment tax rates due to the draw down on the fund. Prior to the pandemic, it was believed the Fund was in such solid financial condition, that businesses would actually see a drop in the tax schedule.
Wednesday, April 27th
The House Finance Committee will meet at the Rise in Room 35. One of the bills scheduled for hearing is H.7642, An Act Relating to Taxation – Agreement to Phase Out Corporate Incentives Compact Act. The bill, put forward by the House Republican caucus, allows Rhode Island to enter intro agreements with other states to establish “anti-poaching” agreements. If two or more states enter into such an agreement, those states cannot grant tax incentives or subsidies to corporations to entice them to move from one state to another – provided the move would be from one compact state to another compact state. The Attorney General would be responsible for enforcement of the compact, with any taxpayer from a compact state having standing to bring suit should the Attorney General not bring and action forward.
The Senate Labor Committee will take up testimony on S.2700, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Rebuild RI Tax Credit. The hearing, set for 4:00 p.m. in room 211, considers whether businesses that receive Rebuild RI Tax Credits must pay construction workers prevailing wages for the project, or have their tax credits revoked. Prevailing wages are higher than market rates. The bill also requires prevailing wages to be utilized for construction jobs associated with film tax credit projects, historic preservation tax credit projects, and Rhode Island New Qualified Jobs Incentive Act 2015 projects. The bill would take effect upon passage. It is unclear if projects already underway, but not completed, would be affected as well.
Thursday, April 28th
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4:00 p.m. in room 310 to review two bills of interest. S.2645, an Act Relating to Commercial Law, allows individuals who wish to conduct business under an assumed name, to file in person, by mail, or electronically with the office of the city or town clerk the true or real full name(s) of the person or persons transacting business and their email address. This act would take effect on January 1, 2024. Under current law, the individual must go to the town clerk in person and swear an oath to an authorized municipal employee. S.2812, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships – Uniform Partnership Act, eliminates the state’s current partnership law effective January 1, 2023, and replaces it with an update model rule. This bill was introduced at the request of the Secretary of State. The 126 page bill addresses all aspects of Rhode Island partnerships including transferable interests, enforcement of partnership agreements, powers and dissolution procedures. The bill can be reviewed at S2812.pdf (state.ri.us)
New Bill Introductions:
No bills of interest were filed last week.
Last Week at the State House
All of the bills featured in last week’s edition of UTD were held for further study. The Attorney General did appear to testify on behalf of H.7677 that declares the failure to pay employees properly or on time, a felony. The Chamber testified in opposition to the bill. S.2861 which creates a new, almost impossible, test for independent contractors, had a number of business organizations testifying in opposition – including the Chamber. The testimony from the business community was well-received, with little support from proponents.
This Week at the State House
As was reported previously in UTD, this week is legislative break week. Phase two of the legislative session has come to an end which means many of the bills have had hearings in committee. The Chamber is currently tracking 327 bills. Approximately two thirds have had hearings at this time. The last phase of session includes hearings, passage of bills, and the passage of two budgets – the federal funding spending package, and the FY2023 state budget.
The Revenue Estimating Conference agenda was released. This will be the last estimation of the available revenues and anticipated spending for the current fiscal year; and provides the basis for the creation of the FY2023 budget.
Monday, April 25, 2022 – Caseload Estimating
Friday, April 29, 2022 – Economic Overview and Testimony
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Friday, May 6, 2022 - Caseload Estimating Conference and Revenue Testimony
May 9, 2022 – Final Revenue Estimating Conference
The following new bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8157 Tanzi, Cortvriend, Kislak, Potter, Giraldo, Felix, Baginski, McGaw, Messier, Kazarian, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE (Increases in-network behavioral health care service reimbursement rates up to the median value effective 1/1/2023. Increases rates for 2024-2028 by rate of inflation plus three (3) percentage points determined by federal CPI.)
House Bill No. 8158 Kennedy, Morales, Diaz, McEntee, Azzinaro, Edwards, Casimiro, Kazarian, Serpa, Ackerman, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Caps amount payable for 30 day supply of equipment/supplies for insulin administration/glucose monitoring at $25 or equipment designed to last more than 30 days with no deductible commencing January 1, 2023.) webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8158.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2883 Seveney, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE RHODE ISLAND BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (Establishes a program to increase the adoption of broadband services for local and statewide entities, both public and private, to be funded by federal funds and state appropriations.) webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2883.pdf
The General Assembly will observe April break next week (April 18-22).
Last Week at the State House
The full Senate voted 31-4 to pass S.2243, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Rhode Island Parental Leave Act, which increases employee parental leave from thirteen weeks to twenty-four weeks over a two-year period. (voting against were Senators de la Cruz, Morgan, Paolino and Rogers). Under current law, employers with fifty or more employees fall under parental leave; and employees become eligible for the leave after working for one year with the employer. S.2243 does not change the thresholds for number of employees or time of work required for eligibility.
