Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week. For more information on any of these items visit the General Assembly website.
Cyberstalking now a crime under domestic violence statutes
The governor has signed into law legislation to expand the domestic violence statutes to include “cyberstalking and cyberharassment” as punishable actions. Passed by the General Assembly in recent weeks was House bill (2011-H 5264) by Rep. Elaine M. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Senate bill (2011-S 0334) by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence). Click here to see news release.
Legislation to protect Social Security numbers signed into lawIt is now illegal for merchants or retailers in Rhode Island to ask for all or any part of a customer’s Social Security number, for any reason. Legislation to expand the Social Security privacy laws by expressly prohibiting the use of or request for any part of an individual’s number has been approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. The bills (2011-S 0179 /2011-H 5202) were sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) and Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly). Click here to see news release.
District Court rearrangement signed into law
Legislation (2011-H 5131aa, 2011-S 0117A) sponsored by House Majority Whip J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) to ease overcrowding at the J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence by rearranging the jurisdictions of Rhode Island’s district courts was signed into law by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee. Click here to see news release.
Assembly passes renewable energy bills
The General Assembly approved bills to encourage the development of renewable energy in Rhode Island. The package includes legislation (2011-S 0457A, 2011-H 5939A) sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) to coordinate Rhode Island’s net-metering law with federal policy; a bill (2011-S 0723Aaa, 2011-H 6104Aaa) sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) to promote small to mid-sized renewable energy projects; and a third bill (2011-S 0721A, 2011-H 6222Aaa) sponsored by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence) to reduce delays in renewable energy projects by setting timelines for National Grid to complete engineering studies for connecting projects to the grid. The bills will now be transmitted to the governor. Click here to see news release.
Bill limiting restraints on pregnant prisoners becomes law
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) to limit physical restraints on pregnant inmates has been signed into law. The Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act (2011-S 0165 A, 2011-H 5257A) calls for the least restrictive restraints necessary in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, and expressly prohibits their use during labor if the prisoner does not pose a serious threat of physical harm or escape. Click here to see news release.
Bill barring cell phone use by prisoners signed into law
Legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) banning prisoners from possessing any portable electronic communication device has been signed into law by the governor. Under the new law (2011-S 0767A,2011-H 5660A), possession of a cell phone by an Adult Correctional Institutions inmate is a crime punishable by a $5,000 fine, a maximum of five years more in prison, or both. Click here to see news release.
Bill allowing pharmacists to give injections to young people signed into law
Legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Warwick, Coventry) and Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) allowing pharmacists to administer routine injections to young people in Rhode Island has been signed into law. The new law (2011-H 5211Aaa 2011-S 0480A) permits pharmacists to administer injections to Rhode Islanders between the ages of 9 and 18, with proper parental consent. Click here to see news release.
Legislation prohibiting sale of rolling papers to minors signed into law
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) to ban the sale of rolling papers and several forms of cigars to minors has been signed into law. The new law (2011-H 5212, 2011-S 0666)adds little cigars, flavored and unflavored cigars known as “blunts,” flavored and unflavored blunt wraps, cigarette rolling papers of any size, cigarillos and tiparillos to the section of law that currently prohibits those under 18 from purchasing cigarettes. Click here to see news release.
Autism insurance bills moving through Assembly
The General Assembly is poised to approve legislation that will require insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism, up to $32,000 per year in benefits for children up to the age of 15. The House has passed a bill (2011-H 5275A) sponsored by Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston). The Senate passed an identical bill (2011-S 0107A) by Sen. Edward J. O’Neill (I-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, Pawtucket). Once passed in concurrence by the other chamber, the bills will be transmitted to the governor. Click here to see news release.
Bills let municipalities pool investment funds
Legislation (2011-S 0858aa / 2011-H 5585A) has been approved by the Senate and House of Representatives that will let Rhode Island cities and towns pool available funds for short-term investment purposes. Sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) and Majority Leader Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), the investment pool trust funds would be overseen by the General Treasurer. Click here to see news release.
Governor signs genocide education bill
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed legislation (2011-S 0290 A, 2011-H 5732A) sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) instructing the Department of Education to post on its website materials to help schools teach students about genocides including the Holocaust and those in Armenia, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda and Darfur. Click here to see news release.