Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
At the State House
The Senate Finance Committee will be meeting virtually Wednesday, November 18th at 5:00 p.m. The meeting can be live streamed at: http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx Written testimony will be accepted at SLegislation@rilegislature.gov Testimony submitted prior to 3:00 PM on the 18th will be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and will be included in the meeting records. Testimony submitted after that time will be placed on file.
The Governor’s proposal for legalization of adult use marijuana is first on the agenda for the Senate Finance hearing. Article 13 defines “adult” as an individual 21 years of age and older. The Article establishes licensing requirements for the retail sale of marijuana in all forms. It allows adults to legally transport 1 oz. and to possess 5 oz. at a residence. If two or more adults live in a dwelling, they can possess, in the aggregate, 10 oz. Owners of rental properties can, under the proposed Article, ban the smoking or vaping of marijuana on the rental property. Violation of such a rule subjects the individual to a $150 fine by the State as well as any penalties established in writing by the landlord. Smoking and vaping are also banned in businesses. The Article states that no one is permitted to “undertake any task under the influence of marijuana, when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice.” It also bans smoking marijuana in a school bus, on public transportation, on school grounds, at a correctional facility, in any public place, in a drug treatment facility, or when it would affect the health or safety of children.
Article 13 seeks to provide employers with some protections. It specifically states that employers do not have to provide accommodations for the use or possession of marijuana; but it does require employers to have a written policy; and that policy must be provided to employees prior to enforcing any policy.
The Article caps THC potency on various products, and establishes testing systems to ensure compliance. Retail establishments cannot be close to schools. Labels on products must warn against driving under the influence as well as to keep the product away from children. Municipalities may adopt zoning laws that do not conflict with state law, and they can collect a municipal impact fee from marijuana establishments.
Taxation of marijuana is actually a sharing of net revenue. The State gets 61% of the net revenue – the licensed retail contractor keeps 29% of the net revenue – the municipality gets 10%.
Lastly, anyone stopped by law enforcement for suspected driving under the influence can be asked to submit to a saliva test in addition to a blood test or breathalyzer test.
The Senate Finance Committee will also take testimony concerning two new proposed Articles to the Governor’s budget. One bars health insurance companies from charging different premiums based on gender. http://www.omb.ri.gov/documents/Prior%20Year%20Budgets/Operating%20Budget%202021/Amendments/13_GBA%2016%20-%20New%20Article%20-%20Relating%20to%20Accident%20and%20Sickness%20Insurance%20Policies.pdf
The second proposal would require health insurers to offer Medicare Supplemental Plans to individuals, regardless of whether the person has a disability. http://www.omb.ri.gov/documents/Prior%20Year%20Budgets/Operating%20Budget%202021/Amendments/15_GBA%2018%20-%20New%20Article%20-%20Relating%20to%20Medicare%20Supplement%20Insurance%20Policies.pdf
S.2494, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax, is on the agenda Wednesday. This act would create a new income tax bracket. The new bracket would be 6.99% on taxable income over $500,000 (the rate is now 5.99%), and any personal income tax collected on income over $500,000 would be deposited into a restricted receipt account, to be spent on education for grades kindergarten through twelfth grade. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText20/SenateText20/S2494.pdf
S.2801, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax, is the final item on the committee agenda Wednesday. This act would add one new income tax bracket. The new bracket would be a rate of 8.99% on taxable income over $400,500 (in 2011 dollars). Adjusted for inflation, the new tax bracket would apply to taxable income over approximately $475,000 (in 2020 dollars). This act would take effect on January 1, 2021. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText20/SenateText20/S2801.pdf
The House Committee on Oversight will meet at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 19th. The meeting will be live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=cd679c40105a
The Committee will hear from Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and from Governor Gina Raimondo. COVID-19 emergency spending will be reviewed; and a discussion on future potential restrictions is on the agenda.
At the State House
No hearings for this week have been scheduled as of Sunday, November 8th.
