2018 Budget Bill Approved, Renewable Energy Legislation Passed: This Week at the State House
Saturday, June 17, 2017
House Finance Committee approves 2018 budget bill
The House Finance Committee approved a $9.2 billion 2018 state budget that eliminates the $134 million shortfall that opened up in May and funds the first year of a six-year phase-out of the car tax, raises the minimum wage, restores free bus fares for the elderly and disabled, includes a pilot program to provide two years of free tuition at CCRI and once again does not include any broad-based tax increases. The bill, sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), will go to the full House Thursday.
General Assembly OKs bill making deadlines for school safety assessments
The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) that would establish time guidelines for the assessment of school building safety, along with reports to the governor, speaker of the House and president of the Senate.
General Assembly passes renewable energy legislation
The General Assembly has passed legislation promoting renewable energy efforts. The first bill, introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), would expand the successful Renewable Energy Growth Program with an additional 400 MW of renewable energy over 10 years. The second bill, introduced by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), would require the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to create rules and regulations to formulate a statewide solar energy permit application.
Senate OKs Coyne’s comprehensive human trafficking bill
The Senate passed the Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), to bring Rhode Island’s human trafficking laws in line with national standards to prevent perpetrators from falling through the cracks. It enacts a three-prong approach of strong penalties, protecting and assisting victims and improved public awareness and planning. It will now go to the House, where companion legislation has been introduced by Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).
Senate passes Goodwin bill raising penalties for DUI with kids in the vehicle
Those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child under 13 in the vehicle would face a felony charge with stiffer penalties under legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and passed by the Senate. The bill now heads to the House, where Rep. Gregory J. Costantino (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield) is sponsoring companion legislation.
Senate passes bill enacting ACA provisions at state level
The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to enact the provisions of the Affordable Care Act in state law to protect consumers and the Rhode Island health insurance market from changes at the federal level should Congress repeal or weaken the ACA. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) is sponsoring companion legislation.
House passes Carson bill to notify, assist businesses facing road construction
The Department of Transportation will need to coordinate with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to help small businesses that will be affected by RhodeWorks construction projects under a bill sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) and approved by the House. The legislation is a response to the Broadway Streetscape Improvement Project in Newport, a $5.8 million project that has restricted parking, temporarily rendered a section of the busy road one-way and resulted in significantly less traffic to local businesses.
Senate OKs Lombardi bill to make 38 Studios records public
The Senate has passed legislation introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) that would provide for the release of certain records pertaining to the investigation of 38 Studios, LLC. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, which has passed similar legislation sponsored by Rep. Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence).
House passes Casimiro bill to create study commission on high school start times
Rep. Julie A. Casimiro’s legislation creating a 15-member legislative commission to study all aspects involved in changing the start time of Rhode Island’s public high schools passed the House of Representatives. The commission will examine the fiscal impact on school districts, relevant health and educational issues, and the coordination of statewide afterschool activities in regards to changing public high school start times.
House OKs Canario bill to create a study commission on marijuana legalization
The House of Representatives has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) that would create a 19-member special joint legislative commission to study the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island. Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) has sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.
Related Slideshow: FY18 House Finance Budget
The state's community college is poised to be the sole beneficiary of the Governor's Promise scholarship program.
It would make Rhode Island the fourth state to have tuition-free community college, allowing every resident the opportunity to earn an associate's degree tuition free. There is no means testing for the program and few standards.
The cost would be roughly $3 million in the FY18 (for the first cohort of students) and then $6 million the following year there are two classes.
As part of negotiations -- and the fiscal realities facing Rhode Island with a nearly $140 million shortfally, the Speaker announced Thursday that $25 million will be cut in general spending.
"It's something we discussed with the Governor and she thinks she can make [it] work," said Matteillo.
Also on the chopping block -- funding for the legislative office to the tune of $2 million.
Elderly and Disabled Bus Riders
After levying fares on some of the most needy RIPTA bus riders (the elderly and disabled) for the first time this past year, which resulted in strong public outcry, the House Finance budget contains just over $3 million -- for each of the next two years -- to refund the program this coming year.
Mattiello noted that after the two years is up, it is up to the Governor to find the funding.
On Thursday, Raimondo learned she is poised to get a piece (jCCRI) of her free college tuition proposal, which had been a major focal point of her budget proposal - and political strategy.
On the flip side, she is tasked with finding $25 million in government spending to cut, in order to balance the budget.
Unlike the May estimating conference, where Rhode Island revenues were found to be off nearly $100 million plus, the Governor can't say she didn't see this coming.
Medical Marijuana Expansion
In June, Raimondo called for an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries and an increase in licensing fees to generate $1.5 million in revenue for the state.
She called for "no less than six licensed compassion centers."
On Thursday, Mattiello said it was not in the budget, due the proposal's late timing.
While Mattiello made scant mention of cuts in the briefing Thursday - save for the $25 million out of government spending -- the question was raised as to where the rest of the $140 million shortfall will come from.
"Millions in cuts came from the Commerce Corp budget. The budget kept the Rebuild RI funding, but money for several other Commerce programs were reduced," said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello.
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