Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly, which was on a one-week spring break last week. For more information on any of these items, visit www.rilin.state.ri.us/News.
Efforts ongoing to address Central Coventry Fire District financial problems
The financially troubled Central Coventry Fire District will be able to provide emergency services for several more weeks, the result of a $300,000 loan from the town of Coventry. The loan was approved to allow additional time for General Assembly action on legislation that has been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives to address the situation. A number of bills have been introduced in both chambers by several Coventry legislators, including Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry). Among them are bills to allow for a multi-tiered taxation system and, in the event the district is liquidated, to give the town authority to redraw fire district lines for taxation purposes. The bills are expected to be heard sometime after the Assembly reconvenes next week.
Ferri introduces Health Improvement Planning Act
Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) has introduced legislation to expand the state’s effort to improve the value and quality of health in Rhode Island through a collaborative statewide planning process for population health and medical care resources and delivery. The Rhode Island Health Improvement Planning Act of 2013 (2013-H 5750) would establish the Rhode Island Health Planning Authority, a body that would have more public control, independence, increased effectiveness and – backers hope – adequate staffing and more funding than past efforts.
Fogarty files bill to allow liquor sales at 10 a.m. on Sundays
Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Glocester, Burrillville, North Smithfield), whose district borders both Connecticut and Massachusetts, has introduced legislation (2013-S 799) to allow Rhode Island liquor stores to open two hours earlier on Sundays, at 10 a.m. The bill is aimed at preventing stores near the state border from losing business to stores in Connecticut, which last year allowed its stores to begin selling liquor on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) is sponsoring the bill (2013-H 5183) in the House.
Tanzi bill would allow ‘benefit corporations’ in R.I.
Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) has introduced legislation that would give legal protection to Rhode Island for-profit corporations that have social and environmental missions. The legislation (2013-H 5720) would create a voluntary option for businesses that have a mission other than profit to allow them to pursue that mission appropriately without risk of lawsuits from shareholders.
House passes bill requiring mortgage conciliation effort before foreclosure
The House passed legislation (2013-H 5335Aaa) sponsored by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) to require banks and lenders to make a good-faith attempt to negotiate with homeowners before foreclosing on homes in Rhode Island. Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) is sponsoring similar legislation (2013-S 416) in the Senate.
Valencia bill targets fraud, waste with Office of Inspector General
Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) has introduced legislation that would create the Office of the Inspector General to promote good government and reduce waste, fraud, mismanagement and corruption. Under the provisions of Representative Valencia’s legislation (2013-H 5363), the Office of Inspector General would have subpoena and investigative powers to allow for the prosecution of potential wrongdoers in real-time, before the statute of limitations runs out. Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Sen. James C. Sheehan are sponsoring companion bills (2013-S 0266, 2013-S 0612) in the Senate.