Election Results Lead to Calls for New Initiatives in Rhode Island
As most of us probably know by now, House Speaker Nick Mattiello lost his bid for re-election, paving the way for the current Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi to take the helm in January as the next Speaker of the House. The Democrats held a caucus – open to the media for the first time – to nominate Shekarchi for Speaker and to name Representative Chris Blazejewski as Majority Leader. With a change in leadership usually comes a change in various chairs of committees; but those changes have not been announced yet. Shekarchi stated in a press interview that the current fiscal year budget will get addressed in the coming weeks and that everything is on the table including tax increases and cuts. He also announced that the House will be looking at various House rule changes.
The Senate Democrats also caucused last week, reaffirming support for Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Majority Leader McCaffrey. The Senate also announced new chairs of committees as well as a “bold” agenda for 2021. That plan includes an increase in the minimum wage to $15, passage of a carbon tax, an increase in the personal income tax for higher earners and legalization of marijuana. President Ruggerio was quoted, “We are in the process of developing rules changes that will enable the Senate committees to work remotely and the Senate to meet regularly so that we can pass a bold agenda early in the coming session.”
The new Senate committee chairs are:
November Revenue Estimating Conference Completes Work
Rhode Island received some good news Friday night, as the Revenue Estimating Conference adopted revenue estimates for the current fiscal year (FY2021) and FY2022. The conference started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. Key takeaways are as follows:
It is important to keep in mind is that FY2020 (last year’s budget) started July 1, 2019 and ended June 30, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic took a hit on the State’s economy starting in March, 2020. The final good news is that the May, 2020 Revenue Estimating Conference anticipated deficit of $750 million has been revised via a $331 million revenue upgrade and a decrease in spending of $113 million. That still leaves a deficit to resolve.
Seven new measures that will take effect on Sunday. These measures are part of a regional approach in close coordination with Massachusetts and Connecticut. Over the next two weeks, we will be closely monitoring behavioral data to see if this approach is working or if we need to impose additional restrictions.
1. Effective Sunday, a stay-at-home advisory is in effect from 10pm-5am on weeknights, and 10:30pm-5am on Fridays and Saturdays. At that time, unless you’re going to and from work or running essential errands like getting food or going to the pharmacy, you should be in your own home. Not someone else’s home – your home. We know that late-night house parties are a major factor in this second wave. And if you’re at a restaurant or bar until that time, once it closes, drive straight home. We’re not going to take a heavy hand – as always, our approach calls for voluntary compliance. But if we do see big parties at any time of day, and particularly at night, we will break them up and fine you.
2. Also effective Sunday, all restaurants, bars, gyms, recreational facilities (such as casinos, bowling alleys, and museums), and personal services must close at 10pm on weeknights, and 10:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Restaurants can continue to offer takeout and drive-through after that time.
3. We’re lowering the capacity limit for indoor events and venues of assembly to 50%, with a maximum of 125 people. For outdoors, the limit will be 66%, with a maximum of 150 people. This applies to things like performing arts venues, movie theaters, and houses of worship. I’d ask everyone to consider switching to virtual worship for the next few weeks.
4. We’re reducing the limit for catered events to 25 indoors and 75 outdoors. If you already have a wedding planned in the next two weeks, we’re able to consider an exception if you contact the Department of Business Regulation.
5. We’re reducing the capacity limit at malls and big box stores – retailers with more than 30,000 sq. ft. of space – back to the Phase 2 limit of 1 person per 150 sq. ft. Over the last few weeks, we’ve started to see more crowding at these businesses, and we anticipate that will continue to increase as we head into a big shopping season.
6. In addition to working from home when possible, we’re asking businesses to postpone or cancel nonessential work-related travel. We’re also leading by example in this regard and have put a hiatus on work-related travel for state employees.
7. We’re updating our masking guidance to require masks at all times with anyone you don’t live with. That includes anytime you leave your home – including at the gym – and private gatherings if there’s anyone there you don’t live with.
Restaurants and bars will receive between $2,000 and $10,000 based upon how much business they typically do. These businesses will need to attest that they were affected by this early closure, and then they can expect their grant from the Division of Taxation within 30 days. We know these grants might not make up for what has been an extraordinarily difficult time, but we hope it will help as we make another round of temporary sacrifices to stop the second wave.
Relief for restaurants and bars that are subject to early-closing order
Division to issue grants of up to $10,000 to help make up for loss of business
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced a relief program for
restaurants, bars, and other such businesses that have been ordered to close earlier than usual
because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Using federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, the
Governor authorized the payment of grants to these impacted businesses.
