This week at the Rhode Island General Assembly, lawmakers passed several bills focused on addressing critical issues impacting the state. From streamlining the housing development appeals process to increasing funding for emergency medical services, lawmakers were hard at work to make significant changes to benefit Rhode Island residents.
The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed two bills this week to help address the state’s housing crisis. The first bill, sponsored by Representative José F. Batista, aims to phase out the State Housing Appeals Board, which will streamline the appeals process for local comprehensive permit decisions. The second bill, introduced by Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, establishes a housing and land use calendar in Superior Court to handle housing development appeals. Both bills are intended to cut red tape in housing development, which has been a major challenge in Rhode Island.
The Senate also made significant strides in tackling homelessness in Rhode Island. Senators passed legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller that utilizes Medicaid funds to pay for one-time transitional costs to help people experiencing homelessness get into housing. The bill also creates a pilot program of restorative and recuperative care for those experiencing homelessness to recover from illness, injury or medical treatment. The bill now moves to the House, where Representative David A. Bennett is sponsoring companion legislation.
On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Senate celebrated Child Care Awareness and Early Care and Education Advocacy Day by passing a package of three bills. The first bill, sponsored by President Pro Tempore Hanna Gallo, creates a centralized state Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning. The second bill, introduced by Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Cano, instructs the state to establish benchmarks and a plan to increase salaries for early childhood educators. The third bill, introduced by Senator Alana DiMario, creates up to five Early Learning Hubs across the state.
In other legislative news, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Representative Leonela Felix that ensures domestic workers such as housekeepers and caregivers are covered by the state’s minimum wage law. The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Dawn Euer to create environmental justice zones throughout the state, which would have an additional layer of protection from new polluting developments.
Lawmakers also focused on public safety this week. The House passed legislation introduced by Representative Thomas E. Noret that offers new training options for law enforcement officers in recognizing mental health issues. The bill adds the option of the International Certified Crisis Intervention Team training program to the existing requirement that the course of instruction comply with the certified National Council of Behavioral Health Mental Health First Aid Program. The House also passed a bill introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Robert E. Craven Sr. that requires automatic sealing of certain dismissed criminal case records at a faster timeframe.
Finally, the House passed legislation introduced by Representative Carol Hagan McEntee that eliminates the statute of limitations for second degree sexual assault in criminal proceedings and establishes a 10-year statute of limitations for third-degree sexual assault. The legislation now moves to the Senate.
Overall, it was a busy week at the Rhode Island General Assembly as lawmakers tackled critical issues impacting the state. These bills aim to make significant changes and improvements to housing, homelessness, childcare, public safety, and more.
For more highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week, click here.