Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly last week. For more information on any of these items, visit www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.
McNamara proposes ‘Back to Work R.I.’ program
Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5033) to create a Back to Work Rhode Island Program. Modeled on successful programs in other states, it would allow individuals to continue receiving unemployment benefits while they are involved in non-paid pre-employment training programs at businesses in the state that volunteer for the program through the Department of Labor and Training.
Ferri submits bill to rein in payday loan interest rates
Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) submitted legislation (2013-H 5019) to eliminate a special exemption from the state’s usury law that has allowed payday lenders to charge borrowers triple-digit interest rates on short-term loans typically used by families living paycheck to paycheck. The legislation would not prohibit payday loans but make them subject to the same interest limits as other loans. Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) plans to submit a similar bill in the Senate.
Raptakis bill would repeal reporting requirement on alcohol sales
Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has introduced legislation calling for repeal of a new regulation that requires restaurants, bars and alcohol retailers to provide a report to the Division of Taxation detailing total sales of alcoholic beverages in the past year. The requirement was included in the current state budget that was approved in June.
Nesselbush calls for accountability, assistance after Sawyer School closure
Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) sent a letter to Ray DiPasquale, commissioner of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, urging the board to assist the students impacted by the closing of the Sawyer School, requesting public answers to the mysterious closing and demanding appropriate accountability from the institution for its actions.
Speaker, local legislators, town officials tour Coventry mill project
House Speaker Gordon D. Fox joined several Coventry legislators and town officials for a tour of the Anthony Mill in Coventry, which is being converted into apartments with the help of historic tax credits provided by the state. In remarks on the opening day of the legislative session, Speaker Fox made a commitment to work to renew the historic tax credits in a targeted manner. The historic tax credits program was suspended in the midst of a budget crisis a few years ago.
Newberry bills call for consideration of cloud-based computing for state agencies
House Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville) introduced two bills (2013-H 5051, 2013-H 5052) that will create a study commission to determine the state’s potential savings in adopting and converting to virtualized cloud-based computing and also authorize the Department of Administration to incorporate virtual cloud-based technologies into the DOA mandate so that agencies can obtain maximum effectiveness in the management of public resources.
House announces committee memberships, deputy majority leaders
House Speaker Gordon D. Fox announced the membership of the House’s 11 standing committees and deputy majority leaders for the 2013-2014 legislative session. New committee chairpersons include Municipal Government Committee Chairman John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence); Oversight Committee Chairman Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston); and Rules Committee Chairman Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). Deputy Majority Leaders include Senior Deputy Majority Leader John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth); Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston); Rep. William San Bento Jr. (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket); Rep. Agostinho F. Silva (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls); Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence); Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence); Representative Corvese, Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly); Rep. Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence); Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown); and Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).
Committees named in Senate
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed announced the membership of the Senate’s 11 standing committees for the 2013-2014 legislative session as well as leaders. Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) will be majority whip. Deputy majority whip is Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) is deputy president pro tempore. Deputy majority leaders include Sen. Marc A. Cote (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), Sen. James A. Doyle II (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence). President Paiva Weed announced committee chairpersons last week.
Williams re-elected as chairwoman of Legislative Black and Latino Caucus
Members of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus re-elected Rep. Anastasia C. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) as its chairwoman. The caucus advocates for the interests of disadvantaged people across the state. It seeks to increase a diverse participation and representation in all levels of government in its quest to eliminate disparities that still exist between white and non-white Americans.