Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
This Week At the State House
If all goes well, this will be the last week of the legislative session for the summer. The rules change during this week in that bills can be posted in committee for a vote without 48 hour notice to the public. Duplicate bills (bills that have previously been voted on by the House or Senate) can also go straight to the floor for a vote without going through a committee vote. When the week comes to an end, it is very likely that hundreds of bills will be ready to go to the Governor’s desk. This is normal for the end of session. The House and Senate usually transmit bills to the Governor for consideration in “batches” to give the Governor time to review the bills. For that reason, Under the Dome may not be published for a few weeks as we wait to provide a thorough review of the bills that have become law in 2021.
Monday Bills Scheduled for votes in Committees
The following bills are scheduled for a vote in committees on Monday:
H.5131 and S.155, Acts Relating to Single Use Plastic Straws – the amended bills ban food establishments from providing single use plastic straws to consumers unless the consumer requests one. The first and second violation result in a notice to the establishment. Subsequent offenses result in a fine of $25 per violation up to $300 annually. House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
S.688 SubA, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance Benefits, increases TCI benefits to five weeks in a benefit year starting January 1, 2022 and increases to six weeks starting January 1, 2023. This matches H.6090 SubA that passed the House floor last Friday. House Finance Committee.
H.5855 and S.550, Acts Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Rhode Island Whistle Blower’s Protection Act. These bills prohibit an employer from reporting or threatening to report an employee’s immigration status to ICE because the employee is involved in a whistle blowing protected act. House Labor Committee.
S.736 SubA and H.5867 SubA, Acts Relating to Court and Civil Procedure – Causes of Action, eliminate the defense for a manufacturer or seller in a products liability case that the cause of an injury, death or damage was due to an alteration or modification of the product. Today this defense is a complete bar to recovery. If S.736 SubA and H.5867 SubA pass, the liability would instead be determined by comparative negligence – what percentage was attributable to the alteration versus the percentage attributable to the original product. Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Tuesday, H.6370, An Act Relating to Food and Drugs – Adult Use Marijuana will be heard in the House Finance Committee at the Rise. This is the House version of the legalization of marijuana. While the Senate did hold hearings on its version earlier this year, the House is holding the hearing this week. This should set the stage for negotiations over the summer. The bill can viewed at H6370.pdf (state.ri.us) Written testimony may be submitted at HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov Indicate your name, bill number and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at the top of the message. The deadline for written testimony is Tuesday at 1:00 pm. For verbal testimony requests, CLICK HERE The deadline to register to verbally testify is Monday, 4:00 pm.
Last Week At the State House
The House passed the $13.1 billion budget with few changes. An amendment did pass to waive interest and penalties on the taxable portion of PPP loan forgiveness in tax year 2020, provided the tax is paid in full by March 31, 2022. The amendment also requires the tax administrator to create instructions for making tax payments on the PPP portion of the income tax. The intent is to provide an alternative to taxpayers so that they will not have to go back and refile their 2020 taxes. The budget has been transmitted to the Senate for its consideration.
House Labor Committee Passes Pay Equity Bill
Last Friday, the House Labor Committee passed H.5261 SubA and S.270 SubA, the pay equity bills. The Chamber has been working with the proponents and members of the business community over the past three months in an attempt to strike a balance between eliminating pay inequity for women and minorities, and adopting safeguards to allow businesses to compensate employees for legitimate business reasons. The SubAs reflect more than twenty changes to the original bills. The final negotiations, which took place over Father’s Day weekend, were mediated by the Speaker of House. The Chamber thanks him for his hard work in getting the bills over the finish line in a manner workable for the business community. Additionally, Representative Susan Donovan and House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian put in many hours to help the compromise along.
The Chamber will provide a detailed narrative of the bills once they pass and become law. At this time (the bills could be amended prior to final passage), the bills are written to become effective January 1, 2023; but businesses can help themselves by preparing for the new law prior to 2023.
The Chamber would like to thank (in addition to individual businesses that provided input) the many business organizations who participated in process: Rhode Island Hospitality Association, Rhode Island Business Coalition, Rhode Island Society for Human Resource Managers, The Chamber of Commerce Coalition, The Rhode Island Banker’s Association and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. From the Proponents side, we thank Rhode Island Working Families and the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. In the words of Henry Ford, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
The following new bills of interest have been filed this week:
House Bill No. 6464 Tanzi, Shekarchi, Biah, Ajello, Cassar, Shallcross Smith, Morales, Cortvriend, Ranglin-Vassell, Kislak, AN ACT RELATING TO PROPERTY -- RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT (Provides for the sealing and unsealing of court files in residential eviction proceedings and provides that any eviction for nonpayment of rent, in which the rent arrearage is paid through a rent relief program, shall remain sealed permanently.) H6464.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Bill No. 6467 Nardone, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - PATIENT VISITATION RIGHTS (Department of health to promulgate rules and regulations for essential caregivers at healthcare facilities during a declared emergency.) H6467.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Bill No. 6468 Slater, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- GREEN NEW DEAL ACT OF 2021 (Establishes a climate action plan to eliminate the state's dependence on fossil fuel energy generation of electricity and replace the required generation of electricity from clean energy resources by calendar year 2036.) H6468.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 972 DiPalma, AN ACT RELATING TO HUMAN SERVICES -- MEDICAL ASSISTANCE -- LONG TERM CARE SERVICES AND FINANCE REFORM (Increases the wages for direct care workers employed by home nursing care and home care providers licensed by the Rhode Island department of health.) S0972.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 980 Picard, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- FINANCIAL SERVICES (Updates the Credit for Reinsurance, Risk Based Capital and Insurance Holding Company statutes to the current National Association of Insurance Commissioners standard.) S0980.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Finance Committee Releases Budget
On Thursday night, the House Finance Committee passed a $13.1 billion budget. The Governor’s budget proposal came in at $11.2 billion. Most of the increase is derived from federal funds; however, about $180 million is from state revenues.
