Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
Last Week – Rallies, Snow and Testimonies
Last week at the statehouse over one thousand people showed up on a Tuesday afternoon to support the right to own guns. Proponents of new gun restriction laws also were in the building; but what this author finds refreshing is that everyone was respectful. Individuals exercised their right to petition the government with dignity. Wednesday the state house closed due to weather forcing the Senate Labor Committee minimum wage hearing to be cancelled and rescheduled for Wednesday, March 14th in Room 212 At the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm). Thursday the Chamber testified against a mandate to provide 13 weeks of unpaid pregnancy leave to part time workers (benefit is available day one of hire); against a bill that requires businesses to give 40 hours of leave to pick up a child at school necessitated by an emergency, illness, or behavioral problem; and in favor of legislation to allow seasonal businesses (open less than 20 weeks a year) to treat seasonal employees similar to contract employees by providing a start and finish date and thus make them ineligible for unemployment benefits at the end of the season.
What’s Going On This Week
While the Senate Labor Committee takes up minimum wage bills on Wednesday, the House Labor Committee will take testimony on the same bills Thursday, in Room 101, At the Rise. H.7199 (Reps. Bennett, Craven, Ranglin-Vassell, Knight and Regunberg) raises the minimum wage to $11 on January 1, 2019. H.7397 (Reps. Walsh, Lombardi, Ranglin-Vassell, Hull and Maldonado) raises the tipped wage fifty cents per year until the tipped wage equals the state’s regular minimum wage. H.7636 (Reps. Ranglin-Vassell, Regunberg, Ajello, Hull and Bennett) incrementally raises the minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2026. H.
The House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will meet Thursday in Room 203 At the Rise. H.7827 (Reps. Handy, Regunberg, McKiernan Barros and Williams) creates what is called the Rhode Island Global Warming Solutions Act. Its stated purpose is to “create a fair, workable, cost-effective, legally enforceable, system by which Rhode Island will be able to reduce its economy-wide carbon emissions by at least eighty percent (80%) below 1990 levels by 2050. It achieves this goal by directing the Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources to adopt, within one year of the effective date, “mandatory and enforceable regulations that the commissioner believes are reasonably necessary to achieve” the emissions requirement for electricity generators and indirect electricity users. The Commissioner must consult with other agencies to develop the regulations. The Department of Transportation is charged with performing the same task for the transportation emissions that come from personal vehicles, trucks, etc. The Director must meet the 80% emissions reduction regardless of the expense, science or mandates that might be necessary. This is truly the most difficult piece of the legislation in that it would, in reality, require Rhode Islanders to reduce driving or purchase electric vehicles (although a large majority of Rhode Island electricity is generated by natural gas). H.7827 also includes the same requirement for building codes, with regulations to be drafted by the state building commissioner. Should any Commissioner or Director fail to enact regulations that achieve the reductions in emissions, any individual could bring an action in Providence Superior Court to force the regulations – no matter how costly – to be promulgated.
H.7851 (Reps. McEntee, Handy, Regunberg, Fogarty and Tanzi) bans large retailers – defined as those with annual retail gross sales volumes of $5 million or more – from providing plastic bags to customers effective January 1, 2021. Retailers can charge customers up to 25 cents per paper bag unless that customer is a SNAP or EBT card holder at which time no fee may be charged. In addition, no retail establish, large or small, could provide polystyrene disposable food containers at point of sale starting January 1, 2021.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 7832
BY Maldonado, Tanzi, Barros, Diaz, Ajello
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - SUGARY DRINKS (Creates a tax on sugary drinks for the purpose of reducing the demand for those beverages, and discouraging the excessive consumption of, sugary drinks.)
House Bill No. 7847
BY Phillips, Morin, Casey, Solomon, Ucci
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Repeals the monthly surcharge and prepaid wireless E-911 charge and replaces them with a budget appropriation by the general assembly to fund the E-911 system.)
House Bill No. 7849
BY Solomon, McKiernan, Shekarchi, Casey, Morin
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - ESTABLISHING A SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FUND (Establishes a small business development fund to encourage formation of private capital investment by federally-licensed investment companies.)
House Bill No. 7851
BY McEntee, Handy, Regunberg, Fogarty, Tanzi
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION ACT (Prohibits large retail establishments from providing plastic checkout bags/all retail establishments providing polystyrene food containers with enforcement by municipalities with opt out election effective January 1, 2021.)
House Bill No. 7868
BY Tanzi, Regunberg, Maldonado
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- HEALTHY BEVERAGE ACT (Creates the "Healthy Beverage Act" and requires children's meals provided by restaurants include certain healthy beverage options if the beverage comes with the meal.)
House Bill No. 7887
BY Barros, Shanley, Maldonado, Kazarian, Blazejewski
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - THE PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP BOTTLE RECYCLING ACT (Creates a beverage container recycling program using redemption centers which includes the use of automated devices to accept containers for recycling.)
House Bill No. 7893
BY Williams, Morin, Vella-Wilkinson, Walsh, Hull
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - PAYMENT OF WAGES (Enables employees to file a lien against their employers personal or real property for unpaid wages.)
House Bill No. 7899
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS -- THE EDWARD O. HAWKINS AND THOMAS C. SLATER MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT (Prohibits employers from refusing to hire/discharge/discriminate against medical marijuana users testing positive for marijuana use.)
House Bill No. 7900
BY Slater, Diaz, Handy, Blazejewski, Maldonado
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE HOME ENERGY RATE AFFORDABILITY ACT (Creates the Home Energy Rate Affordability Program to ensure that utility rates are affordable for low-income households.)
House Bill No. 7937
BY Phillips, Newberry, Shanley, Barros, Johnston
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SALES AND USE TAXES - ENFORCEMENT AND COLLECTION (Eliminates the ten dollar ($10.00) fee requirement for the sales tax permit.)
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