Rhode Island State House

Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week, March 21 – 25, 2022.

This recap was provided by the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Legislative Press Bureau.

Assembly OKs temporary lift on the cap of days worked by retired teachers

The General Assembly passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist.
65, East Providence) and Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North
Providence, Johnston) to temporarily suspend the cap on the number of days retired
educators can work without penalty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently
allowable under an executive order set to expire March 31, the practice will be
extended through the end of the school year by the legislation (2022-H 7825, 2022-S
). The bill also provides greater flexibility in school transportation and allows
registered nurse graduates to work pending licensure to ease the nurse shortage while
the state still combats COVID-19 and its impacts.
Click here to see news release

Senate approves bill enacting Obamacare consumer protections in state law

The Senate approved legislation (2022-S 2080A) sponsored by Health and Human
Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) to
enact many of the consumer-protection elements of the federal Affordable Care Act
— commonly called “Obamacare” — into state law. The bill would provide Rhode
Islanders with permanent protections, such as prohibiting insurers from denying
coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions, even if the federal law is ever
weakened or repealed. The bill goes to the House, where Rep. June S. Speakman (DDist. 68, Warren, Bristol) is sponsoring companion legislation (2022-H 7560).
Click here to see the news release.

House OKs bill granting employee restroom access to those with medical issues
The House passed a bill (2022-H 7392) introduced by House Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) to require retail establishments
with three or more employees on the premises without public restroom facilities to
allow customers suffering from eligible medical conditions access to their employee
restrooms upon presentation of documentation issued by a licensed physician. The
measure now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence)
has introduced a companion bill (2022-S 2719).
Click here to see the news release.

Euer, Handy bill, backed by McKee, seeks additional 600 MW of offshore wind

Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Dawn Euer (D-Dist.
13, Newport, Jamestown) and Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) joined Gov.
Dan McKee and state and local officials to announce the introduction of their
legislation (2022-S 2583, 2022-H 7971) to require a market-competitive procurement
for approximately 600 megawatts of newly-developed offshore wind capacity. If
enacted, Rhode Island’s primary utility company would be required to issue a request
for proposals by Aug. 15. Click here to see the news release.

House passes bill for custody procedures for pets in divorce cases

The House passed legislation sponsored by Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (DDist. 14, Cranston, Providence) on pet custody in divorce proceedings. The
legislation (2022-H 7087) directs the courts to consider factors such as who owned
the animal first or whether it was acquired following marriage, who tended to the
animal’s needs, which living arrangement is best for the animal and whether children
were involved in its care. Click here to see the news release

Senate roundtable discussion highlights climate action priorities

The Senate hosted “An Environmental Roundtable Discussion: Renewable Energy,
Clean Water & Jobs,” which brought together senators, advocates and others from the
community to discuss proposals to increase Rhode Island’s reliance on renewable
energy, protect water resources, and better prepare the state’s workforce for the green
jobs created by environmental and climate resiliency initiatives.
Click here to see the news release.

Murray, Handy sponsor legislation to lift families out of deep poverty

Sen. Melissa Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and Rep. Arthur
Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) are sponsoring legislation (2022-S 2316, 2022-H 7789)
backed by the Raising Rhode Island Coalition to lift children out of deep poverty by
increasing the Rhode Island Works benefit to 50% of the federal poverty level and
raising it along with inflation. Under the bill, a family of three would see monthly
benefits rise from $721 to $959. The bill also better enables them to complete their
degree at CCRI, and extends the lifetime benefit limit from 48 to 60 months.
Click here to see the news release.

Bill would create behavioral health crisis services system, suicide hotline

Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) has introduced
legislation (2022-H 7389) to establish a core state behavioral health crisis services
system. The system, which would be administered by the director of Behavioral
3 – 3 – Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, would include a 9-8-8 suicide
prevention hotline. Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) is sponsoring the bill in
the Senate (2022-S 2467). Click here to see the news release.

Alzate, Murray bill would ensure high earners contribute their fair share

Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24,
Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and the Revenue for Rhode Island coalition kicked
off a campaign in support of legislation to raise revenue for the state by adding one
new tax bracket – at a marginal rate of 8.99 percent (in place of the current top rate of
5.99 percent) on income above $500,000, ensuring that the top 1 percent of earners
are contributing their fair share. The coalition estimates that the legislation (2022-H
7440, 2022-S 2264) would raise $144.5 million in new tax revenue.
Click here to see the news release.

Legislation would temporarily waive gasoline tax

Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) has introduced
legislation (2022-H 8006) to impose a moratorium on the payment of the fuel tax
until Dec. 31, 2022, to help Rhode Islanders as the price of gasoline has spiked. The
bill (2022-S 2305) has also been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jessica de la Cruz
(R-Dist. 23, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Glocester). Click here to see the House news release. Click here to see the Senate news release.

Lawson bill would expand RI Promise scholarship program to care economy

The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on legislation sponsored by Sen.
Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) to expand the RI Promise
scholarship program to students at Rhode Island College (RIC) for their last two years
of study when attaining a degree in the care economy. The legislation (2022-S 2591)
also would extend the RI Promise scholarship program to students who are unable to
meet the criteria set forth in the scholarship obligations due to medical or personal
leave, military obligations or disabilities. Click here to see the news release

For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/.