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State House Report: E-Verify, Legalizing Pot & Millions in Bond Money

Saturday, March 31, 2012

 

This week proved to be a slow one for the General Assembly in terms of new legislation. A total of just 60 bills were proposed this week, mainly consisting of resolutions recognizing anniversaries and marriages. Aside from numerous inconsequential bills, there were several meaningful GA hearings. So what was covered this week? Well, a number of controversial topics including E-Verify and marijuana decriminalization. Keep reading to see how the discussion unfolded.

House Bill No. 7315 – E-Verify Bill

This week a hearing was held regarding the controversial E-Verify bill, originally introduced by former Gov. Donald Carcieri. The former governor’s Executive Order titled “Illegal Immigration Control Order,” calls for state executive departments to use the E-Verify program, which verifies the employment eligibility of new hires. Introduced by Rep. Peter G. Palumbo, the bill attempts to codify Gov. Carcieri’s order, which was rescinded by Gov. Lincoln Chafee. If enacted, employers with three or more employees may apply to participate in the E-Verify system.

E-Verify is a free Internet-based program run by the federal government that evaluates employee’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form 1-9 to information from U.S. government records. If said information matches, the employee is eligible to work in the U.S. Employers will be alerted of prospective employees that are deemed ineligible to work in the U.S. In turn, the employer must contact the appropriate federal government agency.

Currently, 18 states utilize E-Verify in one form or another. Rhode Island and Minnesota are the only two states to rescind the legislation.

Senate Bill No. 2253 - Marijuana Decriminalization

This past week the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller, the proposal would decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, making it a civil offense in most cases. If enacted, it would also make possession of under an ounce a civil offense for individuals under the age of 18. Although the legislation would downgrade possession crimes to a civil offense, civil penalties starting at $150 will apply for both minors and adults.

Rhode Island would become the 14th state to enact marijuana decriminalization laws for small amounts of the drug. Sen. Miller’s bill is the result of a study that looked at the potential impact that decriminalization would have on the state. Generally speaking, decriminalization simply implies no prison time or criminal record for first time possession of small amount of marijuana for personal use. The behavior is essentially treated like a minor traffic violation.

House Bill No. 7979 - Tax Amnesty Program in Coventry

Legislation has been proposed that would give Coventry taxpayers and additional 45 days to pay their quarterly tax bills when the new fiscal year begins in July. Furthermore, the bill ensures that taxpayers will not be subject to any interest penalties. Introduced by Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D), this “tax amnesty program” would apply to property taxes and motor vehicle taxes for residents who have owned the property or vehicle for five years.

“I am happy to introduce this bill for the town because I know that Coventry residents are good and honorable people who will pay what they owe but who sometimes, especially in economic times like these, need a little breathing room,” said Rep. Guthrie. “Better for the town to wait an extra 45 days than to not receive a payment at all. Better for the town to lose a little interest on late payments then to put more pressure on struggling town residents, who may already be juggling to pay food, fuel and medical bills.”

If enacted, the program would only apply to the 2013 Fiscal Year. That said, Rep. Guthrie is open to extending the program if it is successful. “And if the town thinks it needs to or wants to extend it, I will be happy to introduce another bill next year,” Rep. Guthrie said.

Senate Resolution No. 2750 – Humanities Commission

Also on the docket this week was a resolution, which would create a humanities commission responsible for examining the role of the humanities in Rhode Island. Sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, the joint resolution acknowledges the importance of the humanities in regard to economics, culture and public life. If approved the legislation would establish the “Senator Pell Legislative Commission on the Humanities.”

“The work of this commission will be in keeping with the vision of Senator Pell, who championed the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities. By promoting the public understanding of the tradition of thought and accomplishment that is the humanities, we can inspire intellectual curiosity and imagination, something Senator Pell realized is important to the growth of a truly great society,” said Sen. Gallo.

Specifically, the resolution recommends a 12-member commission, which will consist of three Senate members, three House members, and six public members (three selected by the Senate President and three by the House Speaker).

Sen. Gallo explained the importance of the commission as follows:

“Our state has a long and proud history of promoting the humanities in public life and the creation of this commission, and the continued outstanding work of the Council on the Humanities, can help sustain and enhance those efforts to increase exposure to art, history, literature, philosophy, civics and other fields,” said Senator Gallo.