On the tax front, the budget includes the taxation of PPP loan forgiveness over $250,000. The Governor had proposed taxing forgiveness over a $150,000 threshold. According to the fiscal office, the higher threshold will yield approximately $54 million for general revenues. The Governor’s proposal was estimated to bring in approximately $67.7 million.
The budget also includes an increase in the property transfer tax for houses over $800,000 in value. (Former Governor Raimondo had advocated for a tax on houses over $500,000; Governor McKee had included the tax on houses over $700,000 in his budget). The money raised would go to an affordable housing program for low and moderate income earners.
The car tax continues its phase-out with municipalities receiving full funding of the loss in revenue. This step is the fifth of six steps in the phase-out plan.
The budget proposal does not include an increase in the personal income tax for higher earners including small business pass-through entities; and it does not include a tax on sugary beverages.
The license fee for contractors is lowered from $200 to $150.The roofing contractor license remains at $400 for the first-time license, but then reduces to $200 for a two-year renewal fee. Licenses for securities sales representative increases from $75 to $100. The $10 retail sales tax permit renewal fee of $10 is eliminated.
On the spending side, the Rhode Island Works program gets a 30% boost in cash benefits, child care assistance to families at 180% of poverty level who need it to attend college and a $100 clothing allowance for each child of a RI Works eligible family. DCYF receives a $10 million increase – this was a big debate back in 2019. Child care provider rates increase, as does funding to nursing homes. The education funding formula allows districts to use a student count from pre-pandemic times or from the current year, whichever is greater. Districts are also slated to receive a one-time $500 payment for each student that leaves the public school for a charter school. This payment would come when the student first leaves the public school for the charter school.
RIte Share reporting – Article 12 includes a reporting requirement by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services including businesses with more than 300 employees starting October 1, 2021 and January 1, 2022 for businesses with more than 100 employees. It is unclear how the report will be generated or what will be required of businesses. The language reads as follows:
(k) Employer Sponsored Insurance. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services shall dedicate staff and resources to reporting monthly as part of the requirements under § 35-17-1 which employer sponsored insurance plans meet the cost effectiveness criteria for RIte Share. Information in the report shall be used for screening for Medicaid enrollment to encourage Rite Share participation. By October 1, 2021, the report shall include any employers with 300 or more employees. By January 1, 2022, the report shall include employers with 100 or more employees. The January report shall also be provided to the chairperson of the house finance committee; the chairperson of the senate finance committee; the house fiscal advisor; the senate fiscal advisor; and the state budget officer.
This Week At The State House
Employer Medicaid Assessment - Today the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on S.101, An Act Relating to Human Services – Health Care for Families. S.101 requires employers with 300 or more employees to pay an assessment for each full or part-time employee that is on Medicaid during a calendar quarter. The assessment is equal to 10% of the employee’s wage up to $1500 a year. The definition of “wage” includes all compensation due to the employee. Non-profit entities and government entities are exempt. Written testimony is can be submitted to the committee by emailing it to: firstname.lastname@example.org *Written Testimony must be submitted prior to 2:00 PM on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in order for it to be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and to be included in the meeting records.
Whistleblower – On Wednesday, the Senate Labor Committee is scheduled to vote on S.550, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – The Rhode Island Whistleblower Act. This bill ban employers from reporting or threatening to report an employee or applicant for employment’ immigration status to the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agency, or any other immigration agency or police. Violation of this provision brings with a private right of action and treble damages. If passed into law, employers would be required to post notice of this act in all languages spoken by the company’s employees. Written testimony can be submitted to the committee by emailing it to: email@example.com *Written Testimony must be submitted prior to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in order for it to be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and to be included in the meeting records.
Parking Lot Requirements – The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government will vote on S.173, An Act Relating to Motor and Motor Vehicles – Parking Facilities and Privileges, Thursday at 3:00pm. Under S.173, all new parking lots and existing lots that undergo an expansion of the number of parking spaces of fifty percent (50%) must create designated parking spaces for electric vehicles. Each electric vehicle parking space must have a level 2 EV charging station or a dual charger to be shared by two parking spaces. In addition, the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and the designation of parking spaces shall be required for: (1) Construction of a parking lot for a new building or new off-street parking facility; (2) An additional parking lot added to an addition for an existing building; and (3) A parking lot increased in size to add fifty percent (50%) or more parking spaces. The amount of designated parking spaces must be the greater of: (1) One space or one percent of the total spaces for restaurants, retail businesses, recreational and cultural venues; (2) One space or one percent (1%) of the total spaces for medical, industrial and municipal facilities; (3) One space or three percent (3%) of the total spaces for all commercial lodging facilities; and (4) One space or five percent (5%) of the total spaces for multi-household residential facilities. Finally, existing parking lots shall comply with the provisions by December 31, 2022. A person who parks a non-electric vehicle in a space designated for persons with electric is subject to a fine of $100 for a first violation; $175 for a second violation; and $325 for a third or subsequent violation. The owner of any facility or business which fails to comply with the provisions is subject to a civil penalty in the amount of ten thousand dollars ($10,000). Written testimony can be submitted to the committee by emailing it to: firstname.lastname@example.org *Written Testimony must be submitted prior to 2:00 PM on Thursday, June 24, 2021, in order for it to be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and to be included in the meeting records. Members of the public can request to provide verbal testimony to the committee through the following link:VERBAL TESTIMONY *Requests to provide verbal testimony must be submitted by 4:00 PM on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.
