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

 

 

§  House elects Shekarchi Speaker, begins 2021 with new leaders, 14 new members
The House of Representatives elected Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as House Speaker as it began the 2021 session with 14 new members. The House Democrats also have a new Majority Leader, Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence); new Majority Whip, Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence); and new Deputy Majority Whip, Rep. Mia Ackerman, (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln).

Click here to see news release on Speaker’s election.
Click here to see news release on new Democratic leadership team.

§  Senate elects leadership; new committee chairs appointed; eight new members
Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) was once again elected President of the Senate. Also on the leadership team are Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Deputy Majority Whip Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence). Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) was elected President Pro Tempore, and Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) was elected Deputy President Pro Tempore. New committee chairs include Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), who will helm the Commerce Committee; Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) will lead the Education Committee; Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) will chair the Environment and Agriculture Committee; Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) will chair the Finance Committee; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) will chair the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) will head up the Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee. Eight new members of the Senate were inaugurated.
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Lima, Corvese announce bills on lieutenant governor vacancies
Rep. Charlene Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) and Rep. Arthur Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) are each introducing bills to delineate how the lieutenant governor is to be replaced if he or she vacates the office. Current state law does not address the situation, which will occur if the U.S. Senate confirms Gov. Gina Raimondo as U.S. Commerce Secretary and Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee becomes governor. Representative Lima’s bill would require a special election. Representative Corvese’s bill (2021-H 5000) would require the General Assembly to elect a new lieutenant governor in Grand Committee, which is the existing process for replacing a lieutenant governor-elect who cannot serve. 
Click here to see Representative Corvese’s news release.

Click here to see Representative Lima’s news release.

§  Senate, House resolutions condemn Capitol violence, call for Trump’s removal
The Senate passed and the House is set to vote on resolutions condemning the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office for his encouragement of it and his other attempts to overturn the election results. The Senate resolution (2021-S 0008) is sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) and the House resolution (2021-H 5005) is sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston).
Click here to see news release.

§  Senate President Ruggerio bill would place moratorium on for-profit hospitals
President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) filed legislation (2021-S 0007) to impose a one-year moratorium on hospital conversions involving for-profit corporations as the acquiree or acquiror.
Click here to see news release.

§  Senator Quezada bill would raise minimum wage to $15 over four years
Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) has introduced legislation (2021-S 0001) that would increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from $11.50 to $15 over a four-year period.
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Sen. McCaffrey, Rep. Kazarian bills would change marriage solemnizations
Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) introduced legislation (2021-S 0014) that would allow the governor to designate any person who is eligible to vote to officiate at a wedding ceremony within the state on a particular day and within a particular city or town. The authorization would expire upon completion of the marriage. A fee in the amount of $25 would be a prerequisite and would be payable to the secretary of state, or a fee of $20 for applications that are submitted electronically.
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Rep. Williams calls for granting driver’s licenses for undocumented residents

Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling on Gov. Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented residents before she leaves the state to serve in the incoming Biden administration.

Click here to see news release

 

§  Legislators’ alarm leads to cancellation of $760,000 contract

Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, Chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) were both alarmed and questioned the recently revealed $760,000 ten-week contract to out of state consultants charged with analyzing the finances of cash-strapped Rhode Island College.  The contract was canceled this week after the legislators voiced their concerns.

Click here to see Serpa release

Click here to see O’Brien release

 

 

 

A human smuggling investigation is underway after a crash left 13 people dead near the Mexican border in Southern California. Department of Homeland Security officials say ten of the fatalities were Mexican nationals. The accident occurred yesterday when a semi-truck collided with an SUV overloaded with 25 people.        White House coronavirus experts say the next three months are "pivotal" as declines in deaths and hospitalizations are stalling. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said we are at a critical nexus because so much can turn in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, President Biden announced yesterday there will be enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May.       Capitol Police say they are aware of a possible plot by a militia group to breach the building tomorrow. They say there is an intelligence report that details a plan by the group that involves former President Trump reclaiming the presidency on March 4th, the historic inauguration date before the 1930s. Capitol Police say they are prepared to deal with any threat.        Job growth among private companies is not doing as well as expected. They only added 117-thousand positions last month compared to the 225-thousand expected, according to A-D-P. Most of the growth ended up being in the services sector.       Some major U.S. companies want Congress to pass laws protecting Dreamers. More than 100 of them authored a letter to the Senate urging lawmakers to pass a bipartisan Dream Act. The bill would aim to secure permanent legal status and citizenship for the hundreds of thousands of the illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.        Scientists say they spotted a "space hurricane" in old satellite images. The 600-mile-wide cloud of spiraling plasma was discovered to have been raining electrons over the North Pole in August of 2014. Researchers say the hurricane spun in a counterclockwise direction, and was likely caused by a rush of solar wind energy and charged particles entering into the Earth's atmosphere.