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Stalking, Pay-to-Play, and E-Cig Safety: This Week at the State House

Saturday, March 28, 2015


From bills outlawing GPS stalking and dealing with fraudulant benefit payments, to bills aimed at boosting Rhode Island's construction industry and raising the legal smoking age to 21, here's a look at what legislation was presented in the Rhode Island General Assembly this week.

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello

House passes bill outlawing the use of electronic tracking devices for stalking

The House of Representatives voted unanimously to make it a crime to electronically track a vehicle without the consent of the owner. The bill, sponsored by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello, would restrict the installation, concealment or placement of an electronic tracking device in or on a motor vehicle.

Senate president joins governor to highlight proposed School Building Authority

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport, Jamestown) joined Governor Gina M. Raimondo, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano at the Pell School in Newport to outline the details of the proposed School Building Authority which would create baseline adequacy standards for all of Rhode Island’s schools to ensure students are learning in safe, clean, warm and dry facilities.

Bill allows DLT to recover fraudulent benefit payments

Rooting out fraud in the employment benefit system should be accompanied by an effort to recover any money received by claimants as a result of fraud. Legislation introduced by Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) authorizes the Department of Labor and Training to recover overpayments made to individuals due to specific types of fraud committed by a claimant.

House Health, Education and Welfare Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Warwick, Cranston)

Rep. McNamara bill opens trade experience to students under 18

House Health, Education and Welfare Chairman Joseph M. McNamara (D-Warwick, Cranston) introduced a bill that permits students under 18 years old who are attending career and technical schools to participate in career and technical internships or teacher-supervised on-site job training programs.  The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education & Welfare.

Sen. Lombardi bill bans ‘pay to play’ by vendors

Legislation introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Cranston) would prohibit vendors with state contracts worth more than $5,000 in the aggregate annually from making political contributions to the officeholder whose office awarded the contract, as well as to any candidate for that office. The bill would require that contracts of any vendors in violation be voided and it sets penalties for any political committee that accepts such a contribution. The companion House bill was introduced by Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Scituate, Cranston).

House approves bill aimed at boosting construction industry

The House of Representatives has passed legislation aimed at creating a better environment for the supply of new housing and at adding construction jobs to the economy. Introduced by House Majority Whip Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton, Portsmouth), the bill provides an exemption from taxation for certain residential property developments which have not been completed or, if completed, which have not been sold and remain unoccupied. A companion Senate bill has been introduced by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Warwick).

Bills require child-proof packaging on e-cigarette materials

Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate at the request of the Office of the Attorney General that would require child resistant packaging for e-liquid used in electronic nicotine-delivery systems such as e-cigarettes. The bills would also prohibit use of electronic nicotine-delivery systems on school property. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Helio Melo (D-East Providence) and was heard this week by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. The Senate bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence, North Providence) and is before the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Rep. Blake Filippi (I-New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly

Rep. Filippi seeks constitutional amendment mandating runoff elections

Rep. Blake Filippi (I-New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) has introduced a resolution to ask Rhode Island voters to amend the state constitution in the next election. The amendment would require candidates for statewide office and the General Assembly to be elected by a majority rather than a plurality vote. There would also be instant runoff elections if no candidate gets a majority.

House HEW Committee hears Rep. Tanzi bill that would raise smoking age to 21

Focusing on the health benefits that have come from similar adoption elsewhere, Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-South Kingstown, Narragansett) testified before the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare in support of her proposed legislation that would increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases in Rhode Island from 18 to 21. The legislation  would apply to all forms of tobacco and non-medical nicotine delivery systems, and would take effect immediately upon passage.
Sen. Conley resolution shows supports for Quahog Cup tournament

The Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs heard a resolution introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. that calls for Brown University, Bryant University, Providence College and the University of Rhode Island to negotiate a plan for a basketball tournament to be held over Thanksgiving weekend. The tournament, which would be called the Quahog Cup, would support a scholarship fund for Rhode Island public school students who wish to attend one of the four colleges.


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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