The Senate Labor Committee passed S.2816, An Act Related to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security, a bill that extends the partial unemployment insurance benefits put into place during the pandemic. S.2816 extends the increase in the total amount of earnings a partial -unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being disqualified for benefits. It also extends the increase in the amount of earnings that is disregarded when calculating the claimant’s weekly benefit. These additional benefits are set to expire June 30, 2022. S.2816 extends the benefits to June 30, 2023. The full Senate will vote on S.2816 Tuesday, April 12th
The remainder of the bills reported in last week’s UTD were held for further study.
This Week at the State House
Tuesday, April 12th
The Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) to take testimony on the Governor’s proposal to give $13 million to the Small Business Financial and Technical Assistance Program for items such as upgrading point-of-sale systems, developing e-commerce platforms, and improving technology. The Committee will also hear testimony on S.2455, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships, that calls for the elimination of the minimum tax upon corporations, nonprofit corporations, and limited liability companies for the tax year in which the secretary of state certifies the entity's dissolution; and S.2850, An Act Relating to Taxation, that increases the corporate tax rate to 7.5% (from 7%) and decreases the corporate minimum tax to $200 (from $400). Written testimony can be submitted at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 13th
Senate Labor will meet at 4:00 pm in Room 211 to consider whether to change the definition of “employee” for the purposes of workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and TDI qualification. S.2861, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, proposes to adopt what is sometimes referred to as the “ABC” test. A person would be deemed an “employee” unless the person can meet all three tests: (1) the person is free from control and direction of the hiring entity (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. Use of the ABC test would make it very difficult for some professions to work as an independent contractor. For example, an independent computer technology person could not work as an independent contractor for a business that has an IT person already on staff, since it would not qualify as outside the usual course of business. Any business with a government affairs staff person, would likely not be able to hire an independent lobbyist. It is difficult to imagine all of the possible contractors that may get swept up and reclassified as an employee of multiple businesses. If you have concerns about this bill, please contact your Senator and submit written testimony to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov
The House Judiciary Committee will meet at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) to consider H.7677, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages. H.7677, submitted at the request of the Attorney General, creates a felony offense for knowing and willfully failing to pay an employee on the designated pay day, or for failing to pay an employee the amount of wages owed at the next pay day following termination. If the value of the wages owed is between $1500 and $5000 the penalty is up to three years imprisonment or a fine of twice the value of the wages, or both. If the value is between $5000 and $10,000, the penalty is up to six years in prison and a fine of twice the wages, or both. If the value is over $10,000, the penalty is up to ten years in prison and a fine of twice the wages, or both. The bill also creates a felony penalty for employers that knowing and willfully misclassify an employee as an independent contractor. The first knowing or willful violation brings a penalty of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to two times the value of the wages or $10,000, whichever is greater, or both. The second knowing or willful offense carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to three times the value of the wages or $20,000, whichever is greater, or both. Testimony can be emailed to HouseJudiciary@rilegislature.gov Please include the bill number, your name, position and company in the subject line. The other bill of interest in H.8014, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Labor Disputes. H.8014 bans employers from contacting the police “for the purpose of harassing or otherwise disrupting participants of a labor dispute.” The penalty for violating this provision would be a fine of up to $500 “for each person harassed.”
The House Finance Committee is also meeting Wednesday at the Rise. H.6658, An Act Relating to Taxation, changes the interest rate for underpayments of taxes to prime plus six percent with a maximum rate of 18% instead of 21%. The current law calls for a rate between 18% and 21%. H.7444, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance, proposes numerous changes to the TDI system. The bill allows self-employed individuals to participate in TDI. Self-employed individuals become eligible to collect benefits after financially contributing to the program for 12 months. H.7444 also changes the contributions made by employees. For each calendar year prior to 2023, the taxable wage is the greater of $38,000 or the annual earnings needed to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount. Starting January 1, 2023, the wage base would jump to the greater of $250,000 or the annual earning needed by the individual to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount AND the maximum duration allow under law. Benefits to be paid are tiered. Individual whose average wage is minimum wage would receive a benefit of 90% of that average weekly wage. For individuals whose average wage is two times the minimum wage the benefit payable would be 75% of the weekly wage. All other claimants remain at the current benefit rate: 4.62% of the wages paid in the highest quarter of the claimant’s base period. At this time, claims with a benefit year begin date effective 1/2/22 or later, $978.00 is the maximum benefit rate and the minimum benefit rate is $114. Testimony for this hearing can be emailed to: HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov
Please include the bill number, your name, position on the bill, and company in the subject line.
The following new bill has been filed:
House Bill No. 8096 Phillips, McEntee, Hawkins, Costantino, Corvese, Solomon, Cardillo, Cortvriend, Filippi, Fenton-Fung, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- STATE TAX OFFICIALS (Waives interest and penalties on the taxable portion of loans taxed or forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program during tax years 2020 and 2021, provided any tax due is paid by March 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023, respectively.)
