Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
Call to Action – Unemployment Trust Fund Replenishment
The Chamber needs your help! Last week we provided testimony again, asking for a full replenishment of the Unemployment Trust Fund. Prior to the pandemic, the UI Trust Fund had over $500 million in it and businesses were being taxed at a “schedule F rate”. The Fund was healthy enough that discussions were underway to drop the tax rate to “schedule E” (the lower the alphabetical designation, the lower the corresponding tax rate). As of a couple months ago, the fund dropped to about $195 million and the tax rate paid by employers is now at “schedule H” which is two schedules higher than the pre-pandemic rate. The $300 million drop in funds came from the business community alone. Without help from the State or the federal government, the business community will bear the burden of paying back the $300 million.
As we all know, some very bad people took advantage of the pandemic by filing multiple fraudulent claims. We know that at least $70 million in fraudulent claims were paid out in Rhode Island (that number could change when the updated data is released). Of the $70 million, about $37 million was paid by the Trust Fund – meaning paid by Rhode Island employers. At the very least, employers should not be responsible to pay fraudulent claims.
Employers did not want to shut their doors to customers. They did not want to lay off or terminate employees. The State made the choice to close non-essential businesses and told people to stay home. From a public health perspective, this may have been the correct choice; but it was still a choice made by the State. If it were not for the pandemic, employers would be paying less in unemployment insurance premiums today. ARPA funds are intended to be used to address losses associated with the pandemic. The UI Trust Fund experienced great loss due almost entirely due to the pandemic.
Lastly, it is important to stress that once the ARPA funds are spent, those funds are gone. Should the General Assembly choose not to replenish the UI Trust Fund, and Rhode Island experiences another downturn in the economy, there will be no funds to assist the UI trust fund. In that case, the tax rate would have to be further increased or the state would have to borrow from the federal government.
Please contact your legislators now and express how important it is to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Call or send an email telling your own experience with unemployment insurance taxes. Thank you!!!
This Week at the State House
On Tuesday, May 3rd, the House Finance Committee will take testimony on many pieces of legislation. Among them are H.7440, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax and H.7659, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax. H.7440 proposes to add one new income tax bracket at a rate of 8.99% on taxable $403,500 (in 2011 dollars). Adjusted for inflation, the new tax bracket would apply to taxable income over approximately $500,000 (in 2022 dollars), This act would take effect on January 1, 2023 and would not apply retroactively. H.7659 would create a new income tax bracket at a rate of 6.99% on taxable income over $500,000. The funds collected from this new proposed bracket would be deposited into a restricted receipt account to pay for school building and school housing aid. Lastly H.7654,
An Act Relating to Taxation – Business Corporate Tax will be heard on Tuesday. The bill imposes an additional tax on corporations equal to the tax cut created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It also eliminates the qualified business income deduction created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act available to pass-through entities. If passed, the bill would take effect on January 1, 2024. The language can be viewed at: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H7654.pdf
On Wednesday, May 4th, the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture will hear testimony on more environmental mandate bills. S.2448, An Act Relating to Motor and Other Vehicles is identical to a bill heard last week in the House Finance Committee (H.7653). At that hearing, the business community expressed a need for a holistic approach as the State tries to meet the mandated targets passed in last year’s Act on Climate. The chamber pointed out that it is imperative to perform a cost/benefit analyses prior to passage of more legislative mandates. The issues contained in S.2448 and H.7653 need to be a part of the analysis; but all of the options, costs, benefits, transition timetables, etc. should be laid out for the General Assembly prior to moving forward on any legislation.
S.2448 requires 100% of all privately owned passenger and light-duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later “registered” in Rhode Island to be electric vehicles. That would mean anyone living in the state who purchased a fossil fuel vehicle outside Rhode Island or anyone moving to the state with a fossil fuel model 2030 vehicle would not be permitted to register the car here. For the person moving here from another state, that person would have to sell the car and purchase a new one in order to relocate to Rhode Island. This could be a deterrent for employers attempting to attract employees.
Today in Rhode Island, there are approximately 500,000 car registrations (not including commercial vehicles). As of December 3, 2021, electric vehicle (EV) registrations accounted for 4,540 vehicles. According to Market Watch an EV car that drives 540 miles a month uses 180kwh a month. That means that the electric grid must find 180 kwh x 12 months (2,160 kwh a year) to meet the demand for each new EV purchased. Even if only 37% of the cars flipped to EVs in Rhode Island then it appears as if the electricity grid will need to find 33GW of new electricity per month (180 kwh x 185,000 EV vehicles). At a Senate Environment and Agriculture hearing earlier this year, ISO New England, the independent organization responsible for ensuring the region has reliable electricity supply, stated that it currently plans for summer peak demand because that is when New England experiences the highest usage of electricity. The “region’s all time summer peak demand was 28,130 MW on August 2, 2006.” (ISO-NE presentation can be viewed at: http://ritv.devosvideo.com/show?video=c4d8d4c3f5fc&apg=634c8273 ) The supply of electricity, which under the Act on Climate must be from renewable energy sources only, is a big concern to the Chamber of Commerce. No legislation should move forward until the state can determine how to ensure a reliable source of electricity will be available. Without reliable energy, businesses cannot operate.
