PROVIDENCE — Here are selected highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly last week. All lawmakers named in this report are Democrats. For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease
Bill would enact much of ACA at state level
The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller, of Cranston, to help protect Rhode Islanders’ access to insurance coverage in the face of threats to the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill (2019-S 0738A), which enshrines, among other things, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and coverage for dependents up to age 26, is also intended to provide predictability to insurers, stabilizing the Rhode Island insurance market regardless of the future of the federal law. The bill has gone to the House of Representatives, where House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph M. McNamara, of Warwick, is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-H 5916).
Good Samaritan overdose bill passes House
The House approved legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, of Cranston, to help prevent overdose deaths by shielding law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who try to save victims. The bill (2019-H 5536), which now goes to the Senate, would add law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, which protects them from civil or criminal liability arising from helping a person they believe is overdosing.
Avoiding delays caused by municipal building officials
The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, of North Providence, that would allow contractors or builders to hire a third-party inspector or use a state inspector if a municipal building official fails to perform required inspections within 48 hours. The bill (2019-S 0687A), which is part of the Senate’s “Building A More Vibrant Rhode Island” package of economic development legislation, is meant to ensure that developers can get their projects inspected in a timely manner. Rep. Stephen R. Ucci, of Johnston, is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5989) in the House.
Creating a Small Business Development Fund
The Senate passed legislation introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr., of East Providence, that would create the Rhode Island Small Business Development Fund. The bill (2019-S 0055) would establish a fund intended to encourage the formation of private capital investment in small businesses by federally licensed investment companies. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2019-H 5216) has been introduced by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr., of Warwick.
Protecting the 'right' to pay in cash
The House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman, of Cumberland, that would protect the rights of customers to pay for goods or services in cash. The bill (2019-H 5116A) would make it unlawful for any retail establishment to discriminate against a prospective customer by requiring the use of credit for purchases. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Bonds for I-95 viaduct
The Senate approved up to $200 million in grant anticipation bonds that would allow the state to take advantage of low interest rates to fund the reconstruction of the viaduct that carries Route 95 north though downtown Providence. Replacement of the southbound bridge was completed in 2017, but the northbound side remains structurally deficient and in need of widening and better traffic control.The bill (2019-S 0633A), sponsored by Sen. Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, of Providence, will proceed to the House, where House Majority Whip John G. Edwards, of Tiverton, is sponsoring similar legislation (2019-H 5883).
Expanding apprenticeship opportunities
The Senate approved three bills that are part of the Senate’s “Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island” economic development package. The bills (2019-S 0713A, 2019-S 0726A, 2019-S 0714A), which relate to expanding apprenticeship opportunities, were sponsored by Sens. Frank A. Ciccone, of Providence, Sandra Cano, of Pawtucket, and Cynthia A. Coyne, of Barrington.
Protecting student borrowers
The Senate Finance Committee took testimony on legislation sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer, of Newport, to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers. The Student Loan Bill of Rights (2019-S 0737), filed in response to poor lending practices reported by borrowers, would set standards for student loan servicing, prohibit predatory behavior, and provide best practices for protecting consumers’ rights. Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, of Warwick has introduced the legislation (2019-H 5936) in the House.
DCYF compliance with Extension of Care Act
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Patricia Serpa, of West Warwick, heard a report from the child advocate and representatives of the Department of Children, Youth and Families regarding the agency’s implementation of the Voluntary Extension of Care Program, which allows young people to receive care and support through the DCYF up to age 21. Continuing care up to age 21 can build stronger transition plans and help young people gain access to job training and educational opportunities.