Under the program, the Rhode Island Department of Revenue’s Division of Taxation will provide grants to bars and restaurants adversely impacted by COVID-19.
Each such grant will range from a minimum of $2,000 to a maximum of $10,000.
Governor Raimondo developed the relief program to coincide with her Executive Order that will
mandate early shutdown for bars and restaurants: Effective on Sunday, November 8, 2020, all
restaurants, bars, and certain other facilities must end service at 10:00 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30
p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. (Restaurants may stay open after the new closing hours for take-out
and drive-in only.)
The new provisions involving closing hours will remain in effect for two weeks, she said. They are part of a range of measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus and reducing the rising number of coronavirus cases. “We’re not alone. Cases are spiking all over the world,” Governor Raimondo said.
The relief program will be paid for through federal funds that have been made available to the states for pandemic relief. The Division of Taxation will soon post an application form that the affected businesses must complete in order to apply for a grant, and will post other details on its website.
PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE DIVISION OF TAXATION REGARDING THIS PROGRAM. DEVELOPING INFORMATION WILL BE POSTED ON THE DIVISION’S WEBSITE: WWW.TAX.RI.GOV
Please Remember to Vote
At the State House
There are no committee hearing this week, but the Fall Revenue Estimating Conference will finish its important work this week. Friday is the big day, as the conferees may their best educated guess at the revenue and expense outlook for FY 2021; and they will likely revise the revenue and expense numbers to be considered when adopting a current year budget.
Monday, November 2, 2020
9:00 A.M. Caseload Estimating Conference
2:00 P.M. Tax Collections – Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation Neena Savage, State Tax Administrator
Accruals – Accounts and Controls Peter Keenan, State Controller
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
1:00 P.M Tax Collections – Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation Neena Savage, State Tax Administrator
Friday, November 6, 2020 – Revenue Estimate 9:00 A.M. Revenue Estimating Conference
The following new bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8138 Williams, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- MOUNTED VIDEO/AUDIO SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS (Establishes a central command video/audio surveillance center administered by the state police. Funding would be provided by use of fifty percent (50%) of the E-911 funds.)
House Bill No. 8140 Williams, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - RESIDENTIAL SECURITY EQUIPMENT PROGRAM (Creates the "Residential Security Equipment Program".)
House Bill No. 8141 Solomon, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Requires an electric utility company to bury power lines in the event of a residential power outage lasting ninety-six (96) consecutive hours or more, unless the outage was caused by the resident.)
Senate Bill No. 2929 Lombardi, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - RIGHTS OF NURSING HOME PATIENTS (Department of health to promulgate rules and regulations for essential caregivers at nursing homes during a declared emergency.)
HArT Recovery Grant Program
Rhode Island Hotel, Arts & Tourism (HArT) Grant Program Solicitation for Applications
On November 2, 2020, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation will begin accepting applications for Rhode Island Hotel, Arts & Tourism (HArT) Grants. The State has allocated $20 million for the program, with eligible businesses and nonprofits able to receive grants of up to $1 million on a competitive basis.
The Rhode Island HArT Grant Program is a competitive grant program that aims to prevent closure of arts, culture, hospitality & tourism businesses and institutions while also building resilience to shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting their workforce, and engaging with their communities.
Of the $20 million grant allocation, $10 million will support Engagement, Service, and Resiliency activities (“ESR” Funds). ESR funds are designed to spur economic activity, create safe convening opportunities, and allow increased and accessible artistic and tourist-friendly opportunities. Some examples of ESR activities could include: hosting COVID-appropriate events or activities, providing hotel vouchers and or discounts to those wishing to work or learn remotely, hosting safe meetings; and enabling virtual and remote events. Additionally, $10 million will come in the form of direct support for hotels, arts, culture, and tourism organizations.
APPLICATIONS WILL BE LIVE ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2020
Please note: The application can be filled out on your device using Adobe Reader (download here). Open Adobe Reader then select ‘Tools’ and then ‘Fill & Sign’. Select the downloaded application, fill in your info, and save again when completed.
Questions on the application and completed applications process may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
For More Info: https://commerceri.com/hart-recovery-grant-program/