The following new bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8164 Hawkins, Cardillo, Phillips, Biah, AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS -- ELECTRICIANS (Expands the types of electrical services that require an electrical contractor's license.)
House Bill No. 8192 Casimiro, Baginski, Noret, Solomon, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- EVIDENCE AND OVERSIGHT ACT OF 2022 (Creates the Evidence and Oversight Act of 2022 to create and maintain a data transparency portal.)
House Bill No. 8195 Henries, Morales, Felix, Alzate, Kazarian, Biah, Speakman, Ranglin-Vassell, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- DIGNITY AT WORK ACT (Establishes a broad and comprehensive framework to provide workers with more protection and remedies from bullying and harassment in the workplace.)
Senate Bill No. 2892 Kallman, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Cano, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- PERSONAL INCOME TAX--CAPITAL GAINS (Amends the capital gains tax rates and holding period from 5 years to 1 year. Imposes a non-owner occupied tax on homes assessed at more than $1,000,000. Increases estate tax exemption to $2,225,000.)
Senate Bill No. 2895 Picard, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- STATE TAX OFFICIALS (Waives interest and penalties on the taxable portion of loans taxed or forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program during tax years 2020 and 2021, provided any tax due is paid by March 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023, respectively.)
Are You Considering Running for Office?
If you are considering running for a General Assembly seat – House or Senate- the deadline is approaching quickly. The Chamber can be most effective when business people run for office. Declarations for candidacy must be filed June 28th 29th or 30th at the Local Board of Canvassers in the City or Town where you are registered to vote.
The Declaration of Candidacy is the document you sign to start the process of becoming a candidate. You “declare” yourself as a candidate for a particular office and if you wish to run as a party candidate, you also “declare” yourself to be a member of that party. All candidates for all public and party offices must file a Declaration of Candidacy.
More information can be found at Welcome to your Voter Information Center
This Week at the State House
Welcome back from legislative break week! Over the next two months, the Chamber may call upon you to contact your legislators as the General Assembly seeks to wrap up the 2022 session.
Tuesday, April 26th
The Chamber will, once again, make the argument for full restoration of the Unemployment Trust Fund. The Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30 p.m.) in the Senate Lounge. One topic of debate will be the amount of ARPA funds that should be used to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund. As previously reported, approximately $300 million of the Fund was used to assist workers who became unemployed due to business closures during the COVID 19 pandemic. Included in the $300 million, was about $37 million in fraudulent claims. These numbers are expected to be updated by the Department of Labor during the Tuesday hearing. The Governor, in his proposed budget, has included $30 million for the Fund – if it makes a difference in the tax schedule (it is unlikely to do so). Since the start of the pandemic, Rhode Island businesses have jumped two schedules in unemployment tax rates due to the draw down on the fund. Prior to the pandemic, it was believed the Fund was in such solid financial condition, that businesses would actually see a drop in the tax schedule.
Wednesday, April 27th
The House Finance Committee will meet at the Rise in Room 35. One of the bills scheduled for hearing is H.7642, An Act Relating to Taxation – Agreement to Phase Out Corporate Incentives Compact Act. The bill, put forward by the House Republican caucus, allows Rhode Island to enter intro agreements with other states to establish “anti-poaching” agreements. If two or more states enter into such an agreement, those states cannot grant tax incentives or subsidies to corporations to entice them to move from one state to another – provided the move would be from one compact state to another compact state. The Attorney General would be responsible for enforcement of the compact, with any taxpayer from a compact state having standing to bring suit should the Attorney General not bring and action forward.
The Senate Labor Committee will take up testimony on S.2700, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Rebuild RI Tax Credit. The hearing, set for 4:00 p.m. in room 211, considers whether businesses that receive Rebuild RI Tax Credits must pay construction workers prevailing wages for the project, or have their tax credits revoked. Prevailing wages are higher than market rates. The bill also requires prevailing wages to be utilized for construction jobs associated with film tax credit projects, historic preservation tax credit projects, and Rhode Island New Qualified Jobs Incentive Act 2015 projects. The bill would take effect upon passage. It is unclear if projects already underway, but not completed, would be affected as well.
Thursday, April 28th
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4:00 p.m. in room 310 to review two bills of interest. S.2645, an Act Relating to Commercial Law, allows individuals who wish to conduct business under an assumed name, to file in person, by mail, or electronically with the office of the city or town clerk the true or real full name(s) of the person or persons transacting business and their email address. This act would take effect on January 1, 2024. Under current law, the individual must go to the town clerk in person and swear an oath to an authorized municipal employee. S.2812, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships – Uniform Partnership Act, eliminates the state’s current partnership law effective January 1, 2023, and replaces it with an update model rule. This bill was introduced at the request of the Secretary of State. The 126 page bill addresses all aspects of Rhode Island partnerships including transferable interests, enforcement of partnership agreements, powers and dissolution procedures. The bill can be reviewed at S2812.pdf (state.ri.us)
New Bill Introductions:
No bills of interest were filed last week.
Last Week at the State House
All of the bills featured in last week’s edition of UTD were held for further study. The Attorney General did appear to testify on behalf of H.7677 that declares the failure to pay employees properly or on time, a felony. The Chamber testified in opposition to the bill. S.2861 which creates a new, almost impossible, test for independent contractors, had a number of business organizations testifying in opposition – including the Chamber. The testimony from the business community was well-received, with little support from proponents.