The following new bills of interest have been filed this week:
House Bill No. 6432 Fogarty, Tanzi, Cortvriend, McEntee, Carson, Speakman, Donovan, Ranglin-Vassell, McGaw, Messier, AN ACT RELATING TO FISH AND WILDLIFE - COMMERCIAL FISHERIES (Permits the dockside sale of allowable live lobsters, crabs and live whelk upon issuance of a direct sale dealer license by the department of environmental management to a commercial fishing license holder.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6432.pdf
House Bill No. 6437 Corvese, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES -- REDEVELOPMENT AGENCIES (Expands the definition of a redevelopment area to include all population census tracts in the state that have been or are designated as opportunity zones.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6437.pdf
House Bill No. 6446 Shekarchi, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- STATE BUILDING CODE (Establishes E-permitting for construction permitting.) H6446.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 959 Lombardi, McCaffrey, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO COURTS AND CIVIL PROCEDURE -- PROCEDURE IN PARTICULAR ACTIONS -- RHODE ISLAND COMMERCIAL RECEIVERSHIP ACT (Creates temporary non-liquidating receivership program for businesses with substantial revenue decline after declared emergency/suspended/ceased substantial part of operation resulting by emergency police/regulatory powers.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0959.pdf
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)
Session to Continue in Fall
As May, 2021 is nearing a close, this normally would be the time legislative leaders would be discussing which bills to pass and which ones to leave in committee until the next year. However, both the House and Senate have signaled that, like everything else in 2021, this session will be different. The Finance committees are expected to continue to do their work on the current fiscal year budget and next year’s budget (begins July 1, 2021) with the hope of releasing a final document for consideration mid-June. Governor McKee announced that he will partially open the State House June 1st. We are expecting to hear from the House as to whether they will return to the capitol for session and to allow the public to interact with legislators to discuss policy for the state. The Senate has said in the past that it expects to finish this segment of the session from RI Community College. UTD will alert you to any changes, once announced.
It also appears that the legislature plans to return mid-September to deal with a federal stimulus funds budget as well as any legislative bills that remain alive in committees. This means any bill not passed by the General Assembly in June will remain up for possible consideration this fall.
Minimum Wage Signed Into Law
It is official. The Rhode Island minimum wage bills were signed into law by Governor McKee May 20th. The first increase to $12.25 per hour will take effect January 1, 2022. The wage will increase to $13.00, January 1, 2023; $14 January 1, 2024; and $15 January 1, 2025. The original bill called for the $12.25 to take effect in October, but was pushed to January at the request of the Chamber and other business groups.
Governor Signs Employee Incentives to Return to Work
Governor Mckee signed two bills allowing those partially unemployed to earn 150% of their weekly benefit rate before losing unemployment benefits. This new incentive to return to work program officially started May 23rd and continues until June, 2022.
This Week At The State House
House Finance to Hear Environmental Bills and PPP loan bill
Today at the Rise, (approximately 5:00 p.m.) the House Finance Committee will hear testimony on a number of bills. The deadline for requesting to testify verbally has passed, but written testimony can be submitted today by 1:00 p.m. to HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message.
H.5120, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Economic and Climate Resilience Act of 2020,
creates the Economic and Climate Resilience Fund and deposits into it, money collected through a carbon tax. The tax is set at $15 per metric ton of carbon, charged at the first point of sale, and it increases by $5 per metric ton until it reaches $50 per metric ton.
The bill requires two other states (Massachusetts and one other RGGI state) to pass a carbon tax before the Rhode Island tax would become effective; but the other states only have to pass a carbon tax of $5 per metric ton, not an equal tax. The following chart shows the cent per gallon or dollar per gallon impact on prices:
Emission Factor kg CO2/unit
Tax Rate per metric ton
First Year of Enactment
Second Year of Enactment
Third Year of Enactment
Fourth Year of Enactment
Fifth Year of Enactment
Sixth Year of Enactment
Seventh Year of Enactment
Eighth Year of Enactment
International Carbon Bank & Exchange
In the first year of enactment alone, taxes assessed on gasoline, and diesel fuel could reach over $200 million. The Chamber has not been able to determine the impact on electricity and natural gas customers. This money would be paid by Rhode Island consumers throughout the year. At the end of the year, the Department of Revenue is charged with issuing a refundable credit to tax returns for businesses and residents that pay taxes, or direct checks to those that do not owe taxes.
H.5120 gives 40% of the collected revenues to residents; but that 40% is not divided equally among the population. First, the Division of Taxation would be required to divide the Rhode Island adult population into three equal groups: the lowest income earners, middle income earners and high income earners. Then the 40% would be distributed as follows: 50% to the lowest third of income earners, 35% to the middle third of income earners and 15% to the highest third income earners.
The bill gives 30% of revenues collected to businesses. Seventy percent (70%) of this revenue bucket would be distributed based on the percentage of full-time employees the business has compared to total employment in the state; and the remaining 30% goes to businesses most vulnerable to fuel cost increases from the tax. The bill gives 28% to support climate resilience, renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate adaption and low carbon transition initiatives in Rhode Island. And the final two percent (2%) is to be used for administrative expenses.
