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State Report: Adult Entertainment, Digital Auto Insurance + More

Saturday, April 05, 2014


This week’s State Report centers on a new bill that has been introduced on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office, which would require owners, operators, employees and independent contractors in the adult entertainment industry to undergo a national criminal background check. We’ll also look at the newly introduced Behavioral Health Reform Act of 2014, as well as a measure that could make digital auto insurance cards a reality in Rhode Island.

Criminal Background Checks for Adult Entertainment Industry

Local lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would mandate background checks for the adult entertainment industry.

Addressing the issue of prostitution and alleged human trafficking in the adult entertainment industry, a bill has been introduced at the request of the Attorney General’s Office that requires owners, operators, employees and independent contractors to undergo a national criminal background check.

Sponsored by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), the bill would require, as of September 1, 2014, those persons who are owners, operators, employees or independent contractors of an adult entertainment business or establishment to undergo a national criminal records check. Those persons whose national criminal records check returned disqualifying information would be barred from owning, operating or working in these businesses or establishments.

Safeguarding women and children from exploitation

“Events over the past year have brought to light the need to further regulate the individuals that may own and operate adult entertainment establishments and individuals they may employ. It has been found that some of the local establishments of this nature have allowed prostitution to take place and even allowed a minor to work in their place of business,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “Due to the environment of these businesses, it is imperative that there be some protections against exploitation and criminal activity that are alleged to take place at these establishments. Requiring a national criminal records check of those who own, operate, work or independently contract at these facilities not only would verify the age of these individuals, it would provide a deterrent to hiring underage persons due to potential license revocation for not mandating a national criminal records check.”

“The adult entertainment industry in our state has once again become a front page story — one that includes a 14-year-old girl hired to be a stripper. It is our responsibility to our children and to women across the state that we take very seriously their protection and will work actively against human trafficking and prostitution,” said Rep. Hearn. “I am pleased to be sponsoring this bill on behalf of the Attorney General to aggressively send the message to the adult entertainment industry in Rhode Island that things must change. This legislation requires owners, operators, employees and independent contractors to undergo a national criminal background check. I believe this step will go a long way in curtailing behavior that has crossed the line.”


Adult entertainment businesses and establishments are regulated by the municipal licensing authority of the city of town where the business or establishment is located. The act provides that the municipal licensing authority receive the results of the national criminal records checks for owners and operators prior to the granting of a license or the renewal of a license.

The act further provides that owners and operators must keep records of the national criminal records checks of those seeking employment or to become an independent contractor on file subject to inspection by the municipal licensing authority. Failure to require and maintain such checks would be prima facie grounds to revoke the license of the adult entertainment business or establishment.

To read the legislation in its entirety, click here.


For more legislative news from the past week, check out the slideshow below.


Related Slideshow: RI State Report: More News of the Week - 4/5/14

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Behavioral Health Reform Act of 2014

Rep. Frank Ferri has introduced legislation aimed at increasing Rhode Islanders’ access to behavioral health care and ensuring equitable coverage for it.

The 72-page Behavioral Health Reform Act of 2014 recognizes the benefits to public health that result from embedding access to high-quality behavioral health services into the framework for health care in Rhode Island.

“Behavioral health care – everything from screening for behavioral disorders to rehabilitation for substance abuse problems – is a significant part of well-being, and yet it’s long been treated as something separate from health care, something a little less critical. It’s not secondary, and frequently it is the root of other serious health problems. It makes sense, both in terms of effectiveness and in terms of savings, to provide high-quality behavioral health care as a regular part of primary care,” said Rep. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).

The legislation sets guidelines that compel doctors to routinely screen children and young people for behavioral health issues, and it underscores the importance of behavioral health prevention programs, the critical role played by a robust cadre of behavioral health care professionals, and the array of evidence-based tools and procedures that can support behavioral health screening and treatment. The legislation would also increase access to behavioral health care by including behavioral health providers in health plans and encouraging practices to include behavioral health care specialists or have a relationship with one or more to whom they can refer patients.

To read the bill in its entirety, click here.

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Lally Named Speaker Pro Tempore

Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown) has been named speaker pro tempore by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.

The speaker pro tempore presides over the House session when the speaker is not present. Previously, Representative Lally had been serving as the deputy speaker, who presides when neither the speaker nor the speaker pro tempore is available. He was deputy whip prior to taking that position.

Rep. Lally was first elected to the House in 1989, and is its third-most senior member. He is a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a committee on which he still serves as a member. He also serves as a member of the House Oversight and Rules committees.

Among the successful bills he has sponsored are one that closed a loophole that previously allowed drivers under age 21 to escape criminal charges when driving drunk as long as their blood alcohol limit was under .1 percent, even when it was above the legal limit of .08 percent, and another to allow all Rhode Islanders access to information about registered Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders living in their communities.

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Digital Auto Insurance Cards

The Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday that would give motorists the freedom to travel without a paper insurance card as long as they have digital proof of insurance.

If enacted, proof of financial responsibility could be provided to a law enforcement officer in the case of a traffic stop or an accident using a customer’s smartphone, tablet or other mobile electronics.

“There are an abundance of auto insurance customers who own electronic devices – especially smartphones – and would like to be able to use their digital insurance cards as a matter of convenience,” said Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), primary sponsor of the Senate bill (2014-S 2444). “Obviously, cutting down on the number of paper cards is also beneficial to the environment. But mostly, this bill is about keeping up with the times and providing for a more efficient process.”

Sen. Conley’s legislation includes a provision that prohibits police officers from viewing any other content on those devices, thus protecting individuals’ right to privacy. Both the insurance industry and the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) support the potential change in state law.

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Malik to Chair House Veterans' Affairs Committee

Earlier this week, Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) was named the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“Jan has served the state and his communities with great distinction during his tenure in the House and as a member of several House committees,” said Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello. “I know he will lead the Veterans’ Committee with equal dedication because of his commitment to the health and welfare of the residents of our state who have served their nation as members of the military.”

In addition to chairing the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Malik will retain his position as a member of the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Small Business and will also serve on the Committee on Labor.

Currently serving his ninth term in the House of Representatives, he is a foreman for the Warren Highway Department and the owner of Malik’s Liquors in Warren.

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Call to Make all 38 Studios Court Documents Public

In anticipation of a meeting of the Commerce Corporation board of directors, Sen. James C. Sheehan has written to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who chairs the board, to urge that “any settlement proposal will not include the sealing of depositions or exhibits from the public view.”

“While it is important that that the state recover money lost as a result of the failure and bankruptcy of 38 Studios, I believe it to be equally important, if not more so, that the public receive a full accounting of what transpired to bring about this turn of events,” wrote Sen. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Oversight.

On behalf of the Senate committee, Sen. Sheehan has been attempting to obtain copies of various court documents and exhibits relative to the 38 Studios lawsuit. In late February, he wrote to the state’s attorney in the suit seeking the materials but was refused because certain defendants to the litigation filed a motion for protective order.

Sen. Sheehan expressed his disappointment at the time, saying that the documents were necessary to complete the public record and to help policymakers avoid a recurrence of the 38 Studios deal.

In his most recent letter to the governor, Sen. Sheehan repeated that sentiment, writing that “the public has a right to know all the facts in this case. Any attempt to shield the truth for a slightly higher settlement offer, for instance, would be contrary to the public interest.”


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