This Week at the State House
As was reported previously in UTD, this week is legislative break week. Phase two of the legislative session has come to an end which means many of the bills have had hearings in committee. The Chamber is currently tracking 327 bills. Approximately two thirds have had hearings at this time. The last phase of session includes hearings, passage of bills, and the passage of two budgets – the federal funding spending package, and the FY2023 state budget.
The Revenue Estimating Conference agenda was released. This will be the last estimation of the available revenues and anticipated spending for the current fiscal year; and provides the basis for the creation of the FY2023 budget.
Monday, April 25, 2022 – Caseload Estimating
Friday, April 29, 2022 – Economic Overview and Testimony
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Friday, May 6, 2022 - Caseload Estimating Conference and Revenue Testimony
May 9, 2022 – Final Revenue Estimating Conference
The following new bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8157 Tanzi, Cortvriend, Kislak, Potter, Giraldo, Felix, Baginski, McGaw, Messier, Kazarian, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE (Increases in-network behavioral health care service reimbursement rates up to the median value effective 1/1/2023. Increases rates for 2024-2028 by rate of inflation plus three (3) percentage points determined by federal CPI.)
House Bill No. 8158 Kennedy, Morales, Diaz, McEntee, Azzinaro, Edwards, Casimiro, Kazarian, Serpa, Ackerman, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Caps amount payable for 30 day supply of equipment/supplies for insulin administration/glucose monitoring at $25 or equipment designed to last more than 30 days with no deductible commencing January 1, 2023.) webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8158.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2883 Seveney, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE RHODE ISLAND BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (Establishes a program to increase the adoption of broadband services for local and statewide entities, both public and private, to be funded by federal funds and state appropriations.) webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2883.pdf
The General Assembly will observe April break next week (April 18-22).
Last Week at the State House
The full Senate voted 31-4 to pass S.2243, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Rhode Island Parental Leave Act, which increases employee parental leave from thirteen weeks to twenty-four weeks over a two-year period. (voting against were Senators de la Cruz, Morgan, Paolino and Rogers). Under current law, employers with fifty or more employees fall under parental leave; and employees become eligible for the leave after working for one year with the employer. S.2243 does not change the thresholds for number of employees or time of work required for eligibility.
The Senate Labor Committee passed S.2816, An Act Related to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security, a bill that extends the partial unemployment insurance benefits put into place during the pandemic. S.2816 extends the increase in the total amount of earnings a partial -unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being disqualified for benefits. It also extends the increase in the amount of earnings that is disregarded when calculating the claimant’s weekly benefit. These additional benefits are set to expire June 30, 2022. S.2816 extends the benefits to June 30, 2023. The full Senate will vote on S.2816 Tuesday, April 12th
The remainder of the bills reported in last week’s UTD were held for further study.
This Week at the State House
Tuesday, April 12th
The Senate Finance Committee will meet Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) to take testimony on the Governor’s proposal to give $13 million to the Small Business Financial and Technical Assistance Program for items such as upgrading point-of-sale systems, developing e-commerce platforms, and improving technology. The Committee will also hear testimony on S.2455, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships, that calls for the elimination of the minimum tax upon corporations, nonprofit corporations, and limited liability companies for the tax year in which the secretary of state certifies the entity's dissolution; and S.2850, An Act Relating to Taxation, that increases the corporate tax rate to 7.5% (from 7%) and decreases the corporate minimum tax to $200 (from $400). Written testimony can be submitted at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 13th
Senate Labor will meet at 4:00 pm in Room 211 to consider whether to change the definition of “employee” for the purposes of workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and TDI qualification. S.2861, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, proposes to adopt what is sometimes referred to as the “ABC” test. A person would be deemed an “employee” unless the person can meet all three tests: (1) the person is free from control and direction of the hiring entity (2) the person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; AND (3) the person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed. Use of the ABC test would make it very difficult for some professions to work as an independent contractor. For example, an independent computer technology person could not work as an independent contractor for a business that has an IT person already on staff, since it would not qualify as outside the usual course of business. Any business with a government affairs staff person, would likely not be able to hire an independent lobbyist. It is difficult to imagine all of the possible contractors that may get swept up and reclassified as an employee of multiple businesses. If you have concerns about this bill, please contact your Senator and submit written testimony to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov
The House Judiciary Committee will meet at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) to consider H.7677, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages. H.7677, submitted at the request of the Attorney General, creates a felony offense for knowing and willfully failing to pay an employee on the designated pay day, or for failing to pay an employee the amount of wages owed at the next pay day following termination. If the value of the wages owed is between $1500 and $5000 the penalty is up to three years imprisonment or a fine of twice the value of the wages, or both. If the value is between $5000 and $10,000, the penalty is up to six years in prison and a fine of twice the wages, or both. If the value is over $10,000, the penalty is up to ten years in prison and a fine of twice the wages, or both. The bill also creates a felony penalty for employers that knowing and willfully misclassify an employee as an independent contractor. The first knowing or willful violation brings a penalty of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to two times the value of the wages or $10,000, whichever is greater, or both. The second knowing or willful offense carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to three times the value of the wages or $20,000, whichever is greater, or both. Testimony can be emailed to HouseJudiciary@rilegislature.gov Please include the bill number, your name, position and company in the subject line. The other bill of interest in H.8014, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Labor Disputes. H.8014 bans employers from contacting the police “for the purpose of harassing or otherwise disrupting participants of a labor dispute.” The penalty for violating this provision would be a fine of up to $500 “for each person harassed.”