H.5674, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – The Green Justice Zone Act, creates a Green Justice Zone as a model that could be used in other areas of the state, with the first pilot program located in the Providence port area. It seeks to create a new governing board of 5 individuals, elected in a special election, open to residents of the green zone. Board members are paid and have the ability to hire staff as well as contractors. Any business that wishes to operate in the green zone would have to apply for a permit from the Board. No permit – no operation allowed. The bill then lays out a list of businesses that are not eligible to obtain a green justice zone permit: electric power plant that uses fossil fuel, waste storage facility, toxic material storage, fossil fuel storage, chemical manufacturing or storage, scrap metal storage or processing, cement, concrete or asphalt storage, incinerator, resource recovery facility, or large recycling facility. A number of these businesses are currently operating in the Port of Providence and would have to close if H.5674 passes.
H.5807, An Act Relating to Public Property and Works – State Purchases, requires the Director of the Department of Administration to promulgate rules giving preference in contract and/or subcontract awards to business enterprises whose highest paid executive receives compensation equal to 25 times or less than the median compensation paid to its nonexecutive employees. The requirement would not apply if it conflicts with the details of a federal contract or conflicts with federal law.
H.6248, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Small Business Assistance Program, would create a forgivable loan program for new, existing or restarted small businesses with 50 employees or less for forgivable loans not to exceed $25,000. The program would be funded by federal stimulus funds modeled on the federal Paycheck Protection Program and would sunset December 31, 2021.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6347 Carson, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- WATERS AND NAVIGATION -- MUNICIPAL RESILIENCY (Establishes flood audit program to reduce flood risks, mandates Rhode Island infrastructure bank increase funding for action grants, require cities/towns provide priority list to increase municipal resiliency, establish a climate leadership academy.) H6347.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Bill No. 6352 Morales, Slater, Ranglin-Vassell, Henries, Potter, Kislak, Williams, McGaw, Speakman, Batista, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- DIGNITY AT WORK ACT (Establishes the Dignity at Work Act, to provide workers with more protection from bullying and harassment in the workplace.) H6352.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 920 Acosta, Kallman, Bell, Miller, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (Regulates the manufacture, distribution and retail sale of vapor products in Rhode Island.) S0920.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 925 Goodwin, AN ACT RELATED TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS (Regulates the imposition of surcharges on any consumer when using a credit card to make a purchase or other business transaction.) S0925.pdf (state.ri.us)
Legislature Moves to Provide Return to Work Incentives
Both H.6249 and S.858 are scheduled to pass in committee this week. The bills could be on the Governor’s desk for his consideration by the end of this week or next week. If enacted, from May 23, 2021, through June 30, 2022, an employee will be deemed partially unemployed in any week of less than full-time work if he or she fails to earn in wages for that week an amount equal to the weekly benefit rate for total unemployment to which he/she would be entitled if totally unemployed and eligible. An employee shall be deemed partially unemployed in any week of less than full-time work if they fail to earn wages for that week in an amount equal to or greater than 150% of the weekly benefit rate for total unemployment to which they would be entitled if totally unemployed and eligible.
Senate Labor Committee Passes Temporary Caregiver Expansion
S.688, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance Benefits was scheduled for a vote Monday in the Senate Labor Committee. The bill increases the temporary caregiver benefits to six weeks in a benefit year starting January 1, 2022; and eight weeks in a benefit year starting January 1, 2023.
Transportation Climate Initiative Hearing
On Wednesday at 3:30 pm, the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture will take testimony on the Transportation Climate Initiative – a regional cap and trade program for transportation fuels. If passed, Rhode Island would enter into a regional program with Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington DC, to mandate the reduction of CO2 emissions generated from the use of fossil fuels in personal vehicles and commercial trucks. The regional program will be governed by a 153-page model rule developed by the Georgetown Climate Initiative.
TCI sets a specific number of emission allowances that can be sold at a quarterly auction run by the region. It is a sealed bidding process. Successful bidders can use the allowances to sell petroleum products to consumers or they can hold on to them, or sell them in the secondary market. Petroleum products cannot be sold to the public without possessing an allowance – and a fuel supplier can only sell product equal to the number of allowances they own. Each year, the regional TCI group will decrease the number of allowance available at auction by 3% thus driving down the available transportation fuel for sale and the CO2 emissions as well.
Money raised at the allowance auction are divided among the participating states and must be used, in Rhode Island, as follows: 35% to benefit “overburdened and underserved” communities, 5% to administration of the Rhode Island program, and the remainder to programs such as public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, bicycles, resilience, broadband internet programs and other programs that assist in transportation energy efficiency. The funds may not be used for the general budget.
Written testimony can be submitted to the committee by emailing it to: email@example.com *Written Testimony must be submitted prior to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in order for it to be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and to be included in the meeting records.
Members of the public can request to provide verbal testimony to the committee through the following link: VERBAL TESTIMONY *Requests to provide verbal testimony must be submitted by 4:00 PM on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
Revenues Better Than Expected
The Revenue Estimating Conference completed its work, giving way for the final phase of the budget process to begin. The good news – revenues are higher than previously anticipated. Total General Revenues for the current fiscal year are up an additional $177 million. The FY2022 estimated revenues are $146.7 million higher than anticipated back in November of 2020 when the Estimating Conference last met. Why are the numbers higher? The growth came from sales tax collections and personal income tax. Rhode Island is expected to collect $1.29 billion in sales tax this year ($79.5 million more than expected). The remote seller law is key to this result, as many people purchased items through the internet during the pandemic. Personal income tax collections are $89.6 million more than anticipated last November, for a total of $1.54 billion.
