7 Big Bills Facing the RI General Assembly After Recess

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


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(L to R) Sen. Ruggerio, Gov. Raimondo, and Speaker Mattiello

Guns, immigration, transparency and the budget are some of the biggest pieces of legislation now facing the Rhode Island General Assembly when they return from recess next week.  

In addition, bills to authorize taxpayer-backed funding for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and major healthcare legislation under the Hospital Conversion Act — with Partners eyeing Care New England and now CharterCare looking at Memorial Hospital — could potentially be tackled before lawmakers look to adjourn quickly. 

SLIDES BELOW: See 7 Big Bills Facing the RI General Assembly 

The complexities that are influencing this session of the legislature are a looming $220 million budget deficit and it is an election year. 

Add to the mix the both Governor Gina Raimondo and Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello are both likely to face difficult re-elections. Raimondo could have more than a half-dozen opponents between the Democratic primary and the General Election.

Mattiello was re-elected in 2016 by fewer than 100 votes. And, the relationship between Raimondo, Mattiello, and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has often been strained.

A number of issues that were supposed to be the big battle zones are now on life support.  The legalization of marijuana and the line-item veto have been held up in study committees; “fair wage” and legislation to increase the minimum wage are among the bills that similarly have uphill battles. 

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Related Slideshow: 7 Big Bills Facing the RI General Assembly - April, 2018

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Prior to recess, the House approved legislation to continue to allow Dreamers to have Rhode Island driver’s licenses even if their federal DACA protections go away under the Trump Administration. 

“We are elated to hear that HB7982 passed the House of Representatives [last Thursday] night,” said Joseph Molina Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Latino PAC. “This legislation will allow Rhode Island DREAMers to continue going to work and school while the political drama in Washington plays out."

"We are hopeful that Senator McCaffrey’s sponsored legislation (SB2678) will be equally well-received in the Senate, and hope to have a bill for the Governor to sign before the end of this year’s legislative session," he continued.

The 64-3 votes saw Republicans Justin Price, Sherry Roberts, and Robert Quattrocchi voting against the measure. 

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Gun Bills  (Bump Stocks + Red Flag)

Banning bump stocks — and creating a “red flag” policy — were both approved the Rhode Island House the Thursday before April recess (with the first measure garnering 65-3 approval, and the latter, 60-8).  

The ACLU has criticized the Red Flag legislation, and gun advocates tell GoLocal that the "Bump Stock" legislation passed by the House is ineffective and has massive loopholes.

Since the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the State House has been filled with pro-gun control advocates, including Moms Demand Action, and pro-Second Amendment advocates, led by the National Rifle Association. 

As the measures move to the Senate, expect activists on both sides to take to Smith Hill — and legal experts and civil rights proponents to scrutinize the red flag measure which could remove guns temporarily from individuals. 

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Revenge Porn

Leading up to recess, Senator Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) legislation (2018-S 2581A) that criminalizes revenge porn and sextortion was approved by the Senate.  Rep. Robert E. Craven’s (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) companion legislation (2018-H 7452A) was passed by the House of Representatives.  

Revenge porn is sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual. Revenge porn is uploaded by former lovers or hackers for the purpose of humiliation and exploitation.  The legislation includes language that requires intent to harm the victim must be established during prosecution.

The changes come after the General Assembly approved a similar bill in 2016 when Governor Gina Raimondo vetoed it for being too broad.  After Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin worked on a compromise, the legislation looks headed for the Governor's desk. 

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Hospital Conversion Act

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) joined GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle on LIVE at the State House where he spoke to the need for legislation to strengthen the Hospital Conversion Act — the law governing hospital mergers and acquisitions in Rhode Island — expressing concern over the proposed acquisition of Care New England by Partners HealthCare and that the current HCA is not strong enough to support a proper review of entities proposing acquisitions from adjacent states.

The week prior to recess, CharterCare Health Partners CEO John Holiver testified on the importance of legislation to strengthen Rhode Island’s Hospital Conversion Act, as the existing statute has come under fire for failing to protect the pensions of plan members an retirees, as in the case of St. Joseph pension fund collapse in August of 2017.

“It is good public policy for the House and Senate to raise concerns about the current requirements of Rhode Island’s Hospital Conversion Act that do not properly entertain the impacts of a hospital system as large as Partners acquiring one of the largest employers and healthcare providers in Rhode Island. There will be too many unanswered questions if our current HCA laws are not strengthened,” said Holiver.

Following his testimony, Holiver — and CharterCare — announced their intent to pursue purchasing Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket. 

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After a GoLocal investigation unveiled that state Ethics Commission documents, being unavailable online and seemingly untrackable when a town employee’s forms required forms were never filed, legislation was introduced to address the significant transparency issue. 

Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence) introduced legislation that would give the public easier access to the financial statements of public officials. The bill (2018-H 8042) would require that the Rhode Island Ethics Commission make all financial statements required of certain public officials available online for public inspection.

“The General Assembly has passed several laws in an effort to make state government more transparent and accountable,” said Representative McKiernan. “So much of the state’s business, from license forms to every last step in the legislative process is just a mouse click away. There’s no reason that financial reports should be an exception to that rule.”

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PawSox Legislation

One of the first actions taken during the 2018 legislative session — before stalling until now — was the Senate’s approval of legislation to provide taxpayer backing for a new Pawtucket Red Sox ballpark at the current Apex building site.

In January, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello’s spokesperson Larry Berman said, “Speaker Mattiello heard from the members of his House Democratic Caucus and they do not want the House to pass the Senate bill as written.  They want the House to consider legislation that would significantly reduce the risk to the state’s taxpayers.  They also do not want a public referendum on this issue.”

Fast forward to April — after weeks of near silence — Mattiello told GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle on GoLocal LIVE that he had been in recent talks with PawSox ownership about trying to find common ground. 

Game on. 

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After Governor Gina Raimondo introduced her Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal in January — which banks on $23 million in revenue from sports betting — critics and advocates have come out against cost-cutting measures. 

Judith Sullivan with The Trudeau Center joined GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle on GoLocal LIVE recently, when supporters from the developmental disability community turned out at the Rhode Island State House to advocate for the needs of over 3500 Rhode Islanders served by 23 private providers in the Community Provider Network of Rhode Island.

"As a result of chronic underfunding...the system has reached a tipping point," said CPNRI -- and Sullivan explained how the proposed $18 million budget cut by Raimondo could have a devastating impact.

David Caprio, President, and CEO of Children's Friend, joined GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle in studio on GoLocal LIVE where he spoke to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal put forth by Governor Gina Raimondo's administration -- which would level-fund DCYF for the coming year -- after DCYF's budget was cut by $7 million one year ago, which Caprio says means the department remains underfunded. 



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