The General Assembly in Rhode Island had a busy week, with several bills being introduced and passed. Governor Daniel McKee signed a bill allowing restaurants to continue approved outdoor dining until February 15, 2024. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Alana DiMario, providing restaurants with certainty this year while stakeholders work towards making outdoor dining permanent.
In addition, the Senate passed legislation introduced by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller that would extend the sunset date on a pilot program approved by the General Assembly in 2021 to create harm reduction centers, supervised facilities for drug users. The bill now goes to the House, which approved companion legislation last week. This bill could be a significant step towards reducing drug addiction rates in the state.
Furthermore, the Senate has approved legislation enabling sports wagering on in-state collegiate teams when they are participating in tournaments consisting of four or more teams. The bill was sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and now moves to the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives also approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Kislak to allow behavioral health records to be shared among doctors similarly to medical health care records. The bill aims to ensure patients receive follow-up care after being released from a hospital. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Mark P. McKenney is sponsoring companion legislation.
Additionally, the House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi that would allow licensed pharmacists to prescribe tobacco cessation medications to eligible patients. The bill now heads to the Senate where Sen. Bridget Valverde has introduced companion legislation.
The Senate has also approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Jonathon Acosta to revise the state’s definitions of felonies, misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors. The proposal is part of an ongoing effort to reform the state’s criminal justice system through a “justice reinvestment” approach. The legislation now heads to the House for consideration, where Rep. Leonela Felix has introduced the bill.
Sen. Melissa A. Murray has introduced legislation to exempt the first $100,000 of tangible property from the tangible personal property tax to help businesses, especially small businesses, statewide. The proposed exemption would completely eliminate the tangible tax for an estimated 85% of businesses statewide.
Lastly, Sen. Matthew L. LaMountain and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. have introduced legislation to increase the personal needs allowance of nursing home residents from $50 to $100 per month. The allowance is the amount of monthly income a Medicaid-funded nursing home resident can keep of their personal income.
Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio also cut the ribbon for Breeze Airways’ new operations base at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. Breeze Airways expects to expand to as many as 250 full-time jobs, including pilots, flight crews, support staff, and maintenance personnel to sustain up to a total of 20 nonstop routes.
Overall, the General Assembly in Rhode Island had a productive week, introducing and passing bills that could have a significant impact on the state’s residents and businesses.
For more information on any of these bills, click here.