Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
Grace Barker has been a valued member of the East Bay Chamber of Commerce since 1978 - almost 40 years! The Chamber is excited to see them continuing to grow, and we are so pleased to see Linda Machado's commitment to care carried out through the years by her Daughter, Mary Beth & son in law Mark Lescault- keeping to their roots. Many families in our East Bay Community have had a loved one cared for at Grace Barker, we thank you for your commitment and quality of care you give our aging parents, spouses and other loved ones.
It’s All About the Budget
At close to 1:00am Friday morning, the House Finance Committee passed a FY2018 budget capping out at $9.2 billion. As promised, the bill contained no new broad based taxes, made some cuts, added new spending and included the phase out of the car excise tax. The budget now must lay on the House desk for seven days, although both Democrats and Republicans agreed to bend the rule slightly to allow the House to begin voting on the bill this Thursday. Because the House adopted a 10pm rule whereby debate is supposed to stop at 10pm, it is likely house members will need two days to debate the proposal. All proposed amendments must be submitted by representatives by 4pm today.
The Governor was successful in getting a portion of her Promise RI free tuition program. If enacted, students who graduate or achieve a GED by age 19 will qualify for two years of free tuition at CCRI, expected to cost $4.5 million. The student would be required to maintain a 2.5 gpa and to reside in Rhode Island for two years after graduation. No community service requirement is attached to the tuition program. Since the unveiling, some have questioned what will happen to students who decide to go on to college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. If they go to a school outside Rhode Island, technically they would be in default. It’s unclear if the student would need to pay the tuition back to the State in this situation.
The minimum wage will increase from $9.60 per hour to $10.10 January 1, 2018 and to $10.60 January 1, 2019. This increase was a partial victory for the business community. The increase is spread over two years allowing businesses to adjust to the higher labor cost.
The Speaker’s effort to phase out the car excise tax was included in the budget. The fiscal impact is $26 million for the first year of the phase-out.
The timing for corporate estimated tax payments will change if this budget passes. Article 8 calls for mirroring the federal tax law. Payments would be due April 15th, June 15th, September 15th and December 15th. This appears to be a positive change for business.
Article 7 includes the authority for the state’s purchasing officer to establish up to a 1% administrative fee that would be collected from all state contractors listed on master price agreements. The fees are to be deposited into a restricted receipt account to be utilized for implementing technology for e-bidding, on-line vendor registration, bid notifications and other costs related to procurement costs. The 1% fee would likely be rolled into the bid submitted by contractors for the various projects.
One surprise to some was the inclusion of the proposal to eliminate registration fees on trucks or tractors over 4,000 pounds. There certainly was a political will to eliminate the fees, but it was unclear whether the money to do so would be available. The proposal survived.
The question most asked is, “how does the budget add new programs, not expand broad based taxes, and still remain balance?” Good question. The budget calls for a $25 million decrease in spending and calls upon the Governor to make the cuts accordingly. Likewise, the legislative budget has been cut by $2 million. National Grid’s Electric Distribution Fund (the fund Rhode Islander’s pay into for efficiency programs) is scooped by $12.5 million. The Infrastructure Bank is scooped by $2.5 million. The Refundable Investment Tax Credit saw a $3.25 million cut. The Refundable Job Training Tax Credit was reduced by $2 million. The RI Health and Education Building Corporation gets a $4.8 million scoop. Quonset Development Corporation gives up $1 million; RI Housing loses $1 million; NBC has $2.5 million removed; the PUC must begin paying rent for its building to the tune of $333,420.00. It has been reported that the total one-time scoops are just over $60 million. One could certainly argue that it is all “state money” (collected in different ways) that is being reallocated for alternative uses.
What’s not in this budget is an expansion of marijuana dispensaries or the legalization of marijuana. Also, there is no proposal to tax sugary beverages.
Paid Leave Bill Posted for Vote
On Wednesday at the Rise the Senate Labor Committee is scheduled to vote on the Paid Leave bill – S.290, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act. This is the bill that would require employers to provide paid leave to their employees. It’s unclear at this time if the bill will be amended in any way. As written, the bill requires employees to be given 7 days paid leave; the employer cannot ask for any documentation until 72 hours have passed; the leave can be used for the person or anyone they have an affinity to; and the time is accrued at 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.
The following new bill was filed:
House Bill No. 6328, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or employee, to commit any act declared to be an unlawful employment practice; individuals would be held personally liable for such conduct.)
Proposal to Change Corporate Tax Payment Schedule Floated
An idea for changing the Corporate Estimated Tax schedule is being floated for input. Under current law, companies pay 40% of their estimated taxes in the third month of their fiscal year and then pay 60% is the sixth month. However, most states – and the federal government – collect estimated corporate tax payments on a more uniform schedule over the course of the year: 50% in April and 50% in September. If you have any thoughts on this proposal, please email the Chamber so that we can pass the information along to the appropriate party.
