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Drones, Ethics Reform, and Welfare Fraud: This Week At The State House

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Legislation introduced this week included bills on drone regulations, ethics reform, welfare fraud, and more. Check out what's been happening on Smith Hill this week below:
Bill requires destruction of police records of wrongful, mistaken arrests

Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Pawtucket) has introduced legislation to require the sealing and destruction of all arrest records and indices of arrest for those individuals who are wrongfully arrested or detained by any law enforcement agency. The bill was introduced at the urging of the “Fitting The Description” national initiative that is attempting to rally state legislatures to enact such laws. A companion Senate bill is expected to be introduced by Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Providence).

Rep. Amore proposes CCRI scholarships

Rep. Greg Amore (D-East Providence)

Rep. Greg Amore (D-East Providence) has proposed making grants/scholarships available to students attending the Community College of Rhode Island to help ease their loan debt and encourage them to finish their degrees in two years. The legislation will require high academic performance and excellent attendance rates for students to be eligible for the grants.

Bills introduced to regulate use of unpiloted aerial craft (drones)

Attempting to get state law ahead of what is expected to be a proliferation of unpiloted aerial vehicles over the next few years, several bills dealing with these craft, commonly called drones, have been introduced. Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Bristol, Portsmouth) has introduced a bill that establishes registration requirements and operational restrictions for such vehicles and criminalizes invasion of privacy by use of the craft. Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Johnston, Cranston) and Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-North Providence) have introduced two pieces of legislation to give the state the exclusive legal authority to regulate such aircraft and to establish a legislative commission to study and make recommendations to regulate drones and other unpiloted craft.

Bill calls for constitutional amendment on Ethics Commission powers

Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Scituate, Cranston)

Legislation introduced by Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Scituate, Cranston) would put a question before voters at the next general election (2016), deciding whether the Ethics Commission should maintain jurisdiction over legislators’ votes and other actions. Approval by voters would give the Ethics Commission an exception in the “speech in debate” clause of the Rhode Island Constitution. A Senate companion bill has been introduced by Sen. Edward J. O’Neill (I-Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield).

Rep. Filippi bill offers tax relief on electricity rate hikes

Rep. Blake Filippi (I-New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) has introduced a bill that would relieve electricity ratepayers from state taxes that are imposed on the recently approved rate hike for National Grid as well as any future electricity rate increases approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

Rep. Reilly bill creates Office of Inspector General

Rep. Daniel P. Reilly (R-Portsmouth, Middletown) has introduced legislation to establish an Office of Inspector General in Rhode Island whose function would be to save the state money by reducing waste, fraud and abuse within state government. Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has introduced the legislation in the Senate.

Rep. Nardolillo bill addresses sales tax on discounted cell phones

Signing a cell phone contract may get you a free or discounted phone, but how you are charged sales tax on the phone is up to the store where it was sold. Legislation introduced by Rep. Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Coventry) would ensure that sales tax is applied consistently on cell phones whether purchased from a carrier or an electronics store.

Rep. Morgan seeks to combat welfare fraud and abuse

Patricia L. Morgan (R-West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick)

Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has introduced several bills aimed at fighting waste, abuse and fraud in the Rhode Island welfare support system. Two bills deal with the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards and the others focus on Medicaid.

Coventry Representatives promote measures to safeguard fire districts

Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Rep. Sherry Roberts (R-Coventry, West Greenwich) and Rep. Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Coventry) have introduced legislation to protect Rhode Islanders who are taxpayers of fire districts around the state by making changes to the various fire district charters, such as placing a 4 percent cap on tax increases.

Senate Majority Leader calls for AEDs in middle, high schools

Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence, North Providence)

Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence, North Providence) has introduced legislation requiring Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in all middle schools and high schools in the state, public or private, and at all athletic fields and other locations where high schools and middle schools compete in sporting events. A companion House bill has been introduced by Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Barrington, Warren).


Related Slideshow: The 10 Most Politically Powerful at RI State House

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#10 - Sen. Da Ponte

The Senate Finance Chairman pushed hard in 2014 for corporate tax reform -- and combined reporting -- and was recently reappointed to his fourth term at the helm of the committee that vets the state's budget. With House Speaker Mattiello's talking about eliminating the state income tax on social security, a budget deficit and the prospect of diminishing gaming revenue, Da Ponte will have his work cut out for him chairing the powerful Senate committee. 

