Rhode Island State House

Rhode Island’s General Assembly made significant strides this week as legislators tackled pressing issues, including the housing crisis, healthcare accessibility, climate change planning, coastal development, special education, driving safety, and cultural celebrations.

Here are the key highlights from the week’s legislative proceedings:

Housing Bills Approved by House as Part of Speaker’s Housing Package The House of Representatives successfully passed three bills from House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s comprehensive 14-bill housing package. Sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney, the first bill (2023-H 6058A) permits developers to construct more units per acre if a specific percentage is dedicated to low- and moderate-income housing. Rep. Robert E. Craven sponsored the second bill (2023-H 6059A), which introduces zoning and dimensional variance amendments to encourage housing development. The third bill (2023-H 6061Aaa), also sponsored by Rep. Craven, focuses on improving predictability and standardizing subdivision and land development permits throughout the state. These bills will now proceed to the Senate for further consideration.

EpiPen Coverage Bill Passed by House Legislation championed by Rep. Michelle McGaw (2023-H 5176A) received approval in the House. The bill mandates that health insurers in Rhode Island fully cover the cost of life-saving epinephrine injectors, commonly known as EpiPens. By removing financial barriers, the legislation aims to ensure individuals reliant on EpiPens for managing anaphylactic reactions can access them without financial burden. The bill will now be reviewed by the Senate.

Senate Approves Legislation Incorporating Climate Change in Economic Planning Sen. Pamela J. Lauria’s sponsored legislation (2023-S 0062) unanimously passed in the Senate. This bill requires Rhode Island Commerce and the Division of Planning to consider data on climate change, sea-level rise, and coastal resiliency when formulating the state’s long-term economic development vision and policy. By acknowledging the impact of climate change, Rhode Island aims to create a comprehensive and sustainable economic strategy. The legislation will proceed to the House for further deliberation.

CRMC Hearing Officers Bill Advances in the House The House granted approval to legislation proposed by Rep. Jason Knight (2023-H 5779A) that empowers the Coastal Resources Management Council’s (CRMC) executive director to ensure the council possesses the necessary professional staff to make informed determinations regarding coastal development proposals. This legislation allows the CRMC executive director to appoint a hearing officer if the position remains vacant for 90 days or more. The bill will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Passes Measure Establishing Special Education Ombud In an effort to assist families navigating challenges related to special education, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (2023-S 0063). The bill aims to create an independent ombud office for special education, ensuring school districts adhere to the required standards for individualized education programs for students with disabilities. The legislation will now be reviewed by the House, where Rep. Lauren H. Carson is sponsoring companion legislation (2023-H 5166).

Senate Approves Bill on Dangers of Driving High in Driver Education The Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. David P. Tikoian (2023-S 0667) that mandates driver education courses to include a program addressing the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana. The measure will now proceed to the House, where Rep. Julie Casimiro has introduced similar legislation (2023-H 5768) for consideration.

Get a full rundown of all that happened this week at the Rhode Island General Assembly and read the full legislation, here.

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