One area of tax decline came from the business corporations tax. In FY2019, the State collected $155.1 million in corporate income tax. Collections fell to $148.6 million in FY2020; and is expected to finish the current fiscal year at $114.5 million. The conferees do believe collections will rise to $147.2 million in FY2022 as we continue to emerge from the COVID pandemic. The other revenue stream that took a hit is the lottery. With casinos closed for much of the year, VLT and table games revenues were down as anticipated. Surprisingly, other non-casino lottery games were up $7.5 million and sports betting was up $3.4 million.
The legislature will now begin the final process of looking at the revenues, cash assistance and medical payment caseloads, repayment of any outstanding rainy day fund loans, along with all of the other state expenses, to create a budget.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6330
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO COURTS AND CIVIL PROCEDURE -- PROCEDURE IN PARTICULAR ACTIONS -- RHODE ISLAND COMMERCIAL RECEIVERSHIP ACT (Creates temporary non-liquidating receivership program for businesses with substantial revenue decline after declared emergency/suspended/ceased substantial part of operation resulting by emergency police/regulatory powers.)
This Week At the State House
Municipal Ordinance Moratorium For Restaurants and Bars
On Monday, the House Small Business Committee considered H.6119 SubA. This amended bill imposes a moratorium on the enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that would penalize owners of food service establishments and bars for any modifications or alternations to their premises in response to an emergency declaration by the Governor or local municipal officials. The moratorium would be effective during the period of emergency and for six months after the emergency declaration is rescinded or until January 1, 2022, whichever occurs first.
Minimum Wage Increase Takes Another Step
On Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., the House Labor Committee is expected to recommend passage of S.1, the senate version of the minimum wage increase legislation. The Senate Labor Committee is set to pass the House version (H.5130) Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. With both committees scheduled to vote this week, the bills will likely get to the Governor’s desk next week.
Incentives to Return to Work
The House Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on an amended version of H.6249, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations. For weeks starting May 23, 2021, and continuing through June 30, 2022, an employee would be deemed “partially unemployed” in any week of less than full-time work if they fail to earn wages for that week in an amount equal to or greater than 150% of the weekly benefit rate for total unemployment to which they would be entitled if totally unemployed and eligible. This is meant to serve as an incentive for employees to return to work. Additionally, the Department of Labor and Training has signaled that it will reinstate the requirement to look for work in order to be eligible for unemployment compensation. The reinstatement is expected to begin later this month.
Last Week At the State House
Revenue Estimating Conference – Caseload Estimates
The Revenue Estimating Conference completed its 2021 and 2022 caseload estimates last week. An interesting takeaway, for all Rhode Islanders, is to understand is just how much the State has in fixed expenses based on current programs.
Rhode Island Works is expected to have 6000 individuals in the program in FY2021 at a monthly cost per person of $182.93, for a total cash payment of $13,170,960. Monthly bus passes are estimated at $566,400. Supportive services are set at $585,300. Clothing allowance for children is $351,158, and catastrophic payments of $300 is expected. The total cost for RI Works in FY2021 is $14,684,118. In FY2022, the conferees expect the number of individuals to uptick to 6,565 individuals at a monthly cost per person of $182.93 for a total cash payment of $14,411,225. Monthly bus passes are estimated to be $939,482; supportive services at $585,300; clothing allowance for children is $350,00 and catastrophic safety net is $4000. The total FY2022 estimate for RI Works is $16,290,007.
In the area of child care, FY2021 subsidies are expected to be given to 5725 recipients at an annual cost per subsidy of $9822, for a total of $56,574,450. A large portion of this expense comes from federal dollars. In FY2022 the conferees believe there will be approximately 7400 recipients at an annual cost per subsidy of $9091, for a total of $67,273,400.
In FY2021 there will be an estimated 33,237 people receiving SSI payments at a monthly cost per person of $46.18 for a total of $18,418,616. In FY2022, the conferees believe the number may go up slightly to 33,400 individuals. The monthly cost per person is $46.18 for a total of $18,508,944.
In the area of medical care, which includes: hospitals, long term care, managed care, acute care services, and pharmacy benefits, the numbers are very large. In FY2021 the total medical assistance program is estimated to be $2,690,300,000. In FY2022, the conferees believe the total will be $2,886,900,000. To give you an idea of how they arrived at such a large number, FY2022 is expected to cost:
In next week’s Under The Dome, we will review the revenue estimates predictions adopted by the Revenue Estimating Conference.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6297 Casey, Craven, Kennedy, Amore, Messier, Chippendale, Barros, McEntee, Kazarian, Fogarty, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT – TOURISM AND DEVELOPMENT (Removes the requirement that five percent (5%) of the hotel tax be paid to the Greater Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau and redistribute the five percent (5%) tax to the city or district where the hotel or residential unit is located.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6297.pdf
House Bill No. 6302 Place, Quattrocchi, Newberry, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY (Prohibits public agencies and private businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccine before permitting any individual from entering the building or business.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6302.pdf
House Bill No. 6310 Cortvriend, Fogarty, Batista, Morales, Alzate, Felix, Caldwell, Bennett, Kislak, Handy, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – TRANSPORTATION EMISSIONS AND MOBILE (TEAM) COMMUNITY ACT (Establishes the Transportation Emission and Mobile (Team) Community Act intended to limit and reduce indirect carbon dioxide emissions throughout the state while promoting the purposes of the transportation climate initiative program.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/HouseText21/H6310.pdf
Senate Bill No. 872 DiMario, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Euer, Quezada, Miller, Valverde, Goldin, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – TRANSPORTATION EMISSIONS AND MOBILE (TEAM) COMMUNITY ACT (Establishes the Transportation Emission and Mobile (Team) Community Act intended to limit and reduce indirect carbon dioxide emissions throughout the state while promoting the purposes of the transportation climate initiative program.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0872.pdf
Senate Bill No. 874 Quezada, Euer, Seveney, Sosnowski, Pearson, McCaffrey, Miller, Valverde, Goldin, 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.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0874.pdf
Senate Bill No. 877 DiMario, Valverde, Sosnowski, Acosta, Lawson, Mendes, Anderson, Kallman, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE (Prohibits insurance carriers from charging out-of-pocket expenses to the insured for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and mandates that all COVID-19 testing or vaccination is free.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0877.pdf
Senate Bill No. 883 Lawson, Quezada, Cano, DiMario, Valverde, Seveney, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS (Requires all persons or entities collecting social security and other personal identification numbers to create and publicly display a privacy protection policy. Violations of this requirement would incur a civil penalty of five-hundred dollars ($500).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText21/SenateText21/S0883.pdf
This Week At the State House
House Finance Meets Today
Today, May 4th, the House Finance Committee will take testimony on TCI/TDI as well as about the challenge of getting employees to return to work.