The House Finance Committee is also meeting Wednesday at the Rise. H.6658, An Act Relating to Taxation, changes the interest rate for underpayments of taxes to prime plus six percent with a maximum rate of 18% instead of 21%. The current law calls for a rate between 18% and 21%. H.7444, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance, proposes numerous changes to the TDI system. The bill allows self-employed individuals to participate in TDI. Self-employed individuals become eligible to collect benefits after financially contributing to the program for 12 months. H.7444 also changes the contributions made by employees. For each calendar year prior to 2023, the taxable wage is the greater of $38,000 or the annual earnings needed to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount. Starting January 1, 2023, the wage base would jump to the greater of $250,000 or the annual earning needed by the individual to qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount AND the maximum duration allow under law. Benefits to be paid are tiered. Individual whose average wage is minimum wage would receive a benefit of 90% of that average weekly wage. For individuals whose average wage is two times the minimum wage the benefit payable would be 75% of the weekly wage. All other claimants remain at the current benefit rate: 4.62% of the wages paid in the highest quarter of the claimant’s base period. At this time, claims with a benefit year begin date effective 1/2/22 or later, $978.00 is the maximum benefit rate and the minimum benefit rate is $114. Testimony for this hearing can be emailed to: HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov
Please include the bill number, your name, position on the bill, and company in the subject line.
The following new bill has been filed:
House Bill No. 8096 Phillips, McEntee, Hawkins, Costantino, Corvese, Solomon, Cardillo, Cortvriend, Filippi, Fenton-Fung, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- STATE TAX OFFICIALS (Waives interest and penalties on the taxable portion of loans taxed or forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program during tax years 2020 and 2021, provided any tax due is paid by March 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023, respectively.)
Senate Bill No. 2837 Quezada, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- FILING OF ASSUMED NAME (Makes amendments necessary to use the term "trade name" rather than "assumed name", for purposes of the commercial law chapter on filing an assumed name, and provides for the administration and regulation of the use of trade names.)
Senate Bill No. 2845 Lombardo, Pearson, Ciccone, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Lombardi, Picard, Gallo, Sosnowski, Felag, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- MOTOR FUEL TAX (Suspends the tax on fuel or manufactured biodiesel fuel sold or used from April 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022, and requires the seller to reduce the per-gallon price of fuel or manufactured biodiesel fuel by a sum equal to the tax abatement.)
Senate Bill No. 2850 Zurier, AN ACT RELATION TO TAXATION -- BUSINESS CORPORATION TAX (Increases the amount each corporation pays on state tax to seven and one half percent (7.5%) of net income beginning on or after January 1, 2023, and reduce the minimum tax to two hundred dollars ($200).)
Senate Bill No. 2861 Quezada, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (For proposed wages, workers' compensation, temporary disability and unemployment benefits this act creates a new definition for "employee")
House Bill No. 8119 Morales, Henries, Felix, Giraldo, McGaw, Potter, Lombardi, Batista, Ranglin-Vassell, Tanzi, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (Establishes a universal, comprehensive, affordable single-payer health care insurance program and helps control health care costs, which would be referred to as, "the Rhode Island Comprehensive Health Insurance Program" (RICHIP).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8119.pdf
House Bill No. 8120 Alzate, Kazarian, Henries, Giraldo, Morales, Felix, Potter, McEntee, Williams, Batista, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Mandates insurance policies, provides coverage to diagnose & treat infertility for women between 25 & 42 years, including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8120.pdf
Last Week at the State House
All of the bills mention in last week’s edition were held for further study: S.2243 (parental leave expansion), S.2245 (TDI expansion), S.2130 (employee commuter benefits), S.2075 (employer tax for Children Relief Fund), and S.2274 (increase renewable source for electricity).
State’s Landfill Update – RI Resource Recovery provided an update on the status of the State’s landfill. The good news is that the life expectancy of the site has been extended from 2036 to 2040. The extension was achieved by increasing the fees for disposal. Because the fees were so low, the landfill was attracting customers from all over the state. With the increase in fees, certain customers found it more feasible to use other landfill sites for disposal needs. The landfill takes in 650,000 tons of waste a year. Approximately 23% of the items placed into recycling bins are contaminated and make their way back to the landfill.
