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

 

 

§  Senate passes bill to increase minimum wage to $15 by 2025
The Senate passed legislation (2021-S 0001aa) introduced by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) that would increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from $11.50 to $15 over a four-year period. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2021-H 5130) has been introduced by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).
Click here to see news release.

 

·         Senate passes charter school moratorium
The Senate approved legislation (2021-S 0013Aaa) sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) to place a three-year moratorium on the expansion or creation of charter schools in Rhode Island to allow the General Assembly to review the charter funding structure. Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is sponsoring similar legislation (2021-H 5193) in the House.
Click here to see news release.

 

·         Measures to curb gun violence introduced in House

House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) and Rep. Justine Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) introduced a package of bills to prohibit the possession of firearms on school grounds and ban the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In the Senate, President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has introduced the bill banning firearms in schools (2021-S 0073). 
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·         Senate OKs bill providing for Senate confirmation of education commissioners 
The Senate approved legislation (2021-S 0063aa) sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) to require appointments to the offices of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner and Postsecondary Education commissioner to be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, just as other high-level state government appointments are. Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation (2021-H 5423) in the House.
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·         Ruggerio, McEntee introduce Plastic Waste Reduction Act
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) have introduced the Plastic Waste Reduction Act (2021-S 00372021-H 5358) to prohibit single-use plastic checkout bags at retail establishments.
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·         Bennett bills take aim at waste, litter from food packaging
House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced several bills aimed at reducing waste and litter from single-use food containers. The bills would ban food service establishments from using disposable polystyrene foam containers and plastic stirrers (2021-H 5138), limit the distribution of single-use plastic straws (2021-H 5131), put a 50-cent deposit on “nips” miniature alcoholic beverage bottles (2021-H 5113) and provide for the sanitary use of multi-use food and beverage containers owned by consumers (2021-H 5152). In the Senate, Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) has introduced the straw bill (2021-S 0155), and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) has introduced the polystyrene foam bill (2021-S 0036).
Click here to see news release.

·         Rep. O’Brien bill would raise earned income tax credit to 50 percent by 2022

Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has introduced legislation (2021-H 5366) that would raise the state’s earned income tax credit to 50 percent by Jan. 1, 2022. Currently, the state’s earned income tax credit is 15 percent.  Under Representative O’Brien’s legislation, for the tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022, a taxpayer entitled to a federal earned-income credit will be allowed a Rhode Island earned-income credit equal to 50 percent of the federal earned-income credit.

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·         Rep. Slater introduces bill to ban captive hunting in RI

Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) has introduced legislation (2021-H 5329) that would prohibit captive hunting in Rhode Island. “Captive hunting” is defined as a hunt that occurs within a structure designed to restrict the free movement of animals and prevents the animal from escaping. The bill describes the structures used as fences, manmade structures, or natural barriers used to prevent animals from escaping or fleeing the confined area of the hunt.

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·         Rep. Alzate elected chairwoman of R.I. Legislative Black and Latino Caucus

Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) has been elected as the chairwoman of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus by her fellow caucus members.  The previous chairman was Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket).  The caucus represents and advocates for the interests of disadvantaged people throughout Rhode Island. It seeks to increase a diverse participation and representation in all levels of government. The goal is to close, and ultimately to eliminate, disparities that still exist between white and non-white Americans in every aspect of life.

Click here to see news release.

 

§  Rep. Place and Sen. Bell bill would limit corporate giveaways
Rep. David J. Place (R-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) have introduced legislation (2021-H 53162021-S 0046) that would limit corporate giveaways used to lure companies from neighboring states. They are seeking to enlist Rhode Island in an interstate compact that protects public investments now and in the future.
Click here to see news release.

 

 

An outside panel of experts is recommending Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine be approved by the FDA for emergency use. It is a traditional vaccine that only requires a single dose instead of two and does not need ultra-cold storage. It proved to be 85-percent effective in clinical trials at protecting people from severe sickness and is also cheaper and easier to manufacture.       President Biden and the First Lady are assessing the damage in Texas from last week's devastating cold snap. The Bidens visited a large food bank in Houston and stopped by an emergency operations center. Biden heard from local officials about massive power outages and serious problems with water supplies due to broken pipes.       Florida Senator Rick Scott is telling attendees at today's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida to stand up to Democrats. Scott said both impeachments of President Trump were nothing more than political vendettas and political theater. He gingerly acknowledged former President Trump isn't perfect and said he's not either.       A full classified briefing on the U.S. air strike in Syria will be given to lawmakers next week. President Biden ordered the attack on Iran-backed militia in the eastern part of the country following a series of rocket attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq. The airstrike targeted facilities in Syria that are used by at least two Iranian-backed groups.        Canada is authorizing AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine for use in adults. Health Canada approved two versions of the British-and-Swedish drugmaker's vaccine, one it worked on with Oxford University and the second made in India. It is the third vaccine approved for use in Canada, joining the ones made by Pfizer and Moderna.        Lady Gaga says her "heart is sick" after her dog walker was shot Wednesday night in Los Angeles and two of her dogs were stolen. The singer is opening up on social media and said she's praying her family will be whole again with an act of kindness. Gaga is offering up half-a-million-dollars for her dogs safe return, or if someone bought them unknowingly, the reward is the same.