Legislature on Break
House and Senate members as well as lobbyists could be seen scrambling with stacks of paper to meet the bill filing deadlines last week. This is the end of phase one of the legislative session – bill preparation. Phase two will begin when the legislature comes back from Winter break on February 26th . Phase two is marked by heavy hearing schedules with committees taking testimony on the hundreds of bills over the following seven weeks. The Spring legislative break is scheduled for April 16th – 20th; and then we enter the final push to finish the legislative year.
What’s in the Governor’s FY2019 Budget
Article 12 – Relating to Economic Development
Article 12 amends various economic development programs and adds a new one as well. The first sections eliminate the sunset provisions of December 31, 2018 for the following programs: Rebuild RI Tax Credit; RI Tax Increment Financing; Tax Stabilization Incentive; First Wave Closing Fund; I-195 Redevelopment Project Fund; Small Business Assistance Program; Stay Invested in RI Wavemaker Fellowship; Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement Fund; Innovation Initiative; Industry Cluster Grants; High School, College, and Employer Partnerships; and RI New Qualified Jobs Incentive Act of 2015. The section also establishes an annual reporting process on the performance of these programs.
The next portion of the Article expands access to the Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit program to include manufacturers and “qualified small business projects.” Both of these groups would be eligible for the tax credit and would be exempt from the maximum credit provision ($15 million). It appears that the Article’s intent may include an exemption from the minimum project size requirement, although a technical drafting error exists. A “qualified small business project” is a commercial program located within one block of a project that receives funding under the Main Street RI Streetscape Improvement program or is at least within a business district that is created under the Main Street program.
Article 12 increases the microloan program funding. The program currently allows 10% of the Small Business Assistance Program to be utilized for micro loans (loans of $2000 - $25,000). The Article raises that limit to 25% of the Program funds.
The Article creates another new program called the “Refundable Investment Tax Credit Act” to “advance the competitiveness of Rhode Island and its companies in the national and global economies.” The Commerce Corporation could award a manufacturer up to $100,000 in a refundable tax credit per year. Applications for the credit must be submitted prior to the investment for which the tax credit is desired. The Commerce Corporation would then consider, in making its decision on eligibility, the amount of the investment, the necessity of the investment, whether the business is in a targeted industry by the state, the number of jobs created, and if the company is located in a Hope community. A Hope community is a municipality where the 5 year average percentage of families with income below the federal poverty level is greater than the State’s 5 year average percentage. Companies that choose to participate in this program would be listed (name and address) on the Commerce Corporation’s website.
A new Manufacturing Site Readiness program is established in this Article. Monies would be used to develop an inventory of pad-ready sites in the state, capable of supporting manufacturing activities. Money would also be available for due diligence efforts such as surveys, environmental evaluations, etc.
Lastly, Article 12 establishes a Technical Assistance program available to municipalities who wish to evaluate and streamline their zoning, planning and permitting processes. The assistance can be in the form of loans, grants or just technical assistance.
Article 13 – Relating to Medical Assistance
Article 13 makes changes to the Medicaid program. Co-payments would be mandated for adults (considered to be over 19 years of age and without a disability): inpatient hospital visits ($3), non-emergency ER visits ($8), non-preventative physical health related office visits ($3), and prescription drug coverages ($2 for generics, $4 brand name). Co-payments could not exceed 5% of the individual’s “countable income” in any plan year. Nursing home rates would increase by a maximum of 1%.
The Article expands Rite Share eligibility and allows adult children with disabilities to remain on their parents’ commercial health insurance coverage beyond age 26. And it allows for the automation of asset verification in order to more effectively seek reimbursement from estates of Medicaid beneficiaries.
Article 14 – Relating to Children and Families
This area if not the forte of UTD’s author, so I rely on information provided at a public hearing. According to a “first look” report by the finance committee staff, Article 14 establishes the legal authority of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to implement changes to the Medicaid program. It adjusts the provider rates to maintain inpatient and outpatient hospital payments, increases nursing homes rates by up to 1%, and reduces rates for Medicaid managed care plan administration.
The Article eliminates retroactive coverage for certain Medicaid beneficiary categories, expands long-term services and supports (LTSS) eligibility for applicants transitioning from a health facility into a community setting, and institutes multi-tiered needs-based criteria for determining care levels for applicants with developmental disabilities seeking Medicaid home and community-based services in lieu of institutional care. The language expand LTSS health care services eligible for federal financing participation.
Article 14 restructures the delivery system for individuals with both Medicare and Medicaid eligibility (dual eligible) who have chronic or disabling conditions, and expands the Rite Share premium assistance program. It also promotes the transition to community-based services, wherever appropriate, by seeking waiver authority to promote the Community First Choice (CFC) option for seniors and people with physical disabilities and for intellectually or developmentally disabled people living with families or independently. Lastly, the Article proposes to develop a health home for conflict-free and person-centered planning; as well as a community-based alternative to emergency department visits for addiction and mental health emergencies.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 7548
BY Marshall, Edwards, O'Brien, Johnston, Morin
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Reassesses any utility rate increase after January 1, 2017, and evaluate whether the increase in rate results in excessive profits to the utility company.)
House Bill No. 7553
BY Phillips, Serpa, Morin, Solomon, Casey
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- MICRO ZONE ECONOMIC REVITALIZATION ACT (Creates micro zones in distressed areas to stimulate economic revitalization/employment opportunities/business development through redevelopment of abandoned industrial/commercial structures.)
House Bill No. 7625
BY Kazarian, Tanzi, Fogarty, Hearn, Ajello
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Requires individual/group health ins. Contracts eff. 1/1/19 to provide insured/spouse/dependents 12 month contraceptive coverage/voluntary sterilization/patient education/counseling/follow-up services and Medicaid recipient coverage for a 12 month supply.)
ouse Bill No. 7635
BY Hearn, Canario, Lombardi
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - SEASONAL EMPLOYMENT (Creates a seasonal employment designation for purposes of unemployment insurance which would allow employers hiring employees 20 weeks training/prevent seasonal employers from collecting unemployment benefits during the term of their seasonal employment.)
House Bill No. 7636
BY Ranglin-Vassell, Regunberg, Ajello, Hull, Bennett
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WAGES (Gradually increases the hourly minimum wage from $9.60 to $15.00 on January 1, 2022, as well as gradually increasing the hourly minimum wage for employees receiving gratuities from $3.89 an hour to $15.00 an hour on January 1, 2026.)
House Bill No. 7674
BY Regunberg, Handy, Keable, McLaughlin, Ranglin-Vassell
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- THE RHODE ISLAND PUBLIC POWER UTILITY COUNCIL ACT (Establishes the Rhode Island public power utility council.)
House Bill No. 7679
BY Williams, Vella-Wilkinson, Walsh, Perez, Diaz
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- HEALTHY WORKPLACE (Establishes a cause of action against employers/employees for workplace bullying, harassment and other abusive conduct that is tolerated by employers, and not fall into other categories already protected such as race, color and sex or sexual orientation.)
House Bill No. 7680
BY Shanley, Nardolillo, Blazejewski, Barros, Kazarian
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Gradually increases the minimum hourly wage for employees of employers who provide services to five (5) or more persons with developmental disabilities.)