House OKs Rep. Spears bill to study creation of state Geographic Information System


Bill is part of Speaker Shekarchi’s 2024 legislative package addressing the housing crisis in Rhode Island


STATE HOUSE — The House today approved legislation from Rep. Tina Spears to commission a report from the Department of Administration to study the creation of a statewide Geographic Information System.

The bill is part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s 15-bill package of legislation to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

“More complete information about the geography of Rhode Island means more informed and better decisions, whether for conservation or development,” said Representative Spears (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly). “This report will be the first step toward a uniform and detailed statewide GIS that will give us all a much better understanding of Rhode Island’s natural resources, open spaces and buildable land. This will help municipalities, developers, conservation groups, policy-makers and the public to make more informed decisions about their communities and the state as a whole.”

This legislation (2024-H 7985A) would instruct the Department of Administration to develop, with input from the League of Cities and Towns, a report on the creation of a comprehensive and integrated statewide GIS. This report would evaluate the cost, staff, organizational changes and data security requirements needed to establish and maintain the platform, in addition to the types of data that would be needed from agencies and local governments to maintain the system.

The report would be delivered to General Assembly Leadership and the secretary of housing by Jan. 31, 2025.

The department would also request surveys and reports from state agencies, cities and towns about whether they maintain their own GIS, what platform they use, the annual cost to maintain the system and what data is included in the system.

The bill aims to eventually help standardize GIS between municipalities and provide publicly available GIS in municipalities that do not have it due to lack of staff and resources.

“Many state agencies and towns already have GIS in place,” said Representative Spears. “This bill highlights the need for cooperation to ensure that this work is shared and that all the relevant information is displayed in a transparent, public resource.”