Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
The House Finance Committee has not posted the budget yet, but is expected to do so soon.
Customer Automatic Renewal Legislation
Today, June 15th, the House Corporations Committee is scheduled to vote on H.5769, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – General Regulatory Provisions – Unfair Sales Practices. The bill requires a provider of a club, facility, or services to a consumer to stop automatic deductions from the consumer’s account or credit card within thirty (30) calendar days of receiving a notice that the consumer wants the automatic deduction to be stopped. The notice can be verbal or in writing. H.5769 also requires a provider to give a consumer at least sixty (60) calendar days notice of a proposed rate increase or substantial change in services being provided to the consumer. If passed, the act would take effect upon passage.
Senate Environment Committee to Vote on TCI-P
The Senate Environment & Agriculture Committee is scheduled to vote on S.872, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act. S.872 gives DEM the authority to enter into the multi-jurisdictional program called the Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P). Connecticut just recently chose not to pass legislation this year, leaving only Massachusetts, Washington DC and now possibly Rhode Island. New Hampshire and Maine have said they want no part in it and 8 other states are taking a wait and see approach for now.
When a jurisdiction joins TCI-P, it is then governed by a 159-page model rule. If S.872 passes, Rhode Island must live by the model rule. No changes, no choice.
Under TCI-P, gasoline and diesel terminals and entities that bring gasoline and diesel into RI for the first time can only sell gasoline and diesel equal to the number of carbon allowances they have been able to buy at a TCI-P quarterly auction. These auctions are run by TCI-P as a sealed bid auction. Bidders (who can be anybody - terminals, hedge fund operators, non-profits, government agencies, etc.) submit their sealed bids. When the bids are opened, the highest bidder gets to purchase its allowances; the next highest bidder purchases next; and so on until the allowances are all purchased. If a terminal or seller of gasoline or diesel fuel was not a successful bidder, then it must either not sell product, or try to purchase allowances on the secondary market from someone who was successful - most likely for an increased price.
The State of California has a similar program (Western Climate Initiative) but covers more entities. They have 303 entities that must have allowances to sell their product. There are 748 registered bidders for their auction - that means 445 bidders are in the auction to try to make money, not to sell a product to the consumer.
Models have been run to try to determine the cost. Some say 5-9 cents per gallon in the first year, others project up to 38 cents, but no one really knows because the auctions will determine the price. The TCI-P model rule sets a cap on the number of allowances that can be sold at auction. Starting in 2024, the cap drops 3% per year, each year for ten years. This is mandatory and cannot be changed by the Rhode Island legislature at a later date. Three percent less gasoline and diesel will be sold each year. It is also important to note that Rhode Island does not get a certain percentage of the overall auction allowances. It is an open market for all of the states that join TCI-P. If the successful bidders happen to sell gasoline and diesel in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island, then MA will get the fuel – Rhode Island will not.
Proponents of the bill state that this mandatory rule is necessary to address climate change. Opponents of the bill state that if we assume TCI-P runs perfectly and Rhode Island bidders are successful, using the federal Energy Information Administration's estimates for demand for gasoline in Rhode Island, it appears demand will outpace the supply allowed by the TCI governing rule in 2025; and that shortage will then get bigger each year thereafter.
Last Week At The State House
Nondisclosure/Non-disparage Agreements Passed by House Labor
H.5853, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Fair Employment Practices, passed the House Labor Committee in its original form last week and is headed to the full House for a floor vote. H.5853 forbids 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 or as a condition of continuing employment. The chamber voiced opposition to this bill at the hearing earlier this year, as it has the potential to stifle settlement agreements which are beneficial to both parties. The Senate companion bill, S.189 is in the Senate Labor Committee.
No new bills of interest have been filed this week
This Week At The State House
We are anxiously awaiting the release of the proposed FY2022 budget. It could be released this week or next week. Once the House Finance Committee passes a budget, it must sit on the House floor for seven days before the full House can vote on the bill. Please watch for emails from the Chamber as this process moves forward. We may ask you to quickly contact your legislators. Stay tuned!
Workplace Bullying and Nondisclosure/Non-disparage Agreements
On Wednesday at 4:00pm, the House Labor Committee will take testimony on H.6352, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Dignity at Work. This legislation would place employers in an extremely difficult position and would result in many lawsuits. The definition of “workplace bullying” under this bill includes actions that “undermine” “humiliate” or “sabotage a person in the workplace.” It is characterized as taking the form of “interpersonal interactions” or “management actions” and even goes as far as to include “other types of objectionable behaviors.” These terms are very subjective. They can mean different things to different people, leaving everyone wondering what they can and cannot do or say in the workplace. Page 4 of the bill talks about specific actions that are considered bullying: offensive language, interfering with a person’s personal property, overbearing or intimidating levels of supervision, withholding information, changing work arrangements to deliberately inconvenience someone, intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spreading misinformation, ignoring someone, reminding a person of past mistakes, gossiping… There is no way an employer can monitor all of these potential activities, and unfortunately many of these items cannot really be defined. It is easy to anticipate situations where two employees will accuse each other of bullying and both will be correct under this broad statute.