Bill Seeks to Place New Rules on Drive Through Windows
S.498, An Act Relating to Food and Drugs – Drive Through Windows, will be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday, June 20th. S.498 state that “Every establishment selling drinks or food by the use of drive-through windows shall install at the ordering station…equipment to be used to assist the deaf and hard-of hearing in ordering and shall train its personnel in the use of such equipment.” The bill, if passed, would take effect upon passage.
Chicken/Veal/Pig Bill passes House Environment Committee
H.6023 An Act Relating to Animal Husbandry – Unlawful Confinement of A Covered Animal, passed the House Environment Committee last week in a SubA form (amended). The bill no longer addresses the purchase and sale of animals raised in confined spaces, which would have forced restaurants and hotels to determine if the meat they want to buy complies with the proposed law concerning the treatment of chickens, calves and sows. As passed by the House Committee, the bill bans farmers from raising chickens in cages if they are unable to completely spread their wings while in the cage. Sows must be able to turn around completely in the holding area; and calves may not be raised on short tethers or in small cages. For non “foodies” this means, if this bill is enacted by the Senate and Governor, Rhode Island farmers will no longer be permitted to raise veal as customers know it.
Senate’s Turn to Address Sugary Drinks
S.452, An Act Relating to Taxation – Sugary Drinks, will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee Thursday at the Rise in room 211. This bill – identical to H.5787 - places a tax on drinks based on the sugar content per ounce: Tier 1: Beverages with less than five grams (5g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces would 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.) would 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 (12) fluid ounces would be taxed at a rate of two cents ($0.02) per ounce. As an example, a 14 oz. bottle of ice tea having 21g of sugar would be taxed $0.28. Medical drinks, pure fruit juices and milks are exempt. The tax is to be paid by the distributor; but if the distributor fails to pay the tax, then the retailer is responsible for payment. Proponents believe S.452 would raise at least $30 million annually.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6293, AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS - ELECTRICIANS - TRADES LICENSING - PENALTY FOR VIOLATIONS (Each individual violating law governing electricians, plumbers, and other trades constitutes a separate offense for firms/corporations.)
House Bill No. 6305, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RESILIENT RHODE ISLAND ACT OF 2014 - CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATING COUNCIL (Directs the climate change coordinating council to study a carbon pricing program.)
House Bill No. 6307, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS - UNIFORM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT (Requires health care professionals upon issuance of initial opioid prescription to discuss with patient/parent/guardian risk of developing dependence/addiction/potential of overdose/death/adverse risks of concurrent use of alcohol/other psychoactive drugs)
Senate Bill No. 937, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- HOSPITAL CONVERSIONS (Streamlines the procedure for the approval of mergers of nonprofit hospitals.)
Senate Bill No. 941, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- TRANSPORTATION NETWORK COMPANY SERVICES (Subjects TNC vehicle owners to the regulation of transportation network companies.)
Senate Bill No. 942, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE - INSURANCE CONSUMER PROTECTION SALES ACT (Creates a system of consumer protection for regulation by DBR of noninsurance business entities in disclosing personal identifiable financial information for insurance sales.)
Manuel J. Batlle, Providence Center Director at the RI Small Business Development Center, will be holding office hours at the East Bay Chamber on Thursday mornings.
Manuel is a serial entrepreneur, college professor and small business counselor. He holds a MBA from LSU, attended The Executive Program at the University of Virginia and is a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP). He has C level managerial experience with Fortune 500 companies in the Wine & Spirit Industry and in Food Manufacturing. Manuel was the 2016 State Star for Rhode Island. His area of interest are Minority Owned Business, Food Manufacturing, Agribusiness, Wine, and Spirits. Manuel is a native of the Dominican Republic, and is responsible for the Providence Region, which includes Warren and Barrington.
To contact Manuel, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 401-490-0378.
An Update from the State House
Car Excise Tax Proposal Scheduled for Hearing
Tuesday will be a big day at the State House as the Finance Committee hears testimony on H.6267, An Act Relating to Taxation – Excise on Motor Vehicles and Trailers. This is the first big step to keep a promise the Speaker made to his constituents during the election last year. The Governor applauded the effort made to address a big issue in the State; and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio filed the bill in the Senate – S.935 – signaling that the excise tax will likely be included in the budget.
