Rhode Island State House

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The latest news and press releases from the Rhode Island General Assembly.

02/04/2020Rep. Grace Diaz;Rep. Grace Diaz inducted into Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame
02/04/2020Rep. David Bennett;Bennett bill would allow injured police dogs ambulance transport, EMT care
02/04/2020Sen. Dawn Euer;Meeting of commission on vicious dog hearing process postponed
02/04/2020Sen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Scott Slater;Whip Goodwin and Rep. Slater will introduce Nursing Home Staffing and Quality of Care Act

Rep. Grace Diaz inducted into Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Grace Diaz (D – Dist. 11, Providence) was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame Thursday night. The induction ceremony was held in the City Council Chambers at Providence City Hall marking the 17th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame Awards.

“I am stunned and humbled to be recognized by such a prestigious organization — especially one that invokes the name of one of the greatest men who ever lived, Martin Luther King Jr.” said Representative Diaz. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to be one of so many people who are working to carry out his dream. It’s up to all of us to continue his legacy and never stop working to make his dreams come true.”

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The MLK Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who carry on the legacy of the late civil rights leader. Those selected have made substantial contributions to acceptance, social justice, civil rights and equality in the city.

First elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 2004, Grace Diaz has carried on the work of Dr. King by fighting for legislation on issues facing women, children and minorities.

During the 2019 session, she was instrumental in securing an increase in funding for pre-kindergarten and English language learning. She also worked to restore a program that provides fare-free bus passes to low-income seniors and elderly Rhode Islanders, making the program permanent.

Highest among Representative Diaz’s priorities has been an overhauling of the Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income working families pay for child care, closing the disparity that exists in access to quality child care in communities of color. The child care assistance rates in Rhode Island were well below the recommended levels to ensure equal access to high-quality child care. Representative Diaz had submitted legislation to establish a tiered child care reimbursement rate system. In 2018, it was included in the state budget and signed into law.

During that same session, she introduced a law requiring insurers to treat behavioral health counseling and medication maintenance visits the same as primary health care visits when determining patient cost-sharing. The legislation is aimed at better achieving parity between mental health coverage and primary health coverage for Rhode Islanders.

In 2016, she introduced legislation that to seeks to curtail racial disparities in school discipline. The new law directs all school superintendents to review discipline data for their school districts, to decide whether there is an unequal impact on students based on race, ethnicity, or disability status, and to respond to any disparity.

Always an advocate for children, Representative Diaz sponsored legislation in 2015 that creates a non-discriminatory clause in the Children’s Bill of Rights for all children under the care of DCYF. The law prevents any discrimination against children based on race, color, religion, ancestry, gender or other factors.

Bennett bill would allow injured police dogs ambulance transport, EMT care

STATE HOUSE — Police dogs provide vital services and are just as much at risk as their human partners when they work to protect public safety.

But unlike their human partners, they are not entitled to be transported in an ambulance or treated by EMTs if they are injured in the line of duty.

Rep. David A. Bennett has introduced a bill that would rectify that situation, allowing EMTS to provide emergency care and transport injured police dogs to a veterinary facility to get the treatment they need.

“Police dogs are some of the most loyal, untiring public servants there are. They protect and serve the public alongside human officers, sometimes at great risk to their own lives and safety. They are also valuable resources, having undergone months or years of training to be able to perform special duties. They absolutely deserve to have all the necessary emergency treatment if they get hurt in the line of duty, and no EMT should have to decline to help them or face any kind of repercussion for helping to save their lives,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).

Current law allows EMTs and ambulances to be used only for people. Representative Bennett’s legislation (2020-H 7124) would allow EMTs to transport police dogs injured on the job to a veterinary hospital and to provide emergency care such as administering oxygen and bandaging or applying pressure to wounds, as long as there are no humans waiting for treatment or transport. The bill would protect EMTs who provide such care from liability, and would also allow them to require a law enforcement member to accompany the dog in the ambulance.

The bill is based on a similar bill pending in Massachusetts, which was introduced in response to the shooting of a police dog in Barnstable, Mass., in 2018.

In Massachusetts, the bill is called “Nero’s Law,” after Yarmouth K-9 unit Nero, who was shot along with his human partner, Officer Sean Gannon, while serving a warrant. Gannon’s wounds were fatal, and Nero nearly bled to death while holed up for hours with the suspect inside his home. Nero was eventually transported in a police cruiser for treatment because the EMTs on site weren’t legally allowed to treat or transport him. He survived his injuries and now lives in retirement with Gannon’s widow.

The bill was suggested to Representative Bennett by the animal advocacy and assistance organization Defenders of Animals.

“Defenders of Animals appreciates Representative Bennett introducing this bill. Illinois, Mississippi, and New York have allowed first responders to treat and transport injured police dogs in emergency situations,” said Defenders of Animals Director Dennis Tabella.

The bill was introduced Jan. 16 and is cosponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Meeting of commission on vicious dog hearing process postponed

STATE HOUSE – A meeting that was scheduled Thursday of the legislative commission to study potential reform of Rhode Island’s vicious dog laws has been canceled and will be rescheduled at a later date.

The commission, led by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), is conducting a comprehensive review and is to make recommendations regarding the regulation of vicious dogs and any administrative hearings pertaining to them.

Whip Goodwin and Rep. Slater will introduce Nursing Home Staffing and Quality of Care Act

STATE HOUSE – Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) will be introducing legislation that will establish a nursing home minimum staffing standard, raise wages for caregivers, and provide needed training opportunities for caregivers.

The legislation will be highlighted at a rally held at the State House on February 5 at 3:30 p.m. in the State House Rotunda.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages have created a need for qualified caregivers which leads to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses,” said Whip Goodwin.

 “Rhode Island is the only New England state without minimum staffing requirements for our nursing homes.  We also have one of the largest elderly populations in the country.  These two facts are a recipe for disaster if we do not act now to reverse the falling number of quality and qualified caregivers,” said Representative Slater.

The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care and long endorsed by experts including the American Nurses Association, the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.  Rhode Island is the only New England state with no minimum staffing requirements in our nursing homes.  Only 10 other states have not guaranteed staffing requirements for nursing home residents.

The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for caregivers to recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce.  Short staffing drives high turnover in nursing homes.  Not only does high turnover create undue stress and burnout for remaining staff, it diverts valuable resources to recruit, orient and train new employees and rely on overtime and agency staff.  Low wages are a significant driver of the staffing crisis.  The median wage for a CNA in Rhode Island is less than $15, and $1/hour lower than the median wage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The legislation will also invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex healthcare needs.

Rhode Island has the highest proportion of adults ages 85 and older in the nation, a number that will dramatically increase as the Baby Boomer generation enters the long term care system.  By 2030, Rhode Island will see an increase of 100,000 residents aged 65 and older.  In order to effectively manage this upcoming increase of patients in need of care, Rhode Island must institute nursing home reforms before it is too late.

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