This Week at the State House
Wednesday, April 6th
The Chamber has been asking, and the House Oversight Committee has answered the call. On Wednesday at 1:30pm in the House Lounge, the Committee will hear from a number of agencies concerning renewable energy programs in Rhode Island. Policy programs from 100% renewable electricity supply, to electric vehicle sale requirements, to electrification of all buildings in the state are up for consideration. Rhode Island has one of the highest electricity rates in the country. If the transition to renewable energy is not planned out carefully and data driven, the economy will suffer and supply may not keep pace with demand. The Committee will hear from: Linda George, Administrator of the Division of Public Utilities; Karen Stewart, Renewable Energy Fund Program Director for RI Commerce Corporation; and Chris Kearns, Policy and Legislative Liaison for the Office of Energy Resources. The meeting will be live streamed at https://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx
The Senate Labor Committee will hear a bill requested by the Rhode Island Department of Labor. S.2816, An Act Related to Labor and Labor Relations – Employment Security, extends the partial unemployment insurance benefits put into place during the pandemic. S.2816 extends the increase in the total amount of earning a partial -unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being disqualified for benefits. It also extends the increase in the amount of earnings that is disregarded when calculating the claimant’s weekly benefit. These additional benefits are set to expire June 30, 2022. S.2816 would extend the benefits to June 30, 2023. The hearing will take place at 4:00 pm in room 211 at the state house.
Thursday, April 7th
Two committee meetings of interest are scheduled for Thursday – Senate Commerce and House Labor.
Senate Commerce, scheduled to meet at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) in room 310, will take testimony S.2688, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Consumer Credit History Employment Protection Act, prohibits employers from asking questions about a job applicant’s financial past or from checking their credit history. There are exemptions for those seeking jobs where a credit check is required under state or federal law, or a national security clearance; where the person would have signatory authority over third parties worth $10,000 or more; non-clerical positions with access to trade secrets; or positions with the ability to modify digital security systems. If the job falls within an exemption, the employer must inform the applicant and obtain written permission prior to running the credit check.
The House Labor Committee will meet at the Rise in room 101 on Thursday. What is expected to be a busy and potentially long meeting will include the following bills:
If you wish to submit written testimony on any of these bills, email your name, bill number and position (in the subject line), along with your testimony, to HouseLabor@rilegislature.gov
Testimony should be submitted by 1:00 pm, Thursday.
The following new bill has been filed:
House Bill No. 8074 Solomon, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- LABOR STANDARDS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS (Established labor standards applicable to renewable energy projects and conditions/procedures for applicants related to labor agreements with enforcement by department of labor and training (DLT).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H8074.pdf
Last Week at the State House
The bill hearings are reaching a pinnacle as the legislature heads in to the three-week stretch leading to the Spring recess that takes place April 18 – 22. A few bills have passed one chamber – meaning the Senate or the House.
S.2080, An Act Relating to Insurance – Individual Health Coverage, passed the Senate by a 26 to 8 vote. Voting “no” were Senators Algiere, de la Cruz, Lombardi, Lombardo, Morgan, Picard, Raptakis and Rogers. The bill requires individual, large group and small employer health insurance to cover what is deemed to be ten essential services: (1) Ambulatory patient services; (2) Emergency Services; (3) Hospitalization; (4) Maternity and Newborn Care; (5) Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services, including Behavioral Health Treatment; (6) Prescription Drugs; (7) Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services and Devices; (8) Laboratory Services; (9) Preventive Services, Wellness Services and Chronic Disease Management; and (1) Pediatric Services including Oral and Vision Care. These coverages are contained in the federal affordable care act (ACA). The ACA contains insurance premium subsidies resulting in more people participating in the health insurance program and spreading expenses among more individuals. Should the federal government rescind the ACA, and Rhode Island require the ten areas to be covered by insurance, the cost impact to premiums is unknown. The Chamber had requested that this analysis be completed prior to passage of any health care mandate. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2080A.pdf
S.2087, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Environmental Justice Act, passed the Senate 32-4. Voting “no” was Senators de la Cruz, Morgan, Paolino and Rogers (Archambault and Raptakis did not vote). S.2087 establishes criteria and a process for creating Environmental Justice (EJ) areas in the state. The Division of Statewide Planning would establish EJ areas, although, ten residents from an area can request to be declared an EJ area. At that point the Division would be required to prepare a report (within 6 months) stating why the area should be designated EJ or why an area should be removed from the EJ list. The bill does not state what happens if the Division does not think the area should be designated an EJ. Following the report, the bill calls for a public hearing within thirty days. Following the hearing, the Division has thirty additional days to render a final decision which must take into consideration public comment and "community support." To qualify for EJ area status, the area has to have one or more: (1) annual median household income 65% or less of statewide median household income (which would be about $45k); (2) 25% or more residents that are not proficient in English or (3) 25% or more of the population is minority and with annual household median income of less than 150% of state median (about $105k). Once designated an EJ area, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) could not issue "any permitted activity" within the area or within a half mile of the area UNLESS: (1) applicant prepares an environmental impact report including cumulative impacts; (2) includes adverse impacts that can't be avoided if the permit is granted; and (3) includes public health impacts. That report has to be given to DEM and DEM must hold a public hearing on the permit. Then DEM has to wait forty-five days before rendering a decision to grant the permit - DEM can deny in less time. DEM must consider community support when rendering its decision. It is unclear if the permits only apply to new facilities and expansion of existing facilities or to the renewal of an existing permit. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2087.pdf
