Bills Introduced in the Rhode Island House, January 18-20

This is the first of five posts today on the bills introduced to the RI General Assembly last week. There will be two other posts on House Bills, with criminal/civil offense and business regulatory bills grouped together, and two posts on Senate Bills, one of which focuses on taxation bills.
As a reminder, the difference between “significant rewrites” and “targeted changes” isn’t in the impact or importance of the law, but in the sheer amount of verbiage that gets changed. In general in the case of targeted changes, the intent of a bill is pretty clear and discussion can move immediately to whether it is a good idea or not. In the case of significant rewrites, the full scope of the change should be at least double-checked and maybe fully analyzed, before the discussion can begin.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

H5063For elections of RI General Officers and General Assembly members, a two-person runoff election is held, if no candidate gets a majority in the “first-round” of the general election. (Comment: No details about the timing of the runoff are mentioned in the amendment.)

Significant Rewrites with Statewide Impact

H5041Creates a “Return to Work” program through the Dept. of Labor and Training “to provide a structured, supervised training opportunity to Rhode Island residents receiving unemployment benefits, allowing such residents to obtain job training while continuing to collect unemployment compensation”.
H5043Writes the former Illegal Immigration Control Executive Order (i.e. Governor Carcieri’s Illegal Immigration Executive Order) into state law.
H5055Establishes reporting requirements for recipients of historic tax credits.
H5058The state will pay 100% of costs for students attending vocational schools operated by “a state municipality”. (Comment: Nobody let Donna Walsh know she is starting down the road to school choice with this bill).
H5071Authorizes the Rhode Island National Guard to create an academy “for the purpose of providing at-risk youth with a program to help them obtain a GED, and/or high school diploma, increase their employment potential, and enhance their education and life skills. Companion to S0013.
H5093From the official description: “This act would allow law enforcement and the attorney general administrative subpoena power to obtain information relative to the distribution or storage of child pornography as well as the exploitation of children or online child enticement from Internet service providers”…
H5103Sets rules for meeting and monitoring National Fire Protection Association Standards for RI fire departments.

Targeted Changes with Statewide Impact

H5035Makes individual employment contracts with public bodies accessible to the public, in their entirety
H5042The awarding authority of public works contracts must make sure a provision is written into contracts awarded, specifying that the contractor will provide a monthly report on the payroll records of employees, but the awarding authority is not responsible for enforcing this provision.
H5048City and town councils can freeze the property tax rates of foreclosed properties that are rehabilitated, for up to 5 years. (OK, but how about giving regular homeowners, who haven’t been foreclosed on, the same break?)
H5049The kindergarten school day must include at least 5.5 hours of instruction.
H5050The $1.9 million for the DLT unemployment call center (See Rep. Mike Chippendale’s blog for an interesting analysis of the bill)
H5053Prohibits tolls from being used to pay for the maintenance/upgrade of the Sakonnet River Bridge. (Comment: In reality, this means no tolls without the approval the legislature for paying for the Sakonnet River bridge, since one of those “notwithstanding any other law” clauses could be written into a future law.) Companion to S0016.
H5054Allows any city or town to exempt disabled veterans from property taxes. Companion to S0015.
H5056No tolls for crossing the Mt. Hope Bridge (Comment: Unless, of course, the legislature approves them in the future by repealing this change.)
H5057If the state does not reimburse cities and towns for the cost of state mandates, cities and towns can choose not to implement mandates that would save up to 50% of the missing money. (This is an interesting one. If I am reading the existing law properly, the state is supposed to be tracking the cost of unfunded mandates, which the General Assembly can then choose to reimburse. This bill would create a consequence of the GA chooses not to.)
H5059Adds campus police officers (who have been appointed by the BoGfHE) to the list of officers who continue to receive full pay if injured while responding to an incident while off-duty.
H5061Raises age of mandatory public school attendance from 16 to 18 (with provisions for students on alternative learning plans).
H5064School committees no longer have to publish notice of their meetings in a dead-tree newspaper. Electronic notice on a school committee or municipal website would suffice.
H5070Allows the head of the Rhode Island National Guard to “administer monetary contributions from donors to charitable organizations for and on behalf of the Rhode Island National Guard that benefit state military programs”. Companion to S0012.
H5074Changes who can be a lawyer for the Rhode Island National Guard; it’s not just for RI Bar members anymore. Companion to S0032.
H5072Authorizes vanity license plates for disabled veterans
H5073Allows the Rhode Island National Guard to participate in asset forfeitures that occur as a result of enforcement of drug laws. Companion to S011.
H5079Any vessel transporting LNG through Narragansett Bay has to have a peace officer on board (private security guards don’t count).
H5083State government can only purchase flags made in the USA, with made in the USA meaning that “a substantial majority of the principal components are assembled into the final product in an assembly plant in the United States.”
H5085Changes the seismic monitoring rules for the use of explosives. (Comment: This has got be tied to something that recently happened or something that is planned, right? I can’t believe that even the idlest of state Reps would make this one up in his or her spare time.)
H5088Changes poll closing time in RI elections from 9:00 to 8:00 (also ends Pawtucket’s option to close their polls an hour early).
H5091Administrators and magistrates, currently appointed by judges, would be appointed by the Governor from a list of candidates selected by a judicial nominating commission.
H5092“The division of sheriffs within the department of administration shall verify the immigration status of each incarcerated person being presented to the court for any hearing related to a criminal matter before the court, unless otherwise ordered”.
H5098Good Samaritan law regarding CPR or automated defibrillation applies even if the Good Samaritan has no formal training.
H5102Authorizes Red Sox Foundation license plates
H5104From the official description: “This act would provide a refund deduction check off box for contributions to the veterans returning from overseas account made on a state personal income tax return.”
H5105Same as H5074?
H5106Same as H5070?

Changes with Local Impact

H5030(Chariho) Chariho district schools can stay open on primary election days (currently, the law says only Block Island schools can stay open) (Comment: An exception is being made for one community, why exactly?)
H5045(West Glocester Fire District) The West Glocester Fire District will have its annual meeting on the 3rd Saturday of June rather than the 1st Saturday in August. (Who, at any point in New England history, thought it was a good idea to hold an annual meeting on the 1st Saturday in August?)
H5046(Cranston/Warwick) State law would no longer require that the Pawtuxet dam be maintained. (Not to be too parochial here, but if this is a good idea, how come it’s a Western Cranston Rep that’s proposing it?)
H5069(East Providence) Exempts the lighthouse out in the Bay that’s part of EP from property taxes
H5080(Tiverton) Some extra money for Tiverton, in the form of school housing aid. (Comment: Not strictly local impact, since the whole state would pay for it.)

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