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#9 - Rep. DeSimone

One of the most powerful political players in Providence, the Majority leader wields his influence at the state house as part of Speaker Mattiello's team. Serving in the chamber since 1992, DeSimone rose to his current position with the ouster of former Speaker Gordon Fox in 2014. He will be a pivotal player at the State House for the City of Providence (and new Elorza administration), as the state grapples with a projected $200 million budget deficit, and Providence needs a strong advocate to appeal for what it can.  

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#8 - Bob Goldberg

The former Minority Leader continues his position as one of the state's top lobbyists, representing a wide range of clients that last year included Lifespan, GTech, Johnson and Wales, and CVS Health, to name a few. Year in, year out, Goldberg -- who is married to RI Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg -- parlays his State House knowledge and connections for his well-funded clients, who in the past have included Twin River when it successfully pushed for table games on the ballot in 2012.

(Goldberg pictured at right.)

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#7 - Bill Murphy

The former Speaker of the House continues to wield unparalleled influence as a lobbyist and behind-the-scenes king maker.  While he last served as the state's most powerful elected official until 2010, Murphy's ability to exert control at the State House was evidenced by backing now-Speaker Mattiello when the battle to replace Gordon Fox took place.  Murphy's lobbying clients range from the corrections officers to payday lending to Twin River.

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#6 - Sen. Paiva Weed

The Senate President, who has been at the chamber's de facto top post since 2008, faced a strong challenge this past election season from Newport's Mike Smith, who had been an outspoken opponent against a table games expansion at Newport Grand -- a decision which Paiva-Weed ultimately came to following the rejection of a host agreement by the Newport City Council.  Paiva Weed in her opening address of this year's General Assembly session promised to make jobs and the economy her top priorities, followed closely by education.  With the school construction moratorium schedule to expire in May, watch to see how Paiva-Weed works with the House and Raimondo administration to address the burgeoning infrastructure needs.

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#5 - Sen. Ruggerio

The Senate Majority leader was first elected to the chamber in 1984, after four years in the House, and was Senate majority whip from 2003 to 2010. An administrator for the New England Laborers Labor Management Co-op Trust, Ruggerio's labor ties have helped cement his position of power in the Senate. Despite two arrests, Ruggerio has emerged relatively unscathed, advancing the legislation establishing the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, and pushing for increased parking in downtown Providence by the Garrahy judicial complex

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#4 - David Cruise

Governor Raimondo's newly chosen Legislative Director should prove to be much more than that.  While Raimondo tapped former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley staffer Stephen Neuman to be her Chief of Staff, the out-of-towner might bring in a fresh perspective, but Cruise knows the lay of the land. Having a Rhode Island political resume that includes serving as a State Senator, Governor Sundlun's Chief of Staff, and top roles at the RI Resource Recovery Corporation and as a traffic court magistrate, Cruise's policy role, while his official one, will be just one in his advisory capacity for the newly elected Governor.  

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#3 - Leo Skenyon

The Speaker of the Houses's Chief of Staff is the gatekeeper -- and like his predecessor before him, Frank Anzeveno (under former Speaker Gordon Fox), Skenyon is the key to access the Speaker. Skenyon, a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, had most recently been the Traffic Tribunal Clerk.  The former Chief of Staff to Senate-Majority leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, Skenyon has been at the helm before in orchestrating the chamber's top office.  Skenyon enters his first full session at the post along with Mattiello as the agent behind the state's biggest power broker.  

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#2 - Gov. Raimondo

The state's 75th governor -- and first woman at the helm -- marks the first return of a Democratic head-of-state since Governor Bruce Sundlun entered the office in the winter of 1991.  Raimondo however won with just 40.7% of the vote, which gave her the plurality, but not a mandate.   Bringing in a number of outsiders for key positions, and shaking up multiple Department directors, the Raimondo administration looks markedly unlike any in recent years.  How successful Raimondo is in pushing through her agenda in the first six months will go a long way to determining how powerful she will be in the next four years. 

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#1 - Speaker Mattiello

The Speaker of the House has always wielded the most power in Rhode Island, and Speaker Mattiello is now the de facto head of state for the second -- and first full -- year.  Mattiello emerged from the 2014 session earning plaudits from a wide range of supporters for pushing through a cut in the corporate income tax and changes to the estate tax.  Now, as a new General Assembly has just gotten underway, Mattiello is eying eliminating the state income tax on social security, before the Governor has submitted her budget proposal.  Look to see what the Speaker can -- and will -- accomplish in 2015.  


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