H.5789, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance – General Provisions, increases the number of caregiver benefit weeks from four weeks to twelve weeks beginning January 1, 2022. The bill, the companion bill to S.436 discussed in last week’s UTD, expands the coverage to care for a sibling or grandchild, and includes routine, preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic care as eligible reasons for TDI/TCI coverage. H.5789 allows self-employed individuals to join TDI/TCI, and they become eligible after making four quarterly payments into the system, or earlier, if the person was paying into the system prior to becoming self-employed. The bill changes the taxable wage base to the greater of $250,000 or a calculation using the maximum weekly benefit amount multiplied by 30 and divided by (.36). Lastly, the bill creates tiers of weekly benefits paid to lower income individuals. Minimum wage workers will receive 90% of the individual’s weekly wage. Those making two times minimum wage will receive 75% of the individual’s weekly wage. These new rates do not include dependent allowances, although no one is permitted to receive more than 100% of the weekly wage. H5789.pdf (state.ri.us)
H.6090, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance – Benefits, increases TCI benefits to six weeks in a benefit year starting January 1, 2022 and would increase TCI benefits to eight weeks in a benefit year beginning January 1, 2023. H6090.pdf (state.ri.us)
Two other bills attempt to provide a financial incentive for employees to return to work. The Department of Labor has signaled that they will reinstate the “work search” requirement sometime in late May. However, some in the business community believe a larger incentive to return to work is required. This issue seems to be splitting the business community.
H.6249, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security, allows employees to earn up to 150% of their weekly UI benefit while also still collecting the additional $300 in extra UI from the federal government. The additional $300 benefit is expected to end in September, but the federal government could extend the benefit. H.6249 allows employees to be deemed partially unemployed – and earn up to 150% of their UI weekly benefit rate starting May 1, 2021 and ending June 30, 2022. H6249.pdf (state.ri.us)
H.6218, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – RI Back to Work Incentive Program, provides incentive benefits for persons collecting unemployment benefits who return to work. The person would be eligible to receive $150 per week for thirteen weeks based on a forty-hour work week with prorated benefits for less than forty hours. Upon completion of the thirteen-week period, additional compensation up to a maximum of $1,950 would be paid on a prorated basis. These benefits would expire on January 1, 2022. H6218.pdf (state.ri.us)
Written testimony may be submitted via HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov but must be received by 1:00 pm Tuesday, May 4th. Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message. This inbox is for written testimony only. For faster processing, it is recommended that testimony is submitted as a PDF file.
Senate Labor Meets Wednesday
On Wednesday, May 5th, the Senate Labor Committee will meet at 5:00 pm to discuss some of the same bills as House Finance.
S.808, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – RI Back to Work Incentive Program is identical to H.6218 outlined above.
S.858, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security is identical to H.6249 outlined above.
S.272, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Fair Employment Practices, changes the definition of an employee to include volunteers, apprentices, and unpaid interns for the purposes of Fair Employment Practices Act. The bill also allows individual to be personally sued for violations of the Act. Under current law, only the employer can be sued for discrimination against an employee. S0272.pdf (state.ri.us)
S.837, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance – Contributions, makes a radical change in the area of TDI. This program, since its inception, has been a program for employees, funded by employees. S.837 seeks to reduce the employee contribution by half and require employers to pay the other half. The new payment system would start January 1, 2022. S0837.pdf (state.ri.us)
House Finance to Take Up Income Tax Hike Bills – Your Help is Needed!
Thursday, May 6th the Chamber needs your help! The House Finance Committee will meet to discuss two tax hike bills (H 5227 and H 5229) that would increase income taxes in Rhode Island, damaging our state’s competitiveness and our ability to attract new businesses and grow our economy. You can help by delivering the message: “raising taxes right now is a bad idea.”
The Chamber is asking you to submit both written and verbal testimony:
H-5227 increases the tax rate from 5.99% to 8.99% on income over $475,000 starting January 1, 2022. The money goes to the general fund
H-5229 raises the tax rate from 5.99% to 6.99% on income over $500,000 effective immediately and places the money into an account to be used for primary and secondary education. It is important to remember that the General Assembly can transfer money out of restricted receipt accounts in any budget document.
This is a bad idea - Here’s why.
