Legislative News – January 17: Senate confirmation of education commissioners; medical marijuana bill

Rhode Island State House



Ruggerio bill provides for Senate confirmation of education commissioners

STATE HOUSE — President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio has introduced legislation to require appointments to the offices of Elementary & Secondary Education Commissioner and Postsecondary Education Commissioner to be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, just as other high-level state government appointments are. 
 
The legislation would also require that the Governor resubmit the appointments of the Secretaries of the Office of Health and Human Services and Commerce upon the Governor’s second term, as is required with department directors.
 
“Senate advice and consent is a critical oversight function that helps provide accountability and ensure the best candidates are filling critical positions in government. Yet, with regard to these very important education, health and economic development positions, the law is deficient,” said President Ruggerio (D – Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “The education commissioners and health and commerce secretaries are among the highest level positions in state government. They shape policies that impact all Rhode Islanders. They should be subject to the same oversight and accountability measures as every other department head.”
 
President Ruggerio noted that the legislation is not motivated by any particular individual in, or being considered for, one of these positions. Rather, it is a matter of good public policy because of the important nature of the positions.
 
Additionally, the legislation would clarify that any appointment to these offices in an “acting” or “interim” capacity must also be submitted to the Senate for approval within 10 days, even if a search for a permanent director is ongoing, as is required for other departments.
 
The bill, 2020-S-2005, is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D – Dist. 29, Warwick), Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D – Dist. 1, Providence), Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo (D – Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley, Jr. (D – Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Senate President Ruggerio issues statement on governor’s budget proposal

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Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s budget proposal: 

“At first glance, there are many areas of the budget that we can work together on to improve our state. The budget proposal invests in many Senate priorities, including education, housing, health care, and the minimum wage.

“I am disappointed that revenue from the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana was included in the budget proposal. Seeing as the marijuana proposal is unlikely to pass, we effectively have a proposed budget that is out of balance to the tune of $21.8 million. The Senate Finance Committee will be reviewing the details of all aspects of the budget in the coming months.”

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Judiciary Committee meets on Tuesday to hear medical marijuana bill

STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, January 21 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House to hear testimony on legislation (2020-H 7013), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), which addresses separation of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing statutes and regulations.

The new legislation amends the law passed last year to allow the licensing of six new compassion centers and increase the licensing fee to $500,000 each, removing a provision that required the Assembly to approve resulting regulations developed by the executive branch.

It adds four provisions clarifying intended regulatory limits. Under the legislation, regulators would not be allowed to:

  • limit centers based on geographical zones;
  • prevent any center from growing its own supply of medical marijuana or limit by regulation the number of plants, seedlings or marijuana it may have;
  • require a market demand for new compassion centers to cultivate;
  • lower the limit on the number of patients that licensed primary caregivers are allowed to assist.

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