Rhode Island State House

Rhode Island General Assembly has been busy passing legislation aimed at improving the state’s education system, public safety, nursing home care, and more this week. The following are some highlights from this week’s news and events at the General Assembly.

The House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) that allows retired teachers to substitute in a school for up to 120 days in a school year without any loss, forfeiture, or reduction in retirement benefits. This bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Robert Britto (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) has introduced similar legislation.

Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Sen. Pamela J. Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) have introduced legislation requiring all firearms, when not in use by the owner or another authorized user, to be stored in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or another safety device properly engaged to render the firearm inoperable.

House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) has introduced a bill to help reduce power outages and long-term energy system costs by developing a more holistic, statewide approach toward managing vegetation that threatens electric grid reliability.

Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) has introduced legislation that would increase the criminal penalties on attacks to electric and cellular communication lines from $3,000 to $50,000; imprisonment from two years to 10 years, or both; and would require restitution for economic harm.

Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick, East Greenwich) has introduced legislation that would allow nursing home residents to use electronic monitoring devices in their rooms or private living units, provided that the resident, as well as the resident’s roommate, consent to such electronic monitoring in writing.

Lawmakers and advocates held a press conference in support of legislation introduced by Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence) and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick, East Greenwich) that would allow workers to contribute up to 8% of their salary to individual savings accounts through payroll deductions, at no cost to their employers.

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34 South Kingstown, Narragansett) have introduced legislation to lower prescription drug costs, including creating a wholesale drug importation program to directly import lower-cost drugs from Canada to be sold throughout Rhode Island.

Rep. Enrique G. Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence) has introduced legislation that would require the Governor’s Workforce Board to work with RIPTA and the Division of Motor Vehicles to recruit and train bus drivers.

Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Linda Ujifusa (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) have introduced legislation to make the state’s publicly available websites compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a piece of more lighthearted news, peanut butter cups won a decisive victory in a “chocolate election” staged by Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) and Sen. Valarie Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) as a demonstration of ranked-choice.