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.
Marijuana legalization, regulation bill introduced
Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) were joined by drug policy reform advocates to announce their legislation (2013-H 5274) to legalize marijuana possession in Rhode Island for adults age 21 and older, with regulations and taxes similar to those for alcohol. By regulating its sale, the state would be better able to control marijuana and would make it more difficult for children to obtain, they said.
Goldin proposal would expand TDI to cover caregivers
On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Sen. Gayle Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) introduced legislation (2013-S 0231) to expand temporary disability insurance to employees who must take time out of work to care for a family member or care for a new child in their home. Besides strengthening families’ ability to stay afloat during a medical crisis or after the birth of a baby, the legislation would help small businesses in Rhode Island compete for employees with large corporations that offer paid time off in such situations.
Senate releases report, recommendations to improve services for veterans
The Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), unveiled “The Rhode Back Home,” a report on current and proposed services and benefits for the state’s veterans and their families. The report presents an overview of a number of public policy issues pertaining to veterans with specific recommendations to build upon current state and federal programs and services.
Almeida, Diaz bill to collect racial profiling data and protect youth in searches
Rep. Joseph Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence) and Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) submitted legislation (2013-H 5285) to reinstate traffic stop data collection to detect racial profiling and requiring police to meet basic standards of reasonable suspicion before searching juveniles or vehicle passengers. They were joined at a press conference by community advocates and youth of color who told their stories of being repeatedly stopped by the police and questioned or searched despite having no criminal history. Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) is sponsoring the bill (2013-S 0145) in the Senate.
Senate OKs bill to amend reporting requirement on alcohol sales
The Senate approved legislation (2013-S 0025A), introduced by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), to amend a new reporting requirement on alcohol sales, limiting the requirement to only Class A liquor license holders (retailers). As included in the budget approved last year, the requirement would also have applied to bars and restaurants that sell alcohol. Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has similar legislation (5013-H 5031), which has been heard by the House Finance Committee.
Assembly leaders attend Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce luncheon
Members of the General Assembly leadership team attended a legislative luncheon hosted by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economy and state tax policy. About 650 business leaders attended the luncheon, which also featured an announcement of Twin River casino’s new plans to hire more people than originally estimated to prepare for the arrival of the table games in July.
Kennedy proposes social media privacy act
Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5255) to establish clear social media privacy laws affecting employers-employees and colleges-students. It would prohibit employers and schools from requiring or requesting certain social media information from prospective employees and students (such as passwords), and prohibit employers or educational institutions from discharging or disciplining individuals who refuse to disclose certain protected information.
Palumbo introduces bill to require E-Verify compliance
Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2013-H 5236) to establish an E-Verify compliance chapter in state law, requiring all employers in the state to participate in the federal program used to determine eligibility of individuals seeking employment in the U.S. Similar legislation (2013-H 5106) has been introduced by Rep. Doreen Costa (R-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter). Both bills are before the House Labor Committee.
Hearn, Slater look to ban underage patrons from nightclubs serving alcohol
Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) is again sponsoring a bill (2013-H 5291) that prohibits anyone under 21 years old from entering a nightclub where alcoholic beverages are served. Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), who co-sponsored the bill, said he has seen the effects of nightclub violence create big problems for both the club proprietors and city officials who would like to make Providence safe.
Legislative leaders announce Volvo Ocean Race Newport stop for 2014-2015
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad have announced that Newport will host its first Volvo Ocean Race after winning a stop on the route of the 12th edition of sailing’s premier round-the-world challenge in 2014-2015. The governor and Frostad were joined for the announcement by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Sail Newport Executive Director Brad Read and state agency leadership.