Revenue Estimating Conference – Economic Overview
IHS Markit provided their best economic forecast for Rhode Island at the Revenue Estimating Conference meeting last week. Before offering predictions, they revised their December 2020 report to reflect actual data. Nonfarm payroll was revised down an additional 4100 jobs which also related to a further downward revision on state year-over -year growth from -8.7% to -9.3%. Unemployment numbers improved a little as the rate was7.9% instead of the projected 8.1%. Much of the downturn came as a result of the COVID surge at the end of the year. Not surprisingly, the change in employment from January, 2020 to February, 2021, was felt more by lower wage earners. Those making $27,000 a year or less experienced a -25.1% employment rate. Those making $27000 - $60,000 experienced a -10.8% employment rate; and those making more than $60,000 experienced a -1.7% employment rate.
IHS Markit predicts: (1) Employment growth will proceed at a steady, yet decelerating pace over time as the recovery continues (2) Growth heavily front-loaded to near term as recovery takes off (3) Overall, quarterly annualized gains average 3.5% over that period, for an overall net gain of ~37,000 jobs by FY23Q4 and (4) Unemployment rate falls from 7.2% in FY21Q3 to 3.8% by FY23Q4
At the sectoral level, most of the largest projected employment gains are concentrated in the categories most heavily impacted in Spring 2020
• Professional, Scientific, Technical Services (+6,200)
• Accommodations and Food Services (+6,000)
• Healthcare and Social Assistance (+4,300)
• Other Services (+4,200)
• Administrative Support Services (+4,100)
Of course, these predictions are made under the assumption that no new significant COVID related outbreaks occur.
May 2021 Forecast –Annual Percent Change
FY2019 FY2020 FY2021 FY2022 FY2023 FY2024
Employment, Total Nonfarm 0.7 -3.9 -3.9 5.1 2.4 1.2
Real GSP, (2012$) 0.9 -2.9 1.0 5.3 2.3 1.9
Total Personal Income ($) 3.4 5.8 7.1 -1.8 3.6 4.0
Wages and Salaries ($) 2.9 -0.2 3.7 5.8 4.5 4.7
Transfer Payments ($) 2.2 27.7 21.6 -20.2 0.0 2.6
Personal Consumption Exp. 3.6 -0.8 2.6 7.9 5.1 4.5
Unemployment Rate (%, Level) 3.8 6.2 8.4 4.8 3.9 3.7
Sugary Beverage Tax Debate Continues
The tax on sugary beverages is getting attention at the State House. While the revenue may be desirable to some, the debate seems to be geared more toward influencing nutritional choices of individuals and providing a revenue stream for a new program. If passed, H.5715 would levy a tax of 1.5 cents per ounce, starting January 1, 2022, on items such as: soda, syrups, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened iced teas and coffees, and other products with added caloric sweetener or flavored water with added caloric sweetener. Neither Massachusetts or Connecticut has a similar tax. H.5715 creates a new fund, called the “Retail SNAP Incentives Program.” The purpose of the fund is to promote healthy food access and nutrition for SNAP recipients. Recipients would receive $.50 credit on their EBT cards for each $1 spent on eligible fruits and vegetables up to a monthly limit set by the state.
What does the tax mean for businesses and consumers? A 5-gallon bag in a box, used by many businesses for fountain drinks, would be taxed $57.60. A 12-pack of canned soft drink would be taxed $2.16. A 19oz package of lemonade powder to make 8 quarts would be taxed $3.84. A 6-pack of ice tea (16.9 oz) would be taxed $1.44. An 8-pack of sports drinks (20 oz) would be taxed $2.40. A 2-liter bottle of soft drink would be taxed $1.02. This tax will hurt businesses and cost consumers money. If you wish to help on this issue, you can:
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6265 (Secretary of State) Amore, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- UNIFORM LIMITED PARTNERSHIP ACT (Enacts the Rhode Island Limited Partnership Act to govern the law of limited partnerships in this state and repeal chapter 12 of title 7 entitled "Limited Partnerships". Effective 1/1/2022.)
House Bill No. 6267 Costantino, McEntee, Caldwell, Corvese, Hawkins, Phillips, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION (Provides for an interest and penalty free period for the payment of sales and income taxes due to the state for the calendar year 2021 and continuing through March of 2021 for income taxes and August 2021 for sales taxes.)
Senate Bill No. 858 Goodwin, Ciccone, Ruggerio, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYMENT SECURITY -- GENERAL PROVISIONS (Increases partial unemployment benefits by disregarding an amount of earnings when calculating weekly benefit rate with expiration date of 6/30/22.)
Budget Process Heats Up
The General Assembly is back as it begins the final phase of the 2021 legislative session. Over the next two months bills will be passed and sent to the Governor for consideration and the FY2022 budget will be amended and passed. Much of the expert budget testimony will be unveiled in the next two weeks, with the final budget numbers being debated and decided upon on May 10th.
The following are key dates for the May Estimating Conference:
Monday, April 26, 2021 – Cash Assistance and Medical Caseloads
9:00 A.M. Department of Human Services and Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Friday, April 30, 2021 – Economic Overview and Testimony
9:00 A.M. US and RI Economic Forecasts – IHS Markit James Bohnaker, Economist Michael Lynch, Economist Consensus Economic Forecast
10:30 A.M. Lottery Receipts - Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery Mark Furcolo, Director, Division of Lottery Accruals – Accounts and Controls Peter Keenan, State Controller
Monday May 3, 2021 – Tax Collections
1:00 P .M Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation Neena Savage, State Tax Administrator
Wednesday May 5, 2021 – Caseload Estimate
9:00 A.M. Caseload Estimating Conference
Thursday May 6, 2021 – Testimony (if necessary)
9:00 A.M Tax Collections – Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation Neena Savage, State Tax Administrator
Monday, May 10, 2021 – Revenue Estimate 9:00 A.M. Revenue Estimating Conference
This Week At the State House
Wednesday is a big voting and hearing day.