Written testimony may be submitted via HouseLabor@rilegislature.gov Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message. DEADLINE: Written testimony should be submitted no later than Wednesday at 1:00 pm. It is recommended that testimony be submitted as a PDF file. VERBAL TESTIMONY *DEADLINE: Requests for verbal testimony must be submitted via the link, by 4:00 PM on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. For verbal testimony requests, CLICK HERE
H.5853, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Fair Employment Practices, is scheduled for a vote in the House Labor Committee as well. A SubA may be forthcoming, but it has not been posted as of the time “Under the Dome” was written. H.5853 forbids 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 or as a condition of continuing employment. The chamber voiced opposition to this bill at the hearing earlier this year, as it has the potential to stifle settlement agreements which are beneficial to both parties.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6383 Alzate, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ACT (Requires the department of environmental management to create environmental justice areas.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6383.pdf
House Bill No. 6393 Bennett, McLaughlin, Lombardi, Chippendale, Potter, Lima, Alzate, Hull, Edwards, Barros, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS - CORROSION PREVENTION AND MITIGATION WORK REQUIREMENTS (Requires all contractors and subcontractors who perform construction, alteration, demolition, installation, repair or maintenance work, pursuant to public works contracts, to comply with industry standards for infrastructure corrosion prevention.)
House Bill No. 6396 Tanzi, Cortvriend, Williams, Ranglin-Vassell, Carson, Henries, Ruggiero, Abney, Felix, Alzate, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- TOBACCO PRODUCT SALES' RESTRICTIONS (Prohibits the sale of certain flavored tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems.)
Senate Bill No. 947 Burke, Ruggerio, McCaffrey, Goodwin, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Repeals § 28-12-9 of the general laws which provides that the director of labor and training may approve of wages below the minimum wage for those persons whose earning capacity is impaired due to physical or mental disability.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0947.pdf
Call To Action – Make Your Voices Heard
Local leaders are considering legislation that will raise income taxes on what is considered by some to be “high income earners.” If adopted, this legislation would effectively establish a new tax on some small business owners in Rhode Island. Most small businesses are organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, or S-corporations. In these cases, small business owners file their income taxes as individuals. In a state like Rhode Island, where most businesses are small, the majority of the taxpayers directly impacted by this legislation will be small business owners. It is also worth noting that small businesses in Rhode Island create over two-thirds of the new jobs in our state every year. Thus, this proposal would discourage job and economic growth. Please take a few minutes to go to the following link and add your story to this debate: https://www.votervoice.net/RIBC/campaigns/85638/respond An email will be sent to your State Representative and that could make all the difference on this issue.
This Week At The State House
Federal Response Funds Update – The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 5:00 pm) to receive a briefing on the Federal CARES Act funding and the American Rescue Plan Act funds and allowable uses/guidance. The House Finance Committee will hold a similar briefing Thursday at the Rise (approximately 5:00 pm). Both hearings will be broadcast on Capitol TV http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx The federal guidance will provide Rhode Island with the boundaries for the stimulus budget that is expected to be addressed in September.
Family Leave Vote – The Senate Labor Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday at 3:00 pm on S.611, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations- Rhode Island Family and Parental Leave Act. S.611 increases, from 13 to 26, the number of consecutive weeks over a two-year period an employee can take as unpaid leave to care for a family member. To qualify, the employee is required to have worked for the same employer for 12 months, and must provide 30 days notice of the intended date of the start of the leave, unless the notice cannot be provided due to a medical emergency. The following members are on the Senate Labor Committee: Chairman Frank Ciccone, Senator Frank Lombardi, Senator John Burke, Senator Jessica de la Cruz, Senator Gayle Goldin, Senator Frank Lombardo, Senator Roger Picard and Senator Susan Sosnowski. If the passage of this bill will hurt your business, please contact the committee members before the Wednesday vote.
Workers’ Compensation Changes – The Senate Labor Committee will also hear testimony Wednesday on S.937, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Workers Compensation Benefits. The bill changes the calculations for permanent total disability benefits starting January 1, 2022 from 75% of the employee’s average weekly spendable base wages, to 62% of the employee’s average weekly base wages. The bill uses this same formula for individuals that return to work and suffers a recurrence of the injury. Lastly, the bill requires benefits to be paid within 14 days of the court order date or a penalty of $100 per day of delinquency will be assessed.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6370 Slater, O'Brien, Amore, Solomon, Kazarian, Alzate, Hull, Potter, Morales, Giraldo, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- ADULT USE MARIJUANA (Authorizes the director of the department of business regulation to license the cultivation and sale of marijuana.) H6370.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Bill No. 6374 (Secretary of State) Casimiro, Noret, McEntee, Ackerman, Alzate, Fenton-Fung, Lima, Potter, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- CORPORATIONS - GENERAL PROVISIONS (Allows the secretary of state and tax administrator to promulgate emergency rules and regulations related to filing procedures, minimum corporate taxes, and fees and/or penalties, during a declared state of emergency.) H6374.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Bill No. 6376 Williams, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS COMPENSATION -- BENEFITS (Creates a new formula for determining a totally and partially disabled injured workers' weekly benefit entitlement. It also eliminates the current ambiguity in an injured workers' entitlement, when he or she suffers a recurrence of disability.) H6376.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 937 Ciccone, Lombardi, McCaffrey, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS COMPENSATION -- BENEFITS (Creates a new formula for determining a totally and partially disabled injured workers' weekly benefit entitlement. It also eliminates the current ambiguity in an injured workers' entitlement, when he or she suffers a recurrence of disability.) S0937.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 938 Miller, McCaffrey, Goodwin, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (Prohibits the sale or offer for sale of any flavored electronic nicotine delivery system.) S0938.pdf (state.ri.us)