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Workers Co-Op Legislation and Constitutional Reforms Introduced: This Week at the State House

Saturday, April 22, 2017

 

Workers co-op legislation is introduced, Minority Whip Filippi introduced constitutional reforms and much more. This week at the State House. 

Sen. Miller bill would use Medicaid funds for housing to improve health

Modeled after an innovative bill introduced this year in Hawaii, legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) would launch a pilot program to test the use of Medicaid funds to treat chronic homelessness.

Click here to see news release.
 

Rep. Walsh bill would raise tipped wage, link it to standard minimum wage

Rep. Moira Walsh (D-Dist. 3, Providence) is sponsoring legislation to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers by 50 cents a year until it reaches a level that is at least two-thirds of the standard minimum wage, then ensure that it increases proportionately along with the standard minimum wage.

Click here to see news release.

Minority Whip Filippi introduces constitutional reforms

House Minority Whip Blake Filippi (R-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) introduced three constitutional amendments. House resolution would empower the people of Rhode Island to take the government to court over unlawful spending. House resolution would require all substantive executive branch regulations to be approved by the General Assembly before going into effect. House resolution would create a system of instant run-off elections for all general officers and members of the General Assembly. This will ensure that candidates are elected with a majority vote, rather than plurality vote.

Click here to see news release.

Rep. Ucci, Rep. Winfield target taxes on car and truck owners

Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) and Rep. Thomas Winfield (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester) have introduced bills taking aim at automobile taxes that they believe are unjust. The bills would require cities and towns to use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) trade-in value for motor vehicles for purposes of the excise tax; treat pickup trucks the same as other passenger vehicles for the purposes of reducing sales tax liability by the trade-in value; and prohibit the collection of sales tax on any portion of a lease payment that is charged to pay for excise taxes. Companion legislation to the pickup truck bill has been filed in the Senate by Sen. James E. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich).

RI to use MCAS test for students after comprehensive study

Last legislative session, Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) bill that authorized a comprehensive study on a unified approach to statewide education passed the General Assembly.  As a result of the study, Rhode Island will now administer the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test to Rhode Island students in the third through eighth grades.

Click here to see news release.

Sen. Nesselbush, Rep. Craven introduce workers’ co-op legislation

Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) introduced legislation to create a statutory vehicle for the creation and functioning of workers' cooperatives.  Workers' cooperatives are corporations that are owned and democratically governed by their members.

Click here to see news release.

 

Related Slideshow: Winners and Losers in Raimondo’s FY18 Budget Proposal

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Winner

Criminal Justice Reform

Per recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, the Governor is proposing nearly $1 million in investments such as the public defender mental health program ($185,000), improved mental health services at the ACI ($410,000), recovery housing ($200,000) and domestic violence intervention, in her FY18 budget. 

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Winner

English Language Learners

Under the heading of “promoting 3rd grade reading,” Raimondo proposed adding $2.5 million to make English Language Learning (ELL) K-12 funding permanent.  The Governor’s office points out that RI is one of four states that doesn’t have permanent funding.

The suggestion was one made by the Funding Formula Working Group in January 2016, who said that “in the event that Rhode Island chooses to make an additional investment in ELLs, the funding should be calculated to be responsive to the number of ELLs in the system and based on reliable data, and include reasonable restrictions to ensure that the money is used to benefit ELLs — and promote the appropriate exiting of ELL students from services.”

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Winner

Car Owners - and Drivers

Governor Raimondo wants to reduce assessed motor vehicle values by 30% - a change that would reduce total car tax bills by about $58 million in calendar year 2018. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, however, has indicated that he might want to go further in its repeal.  

In her budget proposal, Raimondo also put forth adding 8 staffers to the the Department of Motor Vehicles to "address wait times."

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Winner

T.F. Green

The “Air Services Development Fund” would get an influx of $500,000 to “provide incentives to airlines interested in launching new routes or increasing service to T.F. Green Airport.” The Commerce Corporation set the criteria at the end of 2016 for how to grant money through the new (at the time $1.5 million fund).

Also getting a shot in the arm is the I-195 development fund, which would receive $10.1 million from debt-service savings to “resupply” the Fund to “catalyze development & attract anchor employers.”

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Tie

Minimum Wage Increase

An increase in the state minimum wage is part of Raimondo’s proposal, which would see it go from $9.60 an hour to $10.50 an hour.  Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort in 2016 to bring it up to $10.10 — it was June 2015 that she signed legislation into law that last raised Rhode Island’s minimum wage, from $9 to 9.60.  

The state's minimum hourly wage has gone up from $6.75 in January 2004 to $7.75 in 2013, $8 in 2014, and $9 on Jan. 1, 2015.  Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business however have historically been against such measures, citing a hamper on job creation.  

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Tie

Cigarette Tax

Like the minimum wage, Raimondo is looking for an increase - in this instance, the cigarette tax, and revenue to state coffers.  Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort to go from a tax of $3.75 to $4 last year. Now she is looking for an increase to $4.25 per pack, which the administration says would equate to $8.7 million in general revenue — and go in part towards outdoor recreation and smoking cessation programs.  

The National Federation of Independent Business and other trade groups have historically been against such an increase, saying it will hurt small businesses - i.e. convenience stores. And clearly, if you’re a smoker, you’re likely to place this squarely in the loser category instead. 

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Loser

Hospitals

As often happens in the state budget, winner one year, loser the next. As GoLocal reported in 2016, “the Rhode Island Hospital Association immediately lauded the budget following its introduction, and addressed that while it is facing some reductions, that it "applauds" this years budget after landing on the "loser" list last year.”

This year, it falls back on the loser list, with a Medicaid rate freeze to hospitals, nursing homes, providers, and payers — at FY 2017 levels, with a 1% rate cut come January 1, 2018. 

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Loser

Online Shoppers

The taxman cometh — maybe.  Raimondo proposed an “Internet Sales Tax Initiative” — which would purportedly equate to $34.7 million in revenues.

"Online sales and the fact that online sellers do not collect sales tax has created a structural problem for Rhode Island's budget — our sales taxes have been flat," said Director of Administration Michael DiBiase, of the tax that Amazon collects in 33 states, but not Rhode Island. "We think mostly due to online sales, we’re able to capture the growth. The revenue number is $35 million dollars — it improves our structural deficit problem. It’s an important fiscal development."

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Loser

Long Term Care Funding

The Governor’s proposal recommends “redesigning the nature” of the State’s Integrated Care Initiative, by transferring long-term stay nursing home members from Neighborhood Health to Medicaid Fee-for-Service and repurposing a portion of the anticipated savings (from reduced administrative payments to Neighborhood Health) for “enhanced services in the community.” “The investments in home- and community-based care will help achieve the goal of rebalancing the long-term care system," states the Administration. 

Cutting that program is tagged at saving $12.2 million; cuts and “restructuring” at Health and Human Services is slated to save $46.3 million. 

 
 

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