House Resolution No. 7730A - $7.5M bond for Davisville Port Dredging

Lastly, on Wednesday the RI House of Representatives approved a resolution that approves a $7.5-million bond for maintenance dredging at the Port of Davisville piers. The resolution is the result of a three-year study conducted by a special legislative commission centered on the economic potential of the state’s ports. Originally introduced by Rep. Helio Melo (D), the legislation authorizes the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation to issue a $7.5-million revenue bond, which will be at no cost to taxpayers. The decision to seek a state revenue bond was designed to avoid the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax on port users.

The Port of Davisville is located at Quonset Business Park, a state-owned former military base that is now an industrial park designed to service large companies. Quonset Park is home to over 165 companies, which employ roughly 8,800 people. Just last month the Port of Davisville was named the 7th largest auto importer in North America.

The legislation will now makes its way to the Senate for consideration. If enacted, the dredging project will start this October.

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Comments:

I can't believe that GoLocalProv failed to report that House Bill No. 7315 – The E-Verify Bill was "Held For Further Study."

That is the Cmte Chair, that epitome of "Good Government" Anastasia Williams, ensured that it will never see a House vote and has effectively "Died in her Cmte."

Any wonder why why Rhode Islanders distrust the General Assembly?

Comment #1 by Aldo Palazzo on 2012 03 31

Another month of do nothing constructive in the GA. Look at these proposals and look at the condition of RI economics and ask what are the GA looking at? There is not one meaningful effort in our legislative body of empty suites that is even attempting to come up with a plan to resurrect RI from bankruptcy and decay.
We need a plan to reinvent RI into a business friendly state where new businesses will want to come, feel invited, feel that there is a sense of creativity in working together to build something that will be beneficial to the businesses and the state.
Of course this would mean the unionized Democratic GA would have to get their collective heads out of their self-serving agendas and really work for all of the citizens of RI. It may be a dream but if we want change we the voters have to make the necessary changes by voting in independent thinking new GA members.

Comment #2 by Gary Arnold on 2012 03 31

WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>WHAT ABOUT THE CAR TAX REFORM BILL >>

Comment #3 by Chris P on 2012 03 31

I believe Sen Hannah Gallo is living in a dream world when right now RI is broke, the state is the 2nd highest in unemployment (11%-it went up from last month-NOT DOWN!) and the foreclosure rate is skyrocketing...She should look in her own backyard of Cranston with 253 foreclosures- most of them being single family homes.

I don't believe we need a commission for the humanities consisting of
a 12-member commission, with 3 Senate members, 3 House members, and 6 public members (three selected by the Senate President and three by the House Speaker)
And will this commission be paid? Will RI taxpayers be giving these people a paycheck of some sort? And why would Fox or Paiva Weed be the ones to pick their favorites to be on such a commission?
Tell me why the private sector can't do this and as Sen Gallo says, "sustain and enhance those efforts to increase exposure to art, history, literature, philosophy, civics and other fields?"
In an ideal world, it would be nice to focus on the humanities and arts but this is not the ideal world. What is realistic is that you have young people and adults who cannot read, write or do math competently and competitively.That should be your focus.
Create a commission to bridge the business community to the schools and see what skills are needed and then have the schools offer them which will then allow people to get better paying jobs and afford the finer things in life and appreciate the higher level of things like the humanities and the arts.
Research will tell you that a child cannot concentrate and learn new concepts in school without the basics of food and clothing.
What makes you think that with adults, basics should not also come first? Before you dream of a humanities commission, you need to focus on that RI population who will need to acquire decent, well-paying jobs, who will need help in keeping their houses and not have banks foreclose on them. They need to reach that point before they can then use their extra discretionary income to enjoy art, history, literature and other fields.
If you dont consider this group of people, then you are catering to those with money –the wealthy and the highly educated who have the time to pursue such interests…

Comment #4 by dis gusted on 2012 04 01

The Democrats are destroying Rhode Island. They all need to go in November! Our cities are going bankrupt and they do nothing to help except focus on their own agenda legislation.

Comment #5 by guy smily on 2012 04 01

As time passes, more Americans wil realize that political favortism is a matter of how far apart one's ankles are.

Sarah and I had our own special meeting in Juneau in 2008. I later declined to acknowledge any kinship to the Downs. When she hung up, she called Lincoln Chaffee's office. Good luck, Sarah.

Comment #6 by Tomas Gates on 2012 04 01




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