This week at the

General Assembly

 

STATE HOUSE — Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week. For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease

 

 

§  General Assembly passes bill to permanently allow outdoor dining

The General Assembly passed legislation (2024-H 7064A, 2024-S 2028A) sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham) that permanently allows outdoor dining at restaurants. Municipalities would have the power to regulate the scope of the dining areas. The legislation now heads to the governor.

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§ House OKs Fellela bill imposing penalties for death from overmedication
The House of Representatives gave its approval to legislation (2024-H 7013A) introduced by Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston) that would impose a probationary period of three years for any licensee found guilty of overprescribing with death resulting. A subsequent violation during the probationary period could result in a suspension or revocation of licensure. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.
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§ House, Senate oversight committees to delve into Washington Bridge crisis
A joint meeting of the House Committee on Oversight and the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight is planned for next week to address the ongoing crisis on the Washington Bridge, the causes of its failure, and plans for its future. The committee will meet Monday at 3 p.m. in Room 35 on the first floor of the State House.
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§ Legislators join opening of new Rhode Island Reconnect Center
Rep. Cherie L. Cruz (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) joined Gov. Dan McKee and Rhode Island Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey to open the new location of the RI Reconnect visitor center, a place for students and prospective students to receive support in breaking down barriers to pursuing their education and completing their degree. Reconnect has seen a surge in activity due to an $8 million investment passed by the General Assembly. 
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§  Rep. O’Brien introduces tax relief bill for seniors

Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has introduced a bill which will grant senior citizens significant tax relief on pension and annuity income. The legislation (2024-H 7485) would allow a modification for all taxable pension and/or annuity income includible in federal adjusted gross income for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2025.

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§  DiPalma and Serpa hold press conference highlighting APRA reform legislation

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry) held a press conference to introduce legislation (2024-S 2256, 2024-H 7181) that would reform the Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Chairman DiPalma’s legislation has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chairwoman Serpa’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on State Government and Elections. 

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§ Groups rally for anti-gun violence legislation at State House

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, Rhode Island AFL-CIO, National Education Association Rhode Island, Moms Demand Action and other community organizations rallied at the State House in support of gun safety legislation and preventing gun violence. The coalition’s priorities are a secure storage bill (2024-H 7373, 2024-S 2202) sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Sen. Pamela J. Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and an assault weapons ban (2024-H 7217) sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton).

 

§ AARP backs bills
AARP Rhode Island announced its legislative priorities for 2024, which include the Secure Choice Program (2024-H 7121, 2024-S 2045) sponsored by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick, East Greenwich) and Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence) creating a voluntary retirement savings plan for individuals who do not have access through their employer; legislation to encourage construction of accessory dwelling units (2024-H 7062) sponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 69, Warren, Bristol) and Sen. Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown); bills to eliminate the state tax on Social Security benefits (2024-S 2058, 2024-S 2158, 2024-S 2061) sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag (D-Dist. 10 Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick and Sen. Elaine J. Morgan (R-Dist. 34, Hopkinton, Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond, West Greenwich); and legislation to expand Temporary Caregiver Insurance (2024-S 2121, 2024-H 7171) sponsored by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).

 

§  DiMario named Legislator of the Year at Clean Water Legislative Summit

The Rhode Island Clean Water Association honored Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett, New Shoreham) as its 2024 Clean Water Legislator of the Year at the 2024 Clean Water Legislative Summit. The summit included remarks from Rhode Island’s federal delegation and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Click here to see news release.

 

§  Economic Progress Institute hosts policy briefing on predatory lending

The Economic Progress Institute hosted a policy briefing on payday lending practices in Rhode Island for legislators, staffers and members of the public. The group was invited by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket, Central Falls), who has introduced legislation (2024-H 7211, 2024-S2141) along with Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) to close an exemption in state law that allows payday lenders to charge triple-digit interest rates.

Click here to see news release.

Authorities say one person is dead after the driver of a stolen 18-wheeler has intentionally crashed into a Texas DPS office. DPS officials say at least 14 people were hurt after the truck crashed into the office in Brenham. DPS says the driver has been arrested and was angry he was denied a commercial driver's license yesterday.        President Biden is making his case for re-election to Black voters. The president addressed the National Action Network today, which works on racial justice and civil rights issues. Biden said that under his administration, Black unemployment has dropped to a record low, more Black Americans have health insurance, and the number of Black-owned businesses is rising.        The House is approving a bill to reauthorize a key federal surveillance program. The legislation renews Section 702 of FISA [[ fye-suh ]], which allows intelligence agencies to surveil foreigners abroad. Critics, however, say it allows for warrantless spying on Americans.        Gas prices keep rising. Triple-A says the average price for regular gas has gone up about 20 cents a gallon over the past month. The national average now sits at three-63. Experts cite refinery maintenance and growing unrest in the Middle East as potential reasons for the increase. They predict gas prices will get even higher as peak driving season starts and refineries switch to more expensive summer gasoline.       Eleanor Coppola is dead at the age of 87. On Friday, her family announced the Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker had passed away at her California home. She was best known for her documentary "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" which followed her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, and his making of the film "Apocalypse Now."        Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter has surrendered to authorities. Ippei Mizuhara [[ EE-pay mizu-HARA ]] is accused of stealing 16 million dollars from the Los Angeles Dodgers superstar to satisfy a sports gambling habit. Mizuhara is now in federal custody and is expected to make his first court appearance on bank fraud charges at 1 p.m. local time in downtown Los Angeles.