H.7392, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Restroom Access Act, passed the House floor on a vote of 67 to 0. H.7392 applies to retail businesses with three or more employees working on site at the same time. Any such establish that does not have a public restroom must allow patrons, with certain health conditions, to use the employee restroom when needed. The covered medical conditions include: Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, any other inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, cancer or any other medical condition that requires immediate access to a restroom facility. The bill states that the patron shall present proof of the condition at the time of request to use the restroom – a document issued by a doctor, or the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H7392.pdf
This Week at the State House
Wednesday, March 30th
The Senate Labor Committee has a busy schedule at 4:00 p.m. in Room 211 at the State House. S.2243, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Rhode Island Parental Leave Act, increases employees parental leave from thirteen weeks to twenty-four weeks over a two-year period. Under current law, employers with fifty or more employees fall under parental leave; and employees become eligible for the leave after working for one year with the employer. S.2243 does not change the thresholds for number of employees or time of work required for eligibility. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2243.pdf
S.2245, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Temporary Disability Insurance, calls for an increase in the weekly dependent allowance for individuals claiming temporary disability insurance benefits (TDI). The allowance would increase from $10 to $20. The bill also extends benefits to those who file in order to care for a grandchild or a sibling; and the maximum number of weeks available to caregivers would increase from six week to eight weeks in 2023 and to ten weeks in 2024. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2245.pdf
S.2130, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – The “Commuter Transportation Benefits Act, requires employers with 500 or more employees to provide a pre-tax transportation fringe benefit program consistent with the Internal Revenue Code at the maximum level allowable under federal law. The new requirement would take affect January 1, 2023. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2130.pdf
Thursday, March 31st
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services is meeting in Room 211 at 4:00 p.m. One bill of concern is S.2075, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund. The bill creates a Fund to provide financial assistance to families for medical expenses not covered by state or federal programs, or by an insurance policy. The Fund receives its dollars from a $1.50 per employee annual charge on all employers.
Renewable electricity is a topic for discussion in the Senate Commerce Committee at 4:00 in Room 310. S.2274, An Act Relating to Public Utility Carriers – Renewable Energy, requires Rhode Island to increase the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources over the next nine years until the state reaches the current legal requirement of 100% by 2030. The Chamber has urged both House and Senate to hear from ISO New England and the Public Utilities Commission prior to the adoption of any acceleration of renewable mandates within the electrical system. ISO New England is an independent body that administers the region’s wholesale markets, and operates the power system to ensure reliable and competitively priced wholesale electricity. At a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, ISO-NE announced that they have adopted a new vision, “To harness the power of competition and advanced technologies to reliably plan and operate the grid as the region transitions to clean energy.” The key to this vision, is to ensure we have a RELIABLE system. The New England grid currently plans for summer peak electricity use, due to air-conditioning demand within the region. As we transition to electric heat and electric vehicles, ISO-NE must plan for winter peak demand which is higher and will be even higher if the state requires buildings’ heating systems and vehicles to switch to electricity. Battery storage must be figured out, and emergency plans must be flawless as a power outage in the middle of winter could be disastrous otherwise. According to the Energy Information Administration’s November 2021 report, Rhode Island’s average retail price of electricity was fourth highest in the country at 18.54 c/kWh (https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/rhodeisland/) The Chamber is on record saying, “As we go through the process of increasing electricity demand and restrict the sources of electricity generation, economic analysis of proposals will be critical.” The Public Utilities Commission, with its experts and resources should be asked to provide economic analysis on proposals as well. Rhode Island currently has renewable electricity requirements ahead of our neighbors: MA is 80% clean energy by 2050; VT is 90% renewable energy by 2050; ME is 100% renewable by 2050; CT is 100% zero-carbon by 2040; and RI is 100% renewable by 2030.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 8025 Williams, Giraldo, Alzate, Biah, Vella-Wilkinson, Hull, Amore, Slater, Potter, Cassar, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS -- WORKERS' COOPERATIVES (Clarifies the role of a workers' cooperative to allow it to operate as a hiring hall under certain circumstances.)
House Bill No. 8031 Messier, Felix, Alzate, Tobon, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RHODE ISLAND HARD-HIT LIQUIDITY PROGRAM ACT (Establishes the “Rhode Island Hard-Hit Emergency Liquidity Program Act” to provide up to twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) to businesses adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic by providing aid for drop in sales.)
House Bill No. 8036 Alzate, Batista, Giraldo, Cassar, Henries, Amore, Felix, Carson, Speakman, Ranglin-Vassell, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ACT (Requires the department of environmental management to create environmental justice areas.)
House Bill No. 8038 McEntee, Craven, Morales, Caldwell, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or employee, to commit any act declared to be an unlawful employment practice; individuals would be held personally liable for such conduct.)
