STATE HOUSE — Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly last week. For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.
State of the State address
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo delivered her annual State of the State address to lawmakers on Tuesday. The primary focus of her speech was on Rhode Island’s future, including improving education. She also proposed to strengthen gun laws, end the overdose crisis, protect health care and raise the minimum wage. House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi (R-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) delivered the Republican rebuttal.
Governor’s 2020 budget
Legislators received Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s $9.9 billion proposed budget (2019-H 5151), which includes expanded access to public pre-kindergarten; an expansion of the Rhode Island Promise program to include two years’ free tuition at Rhode Island College; a state-level version of the Affordable Care Act; the legalization, regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana use; the legalization of sports wagering via mobile apps; and a 60-cent increase the minimum wage. The proposal will be vetted over the next several months by the House and Senate finance committees.
Protecting reproductive rights
Two pieces of legislation were filed to enshrine the reproductive health care rights protected by Roe v. Wade to defend against threats at the federal level. The Reproductive Health Care Act (2019-H 5127) was introduced by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-). The Reproductive Privacy Act (2019-H 5125) was introduced by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Providence).
Mobile sports wagering
Senate President Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-North Providence, has submitted legislation (2019-S 0037) to allow mobile sports wagering through the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton. The legislation would enable the creation of an app that consumers could use to access the sports gaming offerings at Twin River from anyplace within Rhode Island.
Help for federal workers
Several bills were filed to help federal workers who are without pay as a result of the federal government shutdown. Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Newport) filed a bill (2019-S 0085) to protect furloughed federal employees from long-term financial consequences like foreclosure and repossession of vehicles. A bill filed by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-East Providence) would enable towns to adopt ordinances to provide federal workers relief from local tax obligations during the shutdown. The House passed a resolution (2019-H 5135) introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Warwick) calling on Congress to pass legislation to fund the U.S. Coast Guard during the shutdown; and the Senate passed a resolution (2019-S 0036) sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Coventry) calling on Congress and the president to end the shutdown.
Ruggerio appoints deputies, chairmen
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has named Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Middletown) to serve as senior deputy majority leader, and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Providence) as deputy majority whip of the Senate. Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Providence) was reappointed Senate majority whip. Ruggerio also named Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Providence) chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, and Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Johnston) chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government.
Working to retain Hasbro
A group of legislators from northern Rhode Island, including the entire Pawtucket delegation, has written a letter to Gov. Gina Raimondo, asking her to do everything in her power to retain Hasbro in Pawtucket. The letter said it would be a devastating loss to the greater Blackstone Valley if Hasbro, which has a workforce of more than 1,500, were to relocate.
House passes rules for 2019-20 session
The House of Representatives passed the House rules (2019-H 5037A) for the 2019-20 session this week. One of the changes is that any amended bill must be posted for 24 hours before action can be taken on the bill, although the rule does not apply to the state budget or for minor non-substantive changes to legislation. A framework for how to deal with sexual harassment within the chamber was also included in the new rules.