NEW: Mattiello Disappointed in Raimondo’s Veto of “Revenge Porn” Bill, ACLU Applauds Action

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 

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Speaker Mattiello said he was "surprised" that Raimondo vetoed the "revenge porn" measure.

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello spoke out Tuesday against Governor Gina Raimondo's veto of a "revenge porn" bill -- while advocates of free speech are applauding the move.  

“I am extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed an important tool to protect victims of sexual exploitation.  I am surprised because she never raised any concerns during the four months that it was under consideration by the House. We passed this bill, 68 to 1, which would have given victims of sexual exploitation some common sense protections against increasingly shocking violations of their privacy on the Internet," said Mattiello. 

The bill was part of a larger effort to address domestic violence this session. The House passed a state appropriation of $300,000 in the budget creating the first-ever domestic violence prevention fund for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as well as legislation introduced by Mattiello to protect victims from being stalked with GPS devices. In addition, the House passed legislation prohibiting utility shutoffs by someone who has been served with a protective order. 

Defending the Veto

The Rhode Island ACLU and a number of groups called the revenge porn bill ""overbroad."

"The groups had requested the Governor to veto the legislation, stating that the bill was so broadly worded that it could make criminals of people involved in neither revenge nor porn, and would have a direct impact on the First Amendment rights of the media. The bill could have limited the distribution of a wide array of mainstream, constitutionally protected material, including items of legitimate news, commentary, and historical interest. For example, use of images of Holocaust victims or prisoners at Abu Ghraib or, to take a more recent example, some of the infamous Anthony Weiner photos, would have likely been prohibited under the terms of this legislation," said the ACLU in a release.

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“We commend the Governor for recognizing the serious First Amendment concerns raised by this legislation, and for the need to enact a more carefully-crafted law that will pass constitutional muster. We also wish to thank Rep. Edith Ajello for her efforts in trying to get the bill amended to meet First Amendment standards as it made its way through the General Assembly," said Steve Brown, Executive Director of the ACLU.

"While the bill does include an exemption for items that are “in the public interest,” the groups pointed out in requesting the Governor to veto the legislation that this does not offer news publishers any meaningful protection, as the final determination of whether the material constitutes a matter “in the public interest” would be left to a jury. Editors and producers would have no way of knowing in advance whether an image would be deemed to fall into this category or not, which would create a substantial and unconstitutional chilling effect on speech," said Brown. "Other states in New England that have enacted this type of legislation have passed much narrower versions to mitigate these constitutional concerns."

 

Related Slideshow: FY17 House Budget—Winners and Losers

The House Budget is passed and there were some last minute and controversial surprises.

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Winner

National Grid

When controversial Article 18 got pulled from the budget on Tuesday, critics had lauded the removal of the provision, which appeared to benefit a single wind farm - and the substantial political donor who owned it. But the real winner here is National Grid, the company owned by the British Energy Conglomerate, who would have had to force electric rate payers to pay millions more to connect renewable energy projects to the power grid and pay a greater share.

The battle is not over, however; Speaker Mattiello said that after having received feedback on Article18 and that he "reached the conclusion there are pieces of the article that do not need to be in the budget."  Given the level of scrutiny is it highly unlikely the measure will see light of day as a stand-alone measure before the session adjourns, but it can't be ruled out. 
 

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Loser

Statewide Tourism Campaign

There was no last minute relief for the Commerce Corp. The often controversial agency is taking a cut.

Following the ill-fated rollout of the statewide tourism campaign this year, House Finance opted to give money back to the regional tourism bureaus that had been slated to go to the centralized effort.

Mattiello said that the House finance budget is taking $1 to $2 million from the $5 million for next year from the statewide tourism office and giving it back to the regional tourism bureaus. “We had a snafu in the effort. We’ll rely on the locals for the year, and then it will transfer back to state initiative,” said Mattiello. 

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Winner

Medical Marijuana Growers, Patients

One of the biggest battles of the 2016 General Assembly session started when Governor Raimondo proposed a tagging fee on medical marijuana plants -- to major pushback. 

The tax as proposed in the Governor's 2017 budget would have imposed a $150 per plant charge on patients lawfully growing marijuana for medical purposes, and a $350 per plant charge for caregivers, for a projected total of $8.5 million in new revenue. 

House finance scaled back the fee-per-plant to $25, to cover the costs of regulating the marketplace. 