Senate Bill No. 2738 Goodwin, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS--SURCHARGES ON CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS (Provides that surcharges on credit card transactions may only be permitted when certain notice requirements are adhered to and provides for a misdemeanor penalty of five hundred dollars ($500) and/or one year in jail in any violations.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2738.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2740 Ruggerio, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- LABOR STANDARDS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS (Adds a new chapter known as the Labor Standards in Renewable Energy Projects.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2740.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2741 (Secretary of State) Picard, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- BUSINESS FAST-START OFFICE (Requires the fast-start office to regularly convene business owners in the state to gather recommendations to improve business licensing procedures.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2741.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2759 Mendes, Calkin, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- REAL ESTATE CONVEYANCE TAX (Taxes property not considered a primary residence at a flat rate of five percent (5%) of the assess value.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2759.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2775 (Attorney General) McCaffrey, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PAYMENTS OF WAGES (Increases the criminal penalties for wage theft and employee misclassification.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2775.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2794 (Dept. of Business Regulation) Sosnowski, AN ACT RELATING TO FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS -- CREATION AND EXPANSION (Amends a number of provisions in the general laws relative to financial institutions by eliminating unnecessary requirements and/or clarifying language in order to reduce certain burdens on businesses operating in Rhode Island.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/SenateText22/S2794.pdf
Senate Bill No. 2815 Ruggerio, McCaffrey, Goodwin, Ciccone, Lombardo, Pearson, Lawson, DiPalma, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- REAL JOBS RHODE ISLAND ACT (Establishes a real job Rhode Island program, which is an industry-led system to advance the skills of the state's workforce to grow the state's economy and increase sustainable employment for middle-class families.)
Senate Bill No. 2816 (Dept. of Labor and Training) Goodwin, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYMENT SECURITY--GENERAL PROVISIONS (Extends until June 30, 2023, an increase in the total amount of earnings a partial-unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being entirely disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits.)
SBA Celebrates Women's History Month by Touring Blount Boats with Senator Jack Reed and Congressman David Cicilline
PEOPLE’S CREDIT UNION PARTNERS WITH THE ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION TO OFFER FREE TREES
MIDDLETOWN, RI (March 21, 2022) As part of its Centennial Celebration, People’s Credit Union has partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to provide 600 free trees to Credit Union’s members through the Foundation’s Community Canopy Program. The Community Canopy partnership supports one of the key areas of the Credit Union’s philosophy of making the world a better place through environmental sustainability and stewardship. Planting additional trees helps provide cleaner air & water, reduce storm-water runoff, sequester carbon, and lower energy usage & utility bills.
The free trees will be made available to Credit Union members within their six-branch market area of: Aquidneck Island, Bristol, North Kingstown & Wakefield beginning March 21st. Members can reserve one of three tree types through an easy step-by-step, fun, and informative ordering process at: www.arborday.org/peoplescu. An online mapping tool takes the guesswork out of where to plant the trees to maximize their environmental impact on the member’s home and neighborhood. The native species trees were all specifically selected for their compatibility with the region’s climate and to provide members with a variety of size and color options.
“Trees not only have great environmental value and beauty, but they also provide a sense of satisfaction to the homeowner,” stated Sean Daly, President & Chief Executive Officer for People’s Credit Union. “The Credit Union’s partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation is a great way for us to provide members a beautiful tree that they get to select and nurture as their very own with their community benefiting as well,” Daly further added.
The Community Canopy Program and the Credit Union have 600 trees with limited quantities of each species available to People’s Credit Union members, details are:
People’s Credit Union Free Trees Program
When: March 21, 2022, until supplies last
Who: People’s Credit Union Members living in their six branch communities
ABOUT PEOPLE’S CREDIT UNION
People’s offers a complete range of services including online and mobile banking, savings and checking accounts, personal loans, mortgages, business accounts, business loans, and financial services. Headquartered in Rhode Island, People’s Credit Union is a member-owned, state-chartered, federally insured, community credit union established in 1922. Membership is open to all individuals. Deposits are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an agency of the federal government. For more information about People’s Credit Union visit www.peoplescu.com.
ABOUT THE ARBOR DAY FOUNDATION
Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than one million members, supporters, and valued partners. Since 1972, more than 300 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted in neighborhoods, communities, cities, and forests throughout the world. Our vision is to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today, including air quality, water quality, climate change, deforestation, poverty, and hunger.
Last Week at the State House
All bills reported in last week’s edition (adult marijuana, minimum wage increase, tipped wage increase, local control of minimum wage law) were held for further study.
The full Senate did pass S.2087, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Environmental Justice Act. S.2087 allows the Division of Statewide Planning to establish Environmental Justice (EJ) areas. However, 10 residents from an area can request to be declared an EJ area. At that point the Division would be required to prepare a report (within 6 months) stating why the area should be designated EJ or why an area should be removed from the EJ list. It doesn't say what happens if the Division does not think the area should be designated EJ. Following the report, the bill calls for a public hearing within 30 days. Following the hearing, the Division has 30 to render a final decision which must take into consideration public comment and "community support." To qualify for EJ area status, the area has to have one or more: 1) annual median household income 65% or less of statewide median household income which would be about ($45k); 2) 25% or more residents that are not proficient in English or 3) 25% or more of the population is minority and with annual household median income of less than 150% of state median (about $105k).
Once designated an EJ area, The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) could not issue "any permitted activity" within the area or within a half mile of the area UNLESS 1) applicant prepares an environmental impact report including cumulative impacts; 2) includes adverse impacts that can't be avoided if the permit is granted; and 3) includes public health impacts. That report has to be given to DEM and DEM must hold a public hearing on the permit. Then DEM has to wait 45 days before rendering a decision to grant the permit - DEM can deny in less time. DEM must consider community support when rendering its decision.
It is not clear if the permits only apply to new build requests and to expansion requests, or if it would pull in renewal of permits. From testimony provided at the hearing, and from various meetings, it appears one of the main focus areas is the Providence Port area.
