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.rilin.state.ri.us/News/
House approves civil unions
The House voted 62 to 11 to allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions. The legislation (2011-H 6103Aaa) sponsored by Rep. Peter J. Petrarca (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield) is modeled after laws approved in Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii and grants legal rights to same-sex partners without the historical and religious meaning associated with the word “marriage.” The bill will now proceed to the Senate.Click here to see news release.
Senate OKs legislation to collect DNA in violent crime cases
The Senate approved legislation to require the collection of DNA samples from persons arrested for a crime of violence. Rhode Island statutes currently require collection of DNA only from individuals who are convicted of a felony. The Senate bill (2011-S 0120Aaa), sponsored by Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol), is modeled on Katie’s Law, which has been enacted in more than two dozen states. Identical House legislation (2011-H 5132) has been introduced by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly).Click here to see news release.
House OKs bill adding cyberstalking to domestic violence statute
The House of Representatives approved legislation (2011-H 5264) that will add “cyberstalking” and “cyberharassment” to the list of actions defined by state law as “domestic violence.” The House bill was introduced by the House Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), and is identical to a Senate bill (2011-S 0334) sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
Click here to see news release.
House approves bill aimed at reducing energy use, costs creating green jobs
The House approved a bill (2011-H 5281) to decrease Rhode Islanders’ energy costs and carbon emissions by encouraging efficiency while creating local green jobs. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), extends an expiration date on the law establishing the state’s Renewable Energy Fund and makes a technical change necessary for the implementation of existing law requiring utilities to invest in energy efficiency when it’s less expensive than the energy it would save. The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) is sponsoring identical legislation (2011-S 0187).Click here to see news release.
Senate passes resolution supporting Main Street Fairness Act
The Senate approved a resolution (2011-S 0976) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) calling on Congress to pass the Main Street Fairness Act, a federal measure that allows states to collect sales and use taxes from online retailers, regardless of whether the retailers are located within state boundaries.Click here to see news release.
Senate bills promote matching employees’ skills to industries’ needs
The Senate Education Committee recommended passage of a bill (2011-S 0957aa) sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) requiring the Board of Regents to establish and maintain ongoing connections with higher education, business and industry, and to promote workforce development, through the public career and technical education system. The Senate Labor Committee heard the Rhode Island Enhanced Jobs Match Program (2011-S 0971), sponsored by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett), which is intended to strengthen statewide interagency collaborations, enhance the current state web-based workforce development and job match system and address a skill gaps in a manner that aligns with business and industry needs. Both bills resulted from a Senate economic summit held in March.
Senate hosts summit focusing on “Growing RI’s Economy”
The Senate hosted another in a series of economic summits, this one focusing on growth and job development opportunities in Rhode Island’s manufacturing, tourism and hospitality industries. Presenters included executives from a number of businesses, including Electric Boat, Twin River, Newport Grand and the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau.
House OKs bill calling for reporting of campus crime
The House has approved legislation (2011-H 5215) to require the reporting of campus crime at private institutions with special police forces. Sponsored by Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston), the bill impacts Brown University specifically, and will require the university to release more information about incidents on its campus and neighboring streets where its police force has arrest powers.
Commission says state should ease reliance on tuition for funding
Rhode Island needs to find spending efficiencies at its public colleges and university and cut its reliance on ever-increasing tuitions to achieve its goal of a well-educated workforce that attracts employers and supports a robust economy, said the initial findings of a House commission that is studying the costs and accessibility of a public college degree in the state. The report lays out the subjects the commission, led by Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), will pursue as it continues with its study over the next several years.Click here to see news release.
House votes to create commission to study use of biofuels
The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) to establish a commission that would study the use of biofuels – gaseous, liquid, or solid substance of biological origin that is used as a fuel. The bill (2011-H 5390aa) would create a special study commission to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of various forms of incentives to promote the development and use of advanced biofuels in Rhode Island. Click here to see news release.