“Advocacy works. We listened to folks, no one really liked the proposal we received,” said Mattiello. “[As far as] the need of regulations, we’re probably on the low end of that. But we didn’t want to enhance revenues on prescription medications.”

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Winner

ProvPort

A surprise amendment that resussciated a dead proposal.

A late session effort by the City of Providence to get a $20 million bond question on the ballot for ProvPort in November initiatially hadfallen flat as a line item in the budget. 

Legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio in late May and now a budget article add-on for a bond referendum of $20,000,000 to fund the acquisition, expansion and infrastructure improvement of up to approximately 25 acres of land and facilities located between Allens Avenue in Providence and the Providence River by ProvPort, Inc. 

While it appears to be a House Finance budget “loser” the battle is not over yet for the year, as Mattiello said there is still ongoing discussions. 

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Winner

Business Owners

Mattiello touted in his “pro-business, pro-economy” budget lowering the minimum corporate tax from $450 to $400. This comes a year after the General Assembly lowered it from $500 to $450 last year, taking away at that time the dubious distinction for Rhode Island being the state with the highest corporate minimum tax.  

“There are no new taxes or fees,” said Mattiello of the House Finance FY17 budget (apart from the $25 medical marijuana tax).

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Loser

School Infrastructure

Raimondo had called for a $40 million school construction and renovation bond to be put on the November ballot, but Mattiello said during a media briefing that the state should wait for the completion of a study expected to show what exactly the construction needs are for the state’s schools.

Mattiello said that there is still funding in the budget for school construction needs, as Raimondo had also proposed an $80 million appropriation for construction and renovation, including of $9.1 million for the school building authority -- but the dedicated bond question that would have increased resources by 50% -- was off the table in the House Finance budget. 

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Winner

Smokers and Mini-Marts

After years of steady increases in the state’s cigarette tax, smokers got a reprieve in House Budget when the committee rejected Raimondo’s proposal to raise the cigarette tax twenty-five cents from $3.75 to $4 a pack.

Make no mistake about it, this is just as much about the convenience stores not wanting the additional tax on their golden goose -  and New England Convenience Store Association lobbyist Brian Goldman just got vetted by Senate Judiciary for his nomination from Raimondo to replace Associate Judge Frank Cenerini, who retired in October 2014.

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Loser

Raimondo’s Minimum Wage Hike

Governor Raimondo once again pushed for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, and it appears she will be once again denied by the legislature.

Speaker Mattiello said that Raimondo’s effort to boost the minimum wage from $9.60 to $10.10 an hour would be a no-go. So while it falls in the loss category for those who were pushing for it, it could have been labeled as a win for business owners who have said they couldn’t incur such a mandatory increase. 

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Winner

Retirees (Pensioners)

“We are giving pension relief to everyone who receives some type of pension income, whether it’s public employees, private, or veterans,” said Mattiello.

Mattiello noted that the tax deduction “will be income tested, [and] you have to be Social Security age to qualify.” The tax exemption is slated to apply to the first $15,000 in retirement income, for those qualifying individuals with incomes of $80,000 or less, and couples up to $100,000.

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Loser

Solar and Wind

While the removal of Article 18 was championed as a win against crony capitalism, there was more at stake than just one developer with strong political ties.  While the article appeared as of Tuesday looked to be gone from the budget, that did not mean the legislative proposal could not stand alone. EcoRI was quick to point out however all that the article did for provide for a number alternative energy incentives including: 
Article 18...would allow loans for projects using net metering and virtual net metering, as well as those priced through the Renewable Energy Growth Program.

Article 18 also includes a five-year extension of the state Renewable Energy Fund, which provides grants for small- and medium-sized solar projects. The funds are collected through a monthly surcharge on electric bills and the pool of funds, currently about $6 million, is distributed to solar developers and installers through the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.


Article 18 also exempts residential and commercial manufacturers from paying local property taxes. It also establishes a statewide property tax rate for commercial renewable-energy systems. The new tax rate will be determined by the Office of Energy Resources.
 

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Winner

Beach Visitors

Beachgoers get a win.

Everyone who loves the beach gets a win with the the House budget. Speaker Mattiello touting that “beach fees are reduced to the 2011 level” for the coming year.

A season pass for residents would be slashed from $60 to $30, non-residents from $120 to $60, and Rhode Island senior citizens from $30 to $15. Plus,  one-time entrance fees would be lowered for residents from $10 to $6 (and senior citizens, down to $3).

 
 

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