Senate Bill No. 2837 Quezada, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- FILING OF ASSUMED NAME (Makes amendments necessary to use the term "trade name" rather than "assumed name", for purposes of the commercial law chapter on filing an assumed name, and provides for the administration and regulation of the use of trade names.)
Senate Bill No. 2845 Lombardo, Pearson, Ciccone, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Lombardi, Picard, Gallo, Sosnowski, Felag, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- MOTOR FUEL TAX (Suspends the tax on fuel or manufactured biodiesel fuel sold or used from April 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022, and requires the seller to reduce the per-gallon price of fuel or manufactured biodiesel fuel by a sum equal to the tax abatement.)
Senate Bill No. 2850 Zurier, AN ACT RELATION TO TAXATION -- BUSINESS CORPORATION TAX (Increases the amount each corporation pays on state tax to seven and one half percent (7.5%) of net income beginning on or after January 1, 2023, and reduce the minimum tax to two hundred dollars ($200).)
Senate Bill No. 2861 Quezada, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (For proposed wages, workers' compensation, temporary disability and unemployment benefits this act creates a new definition for "employee")
House Bill No. 8119 Morales, Henries, Felix, Giraldo, McGaw, Potter, Lombardi, Batista, Ranglin-Vassell, Tanzi, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (Establishes a universal, comprehensive, affordable single-payer health care insurance program and helps control health care costs, which would be referred to as, "the Rhode Island Comprehensive Health Insurance Program" (RICHIP).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8119.pdf
House Bill No. 8120 Alzate, Kazarian, Henries, Giraldo, Morales, Felix, Potter, McEntee, Williams, Batista, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Mandates insurance policies, provides coverage to diagnose & treat infertility for women between 25 & 42 years, including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8120.pdf
Last Week at the State House
All of the bills mention in last week’s edition were held for further study: S.2243 (parental leave expansion), S.2245 (TDI expansion), S.2130 (employee commuter benefits), S.2075 (employer tax for Children Relief Fund), and S.2274 (increase renewable source for electricity).
State’s Landfill Update – RI Resource Recovery provided an update on the status of the State’s landfill. The good news is that the life expectancy of the site has been extended from 2036 to 2040. The extension was achieved by increasing the fees for disposal. Because the fees were so low, the landfill was attracting customers from all over the state. With the increase in fees, certain customers found it more feasible to use other landfill sites for disposal needs. The landfill takes in 650,000 tons of waste a year. Approximately 23% of the items placed into recycling bins are contaminated and make their way back to the landfill.
This Week at the State House
Wednesday, April 6th
The Chamber has been asking, and the House Oversight Committee has answered the call. On Wednesday at 1:30pm in the House Lounge, the Committee will hear from a number of agencies concerning renewable energy programs in Rhode Island. Policy programs from 100% renewable electricity supply, to electric vehicle sale requirements, to electrification of all buildings in the state are up for consideration. Rhode Island has one of the highest electricity rates in the country. If the transition to renewable energy is not planned out carefully and data driven, the economy will suffer and supply may not keep pace with demand. The Committee will hear from: Linda George, Administrator of the Division of Public Utilities; Karen Stewart, Renewable Energy Fund Program Director for RI Commerce Corporation; and Chris Kearns, Policy and Legislative Liaison for the Office of Energy Resources. The meeting will be live streamed at https://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx
The Senate Labor Committee will hear a bill requested by the Rhode Island Department of Labor. S.2816, An Act Related to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security, extends the partial unemployment insurance benefits put into place during the pandemic. S.2816 extends the increase in the total amount of earning a partial -unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being disqualified for benefits. It also extends the increase in the amount of earnings that is disregarded when calculating the claimant’s weekly benefit. These additional benefits are set to expire June 30, 2022. S.2816 would extend the benefits to June 30, 2023. The hearing will take place at 4:00 pm in room 211 at the state house.
Thursday, April 7th
Two committee meetings of interest are scheduled for Thursday – Senate Commerce and House Labor.
Senate Commerce, scheduled to meet at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) in room 310, will take testimony S.2688, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Consumer Credit History Employment Protection Act, prohibits employers from asking questions about a job applicant’s financial past or from checking their credit history. There are exemptions for those seeking jobs where a credit check is required under state or federal law, or a national security clearance; where the person would have signatory authority over third parties worth $10,000 or more; non-clerical positions with access to trade secrets; or positions with the ability to modify digital security systems. If the job falls within an exemption, the employer must inform the applicant and obtain written permission prior to running the credit check.
The House Labor Committee will meet at the Rise in room 101 on Thursday. What is expected to be a busy and potentially long meeting will include the following bills:
If you wish to submit written testimony on any of these bills, email your name, bill number and position (in the subject line), along with your testimony, to HouseLabor@rilegislature.gov
Testimony should be submitted by 1:00 pm, Thursday.
The following new bill has been filed:
House Bill No. 8074 Solomon, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- LABOR STANDARDS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS (Established labor standards applicable to renewable energy projects and conditions/procedures for applicants related to labor agreements with enforcement by department of labor and training (DLT).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8074.pdf