The House Labor Committee is set to vote on a minimum wage bill that is expected to be amended to match the Senate version passed back in February. H.5130 SubA, if passed by the committee and then the full House, will increase the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour starting January 1, 2022; $13 per hour January 1, 2023; $14 per hour January 1, 2024; and $15 per hour January 1, 2025. The original bill called for the increase to begin July 1, 2021. The Chamber opposed an increase in minimum wage, but also advocated for changing the implementation date to January if the legislature was to move forward on the proposal.
Plastic Bags and Plastic Straws
The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee is scheduled to vote to ban the use of plastic bags (S.37) and plastic straws (S.155). The Senate passed both of these bills in prior years.
S.37 bans retail establishments from providing plastic bags to customers unless those bags have handles which are stitched and are “specifically designed and manufactured for 125 or more reuses, and is made primarily of washable cloth, other durable woven or nonwoven fabric, polyester, polypropylene, or other durable plastic with a minimum thickness of four (4.0) mils.” There are some exemptions such as bags used for perishable foods, newspapers and door hangers. See S0037.pdf (state.ri.us) for the exact language
S.155 bans establishments from providing single-use plastic straws to customers unless that customer specifically requests one. S0155.pdf (state.ri.us)
TDI/TCI, Family Leave and Medical Leave
The Senate Labor Committee will take testimony on a few human resource related bills, Wednesday, April 28th at 3:00 p.m. If you wish to submit written testimony on any of these bills email the testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1:59 PM Wednesday, April 28th. Requests to testify verbally must be submitted before 4:00 PM Tuesday (TODAY). Members of the public can request to provide verbal testimony to the committee through the following link: VERBAL TESTIMONY
S.436, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance – General Provisions, increases the number of caregiver benefit weeks from four weeks to twelve weeks beginning January 1, 2022. The bill expands the coverage to care for a sibling or grandchild, and includes routine, preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic care as eligible reasons for TDI/TCI coverage. S.436 allows self-employed individuals to join TDI/TCI, and they become eligible after making four quarterly payments into the system, or earlier, if the person was paying into the system prior to becoming self-employed. The bill changes the taxable wage base to the greater of $250,000 or a calculation using the maximum weekly benefit amount multiplied by 30 and divided by (.36). Lastly, the bill creates tiers of weekly benefits paid to lower income individuals. Minimum wage workers will receive 90% of the individual’s weekly wage. Those making two times minimum wage will receive 75% of the individual’s weekly wage. These new rates do not include dependent allowances, although no one is permitted to receive more than 100% of the weekly wage. The bill can be viewed at: S0436.pdf (state.ri.us)
S.611, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations, Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act, increases the amount of parental or family leave available to an employee from 13 weeks to 26 weeks in any two calendar years. The bill would take effect upon passage. The bill can be viewed at: S0611.pdf (state.ri.us)
S.612, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations, Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, would require an employer to provide employees with additional paid sick leave time, in addition to the current paid sick and safe leave time, for COVID-19 purposes. For employees who work 40 hours or more per week, an employer would be required to provide them with an additional 80 hours of paid sick leave time. For employees who work fewer than 40 hours per week, an employer would be required to provide them with paid sick leave time equal to an average of the number of hours they work over a two-week period. If an employee’s hours vary, the employer is required to use one of the following two options: (1) a number equal to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled per day over the six month period ending on the date on which the employee takes the paid sick leave time, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type; or (2) If the employee did not work over such period, the reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hiring of the average number of hours per day that the employee would normally be scheduled to work. This act would take effect upon passage. The bill can be viewed at: S0612.pdf (state.ri.us)
The following new bills have been filed:
Senate Bill No. 826 (Secretary of State) Lombardi, Coyne, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- UNIFORM LIMITED PARTNERSHIP ACT (Enacts the Rhode Island Limited Partnership Act to govern the law of limited partnerships in this state and repeal chapter 12 of title 7 entitled "Limited Partnerships". Effective 1/1/2022.) S0826.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 833 (Dept. of Transportation) Lombardo, Lombardi, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- SIZE, WEIGHT, AND LOAD LIMITS (Transfers all responsibility for oversize/overweight permitting to the department of transportation and amends and increases fines for all oversize and overweight infractions.) S0833.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 836 (Secretary of State) Picard, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- MERGER AND CONSOLIDATION (Amends the Rhode Island Nonprofit Corporation Act regarding consolidation and merger.) S0836.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 837 Pearson, Seveney, Acosta, Goldin, Miller, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE -- CONTRIBUTIONS (Decreases an employee’s obligation for contribution from wages and require an employer to contribute one-half of the amount to an employee’s contribution.) S0837.pdf (state.ri.us)
Senate Bill No. 838 Lombardi, Lombardo, Picard, Lawson, Ciccone, Gallo, Felag, AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES -- GAMES OF CHANCE -- FILING REQUIREMENTS (Removes the requirement, that retail businesses that promote themselves using games of chance, have to register those games of chance with the secretary of state and pay a one hundred fifty dollar ($150) filing fee.) S0838.pdf (state.ri.us)