This Week at the State House
Tuesday, March 22nd
It is the House Finance Committee’s turn to hear testimony on the adult use of marijuana/cannabis – Tuesday at the Rise in Room 35. The Governor’s proposal, outlined in Article 11 of his budget proposal provides more authority to the Department of Business Regulation in the governance of the sale of various products. While the House and Senate seem to be aligned in their vision of the program, differences still remain between the General Assembly and the Governor’s office. That said, a bill is expected to pass at some point during the session.
The House Committee on Innovation, Internet and Technology is meeting Tuesday, at the Rise, to discuss a number of bills that are very technical in nature. The full hearing notice can be viewed at: https://status.rilegislature.gov/documents/agenda-17889.aspx If your business collects data over the internet in any way, particularly if you share it with a third party, please look at these bills. Personal data includes social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit or debit card numbers, health insurance information, or email addresses with any password. H.7400, An Act Relating to Commercial Law, requires any business that collects such data and shares it with a third part provider to publicly post (on its website or in a client agreement) the “categories” of information it collects, and name all of the third-party entities with which the information is shared. Failure to make the disclosure results in a fine of $100 - $500 for each disclosure, and may be subject to a private right of action. This bill specifically states that it does not apply to tax-exempt organizations. The Act would take effect January 1, 2023. H.7564, An Act Relating to Commercial Law, bans a provider of a digital application distribution platform (iPads, iPhones, etc.) from requiring developers of apps to use a particular in-application payment system for user downloads in order to allow customers to purchase the app. It gives the Attorney General the authority to bring an action in court against the provider as well as allows for a civil action by the app creator. The concern with this bill is the legislature's foray into dictating terms that go into private contracts between business entities.
A bill banning all municipalities from issuing a permit for any commercial, residential or mixed-us buildings unless the building is all-electric, will be heard in the House Municipal Government Committee Tuesday, at the Rise, in the House Lounge. H.7374, An Act Relating to Public Property and Works – All Electric Building Act, does provide relief from the mandate if the project is “physically or technically infeasible” as an all-electric building. Financial considerations are not sufficient to meet the “infeasible” burden. Hospitals, medical facilities, laboratories for biological research and restaurants are exempt. The bill can be viewed at: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText22/HouseText22/H7374.pdf
Wednesday, March 23rd
The Chamber will lend its support to H.7602, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government, which will be heard in the House Corporations Committee Wednesday at 4:00 pm in Room 101. This bill requires the state to notify any licensed business in Rhode Island when substantial changes are made to regulations affecting the business. A business would have the opportunity to sign up for digital or verbal notification of regulatory changes in lieu of receiving notifications by mail.
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 7985 Potter, Alzate, Slater, Diaz, Bennett, Lombardi, Amore, Henries, Morales, O'Brien, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- REBUILD RHODE ISLAND TAX CREDIT (Requires that all entities receiving tax credits from the state pay their workers the prevailing wage or other payments pursuant to § 37-13. This act would also allow the revocation of the tax credits for violation of this act.)
House Bill No. 8001 (by request) Carson, Cortvriend, Donovan, Speakman, Edwards, McGaw, Ruggiero, Abney, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW--GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- FILING OF ASSUMED NAME (Requires individuals transacting business in RI under any assumed name to file in person, by mail, or electronically with the office of the city or town clerk the true or real full name(s) of the person(s) transacting business and their email address.)
House Bill No. 8014 Amore, Shanley, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- LABOR DISPUTES (Adds a section to labor disputes that prevents the use of police as harassment in a labor dispute.)
Senate Bill No. 2686 Cano, Miller, Euer, Quezada, DiMario, Acosta, Mack, Valverde, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION -- SOCIAL COST OF CARBON (Requires the public utilities commission to establish a social cost of carbon and factor it a cost benefit analysis whenever programs are proposed to curb climate change and carbon dioxide emission.)
Senate Bill No. 2688 Quezada, Murray, Euer, Cano, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- CONSUMER CREDIT HISTORY EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION ACT -- DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES (Prohibits employers from seeking/using credit reports in making hiring decisions concerning prospective employees, asking questions about the applicant's financial past during interviews or including credit history questions in their job applications.)
Senate Bill No. 2690 Kallman, Euer, Miller, DiMario, Mack, Lombardo, Goodwin, McCaffrey, Anderson, Acosta, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- LICENSING OF HEALTHCARE FACILITIES (Requires all state licensed health care facilities to convert the powering of their operations, from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.)
Senate Bill No. 2692 DiMario, Euer, Coyne, Miller, Kallman, Valverde, Burke, Lawson, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - MULTI-STATE MEDIUM AND HEAVY-DUTY ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLE ACT (Strives to make sales of all new medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the state zero-emissions by no later than 2050.)
Senate Bill No. 2700 DiPalma, Euer, Coyne, Kallman, DiMario, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS -- THE GREEN BUILDINGS ACT (Expands definition of public buildings under Green Building Act to include buildings in any subdivision of state, and include private major facility projects; mandates public reports for all such projects.)
Senate Bill No. 2717 DiPalma, Acosta, Lombardo, Kallman, Euer, Lombardi, Felag, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS - DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES (Prohibits certain providers of digital application distribution platforms from requiring that payments for the software application be made exclusively through a particular in-application payment system.)