Marijuana Headed for a Study Commission
While legislative issues are never 100% settled until the gavel goes down the last night of session, it does appear that marijuana will not be legalized this year. Proponents and Opponents continue to argue over the Colorado experience and what it means. If legalized and taxed, marijuana could yield significant revenue, but at the same time, could cost the State of Rhode Island up to two-thirds of the revenue raised for the purpose of paying for administration, law enforcement and treatment programs. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on H.5551SubA, a study commission that is charged with reporting its findings to the legislature by March 1 2018.
Burrillville Energy Plant Scheduled for Hearing
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday June 13th, to accept testimony on three bills: S.714, An Act Relating to Taxation – Burrillville Property Tax; S.756, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Energy Facility Siting Act; and S.769, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Energy Facility Siting Act. Under current law, the Town Council of Burrillville may pass a resolution or ordinance to tax the personal and real property of any energy generating facility. S.714 changes the law to say personal and real property IS TAXABLE, meaning the Town Council has no discretion on the matter. Both S.756 and S.769 look as if they are state-wide initiatives, but are really meant to stop the Burrillville Power Plant project. S.756 states that the energy facility siting board could not proceed to a final hearing or issue a final decision on the siting of a plant if any one of the agencies on the board declares it is unable to form and advisory opinion due to lack of information (which is broadly defined). S.769 changes the number of members on the energy facility siting board. There are currently three (3) members. S.769 would require that an additional two (2) members from a host community be named to the board when the board is reviewing a potential energy generation plant.
Rhode Island’s Tax Structure
The House Finance Committee met last week for 4½ hours listening to taxi cab drivers, pet service owners, advocates for women, farmers, and flea market owners all asking for relief of the sales tax burdens, leaving more than one legislator asking, “how did we get here?” Rhode Island’s sales tax policy did appear rather random as to what is taxable and what is not taxable. That said, with the State facing a sizable budget deficit, it is difficult to see how relief might be provided to the advocates who attended the hearing, but their message certainly was heard. One proposed tax increase was H.5787, An Act Relating to Taxation – Sugary Drinks. H.5787 places a tax on drinks based on the sugar content per ounce: Tier 1: Beverages with less than five grams (5g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces would 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.) would 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 (12) fluid ounces would be taxed at a rate of two cents ($0.02) per ounce. Medical drinks, pure fruit juices and milks are exempt. The tax is to be paid by the distributor; but if the distributor fails to pay the tax, then the retailer is responsible for payment. Many health care advocates testified in favor of the bill, citing the need to curb childhood obesity. Opponents of the bill – including the Chamber – testified against the bill pointing out the complexity of the tax and the right of individuals to choose what they want to consume. Proponents believe H.5787 would raise at least $30 million annually.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6267, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- EXCISE ON MOTOR VEHICLES AND TRAILERS (Provides for the reduction and elimination of the motor vehicle excise tax. Also provides that cities, towns, and fire districts would be reimbursed for the revenues lost by the reduction and elimination of the excise tax.)
Senate Bill No. 922, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- REBUILD RHODE ISLAND TAX CREDIT (Adds a definition for "manufacturer" for purposes of providing a tax credit application exemption to certain projects under the RI Tax Credit Act to include occupants that are manufacturers.)
Senate Bill No. 929, AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS – CONTRACTORS’ REGISTRATION AND LICENSING BOARD (Requires an applicant for any license or registration issued by the contractors’ registration and licensing board to undergo a national criminal records check.)
House Resolution No. 6278, HOUSE RESOLUTION CREATING A SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION TO BE KNOWN AS "GROWING TOURISM IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND" (Creates an 18 member "Growing Tourism in the State of Rhode Island" commission to examine, evaluate and provide recommendations to manage and grow Rhode Island's tourism economy, and reports back by 1/5/19, and expires on 3/5/19.)
House Bill No. 6279, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- LEVY AND ASSESSMENT OF LOCAL TAXES (Amends from ten (10) years to twelve (12) years the period which the city of Central Falls may authorize a stabilization of taxes on qualifying property located in the city of Central Falls.)
We really worked up a sweat celebrating the grand opening of Rhode Island Hot Yoga's second studio in Providence. Owner Julianna Olmstead first opened East Bay Bikram Yoga on Gooding Avenue in Bristol, in 2014. Earlier in 2017, Julianna acquired Boiler Plate Hot Yoga. With two locations, she re-branded to better reflect her membership base - Rhode Island Hot Yoga.
The Providence studio is located in the Rising Sun Mills on the west side of Providence, easily accessible from Route 6 and I-95, just minutes from downtown Providence. There is free designated parking in the lot at the corner of Valley and Delaine St (look for their sign, as well as the big Ocean State Metals Sign). If that lot is full, you may park anywhere in the main lot behind the Rising Sun Mills (except for the reserved spots in front of the offices.)