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Last Week at the General Assembly. . .

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 http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.


Senate OKs ‘Katie’s Law’ bill on DNA collection

The Senate has approved legislation to require collection of DNA samples from any person arrested for any crime of violence. Currently, Rhode Island collects DNA samples only from individuals convicted of a felony. Sponsored by Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), the bill (2013-S 0041) is modeled after Katie’s Law, named for a young New Mexico woman who was brutally murdered in 2003 and which has been enacted in about two dozen states. An identical House bill (2013-H 5205) has been introduced by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly). Click here to see news release.

House passes six economic development bills from leadership legislative package

The House approved six economic development bills from its 18-bill legislative package this week. The bills range from creating an Executive Office of Commerce (2013-H 6063A) to establishing an Economic Development Planning Council (2013-H 6069A) that would convene once every four years in the same years as gubernatorial elections. The council’s job would be to develop economic policy and a strategic plan for implementing it. Click here to see news release.

Senate approves reforms to improve efficiency, quality of health care

The Senate approved the Rhode Island Health Care Reform Act of 2013 (2013-S 540Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), to substantially reform health care in Rhode Island to control costs for families and businesses while increasing the quality of care and transparency and addressing market power. The bill is a key element of the Senate leadership’s “Moving the Needle” economic development legislative package. Click here to see news release.

House Finance Committee meets with advisor on 38 Studios bond repayment

The House Finance Committee received a presentation from Matt Fabian of Municipal Market Advisorson the pros and cons of defaulting on moral obligation bonds for 38 Studios. Fabian suggested it would cost the state less to repay the debt than it would to default, since defaulting would result in higher interest rates on future borrowing. Click here to see news release.

East Bay legislators offer alternative bridge funding plan

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) filed new legislation (2013-S 989, 2013-H 6210) to prevent additional tolls on Rhode Island bridges by establishing a new funding source for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority through vehicle inspections fees, the tax on vehicle insurance, insurance violation fees and other sources. The legislation would also expand RITBA’s authority to all state-owned bridges with spans of more than 700 feet, adding 19 bridges located across the state to the four the agency currently controls along the eastern side of Rhode Island. Click here to see news release. 

Senate, House OKs bills on statewide wetlands, septic standards

The Senate and House of Representatives approved identical bills that will move the state toward a consistent single set of environmental standards, while allowing local input to environmental policy decisions. Passed in the Senate was (2013-S 0672A) by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 29, Warwick,Cranston); passed by the House was (2013-H 5425A) by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick). The bills call on the Division of Planning to establish a task force to submit to the governor and General Assembly, by the end of 2014, recommendations on onsite wastewater treatment systems regulations and watershed planning. Click here to see news release.

Senate bill creates ‘certificate of recovery, re-entry’ for parolees

The Senate has approved legislation (2013-S 0358) to establish a “certificate of recovery and re-entry” program in the state’s prison system. The certificate would be presented to parolees who meet certain eligibility requirements and will serve as an official notification that the ex-offender has successfully achieved rehabilitation and is prepared to re-enter society. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence); a companion House bill (2013-H 5383) has been introduced by Rep.Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence). Click here to see news release.

Social media privacy legislation passes House

The House has passed legislation (2013-H 5255A) that will add Rhode Island to a growing list of states prohibiting employers and schools from requiring access to job applicants’ or students’ social networking accounts. Sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), the legislation establishes two new chapters of state law, one covering student social media privacy and the other employee social media privacy. A companion Senate bill (2013-S 0493) was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence). Click here to see news release.

Bill emphasizes validity of RI ‘veteran’ driver’s license

Legislation has been approved by the House to ensure that all merchants who offer veterans’ discounts and incentives honor the Rhode Island “Veteran” driver’s license as proof of military service. The bill (2013-H 5902) was introduced by Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence) in response to complaints from veterans that some stores, especially national “box” stores, are not accepting the RI “veteran” license. Click here to see news release.

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