Our community thrives when business succeeds
Over the years, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with many, successful local businesses right here in our community. By listening to the needs of our members, and responding with top notch, quality programming, we aim to support and enhance the economic climate throughout Newport County and statewide to help businesses succeed.
At our Annual Meeting on April 26th, we were able to announce some of last year’s accomplishments and some goals for 2017. Chamber leaders have worked diligently to establish the Chamber’s 2017 Strategic Plan, complete with smart goals and measurable outcomes. This has been a tremendous asset to the Chamber to ensure we keep to our mission of serving members by focusing on four key areas:
In an effort to gain a concise perspective on the needs of members, we implemented an annual member satisfaction survey. It has proved beneficial to gauge how we are serving our members and we will continue to engage membership throughout the year. Going forward, you will see an increased effort in outreach to our members and the establishment of a Business Retention and Expansion program, which will be tracked for measurable results.
We are also pleased to announce that in 2016, the Chamber hosted 74 educational seminars, economic updates, annual events and networking opportunities with over 3000 members and community leaders participating. Our Annual Expos in 2016 and 2017 attracted over a thousand attendees, featuring 130 businesses. Additionally, we also hosted our Job Fair as a component of the event, with nearly 30 participating businesses who were actively seeking employees.
In order for businesses to flourish, they must be aware of important issues affecting the business community and overall economy. Our Quarterly Economic Update forums covered many critical issues facing small business – last year’s topics included Trends of an Aging Workforce; Regional Economic Development Initiatives and Trends; the Impact of the Higher Education Bonds; and The Economic Impact of the Arts. This year, we’ve already begun the first quarter with an event on the Impact of our Changing Coastline on Business, hosted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
Our Women in Business program which celebrates the important contributions of women in the workplace, continues to grow in popularity, with a record number in attendance at both our annual luncheon and After Hours events.
Our Emerging Leaders group hosted two Business After Hours events in 2016 and we had a tremendous kick-off event in January. This group continues to be increasingly active and innovative in developing participation and a variety of events that will help to engage the future leaders of the local workforce and of the Chamber.
Our Chamber Connections program continues to be one of our most successful programs, resulting in over $8 million in business in the last two years.
The Chamber participated in the Rhode Island Business Coalition, the RI Chamber of Commerce Coalition and worked with our Government Affairs Committee to monitor and share information about legislation at the state and local level. We’ve also begun implementing our policy platform for 2017.
This is just a sampling of the tremendous accomplishments we have made to impact the business climate in our community. We look forward to continuing to provide quality and impactful events and programs for our members, while also growing participation.
Let’s all continue to work together to make our region a great place to live, work and play.
May 1st AICURI, RISLA and other great partners will organize the FREE bi-annual Internship Summit in the State House where they will honor RI employers for their great internship programs.
Many employers use intern programs as an effective talent pool for new hires!
There are still some seats left for yourself or interested members to attend.
Learn more by clicking this link: https://info.risla.com/internship-summit-2017
There also be a mini-fair and break-out sessions for students and employers to learn more about internships!
An Update from the State House
Last week ended “phase two” of the legislative session. Most bills are filed, a majority of the legislation has received a first hearing, and the General Assembly is now out for the week on April vacation break. Session will resume April 25th; and “phase three” will begin. The May Revenue Estimating Conference is usually held the first week of May. This is when all three branches of government will meet, debate and reach a conclusion as to how much money the state has in revenue, as well as how much the program caseloads are costing the state. Once those numbers are determined, the budget negotiations begin and the fight for passage of individual bills heightens. Because the legislature is on legislative break this week, “Under the Dome” will not be published next week.
Paid Sick Leave Bill Gets Senate Hearing – Your Action Needed
Last Wednesday, the Senate Labor Committee heard testimony from proponents and opponents of the paid sick leave bill - S.290 which requires every employer to provide paid sick and family leave to employees. While members of the business community, including the Chamber, pointed out the broad-reaching aspects of the bill’s language, there were only a couple senators that expressed concerns over potential harm to the business community. Please contact your state senator to let them know you oppose the passage of S.290. The leave accrues at 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to a yearly maximum of 56 hours. The leave can be taken after the employee completes 90 days on the job. The leave can be used for the employee’s illness, illness of a parent, child, sibling, or anyone the employee has “an affinity” to which could mean friend. Leave can also be used for preventative care or domestic abuse issues – including stalking. An employee should notify the employer if it is reasonably possible, but employers cannot ask for proof of illness or domestic violence issues until the employee has been absent for 72 consecutive hours. The employer must hold the employee’s job for those three days. This is sometimes referred to as “No call, no show, no problem.”
Marijuana Discussion Continues
The House Judiciary Committee endured another very long night listening to advocates and opponents of the legalization of marijuana. H.5555 legalizes recreational marijuana and establishes a system of marijuana growing, processing, and distribution. H.5551 creates a 15 member commission to review and make recommendations on the effects of legalizing marijuana to the General Assembly by March 1, 2018. Both bills were held for further study which keeps them alive through the remainder of the session. According to testimony, about 17,000 Rhode Islanders already have medical marijuana cards. The police chiefs association submitted a document over 30 pages long that detailed specific cases where marijuana use has resulted in direct harm, sometimes death. Advocates pointed to medical benefits from the use of the drug, the higher arrest rate of minorities for marijuana use and the similarities between marijuana and alcohol. The Chamber testified against H.5555 citing a lack of protections for employers concerning workers’ compensation protection, lack of language ensuring employees cannot collect unemployment if terminated for use of the drug, dram shop issues, and liability for employees driving while high.
New Bill Takes on Temp Agency/Customer Relationship…And Others
Senator Calkin (D-Warwick) filed a new bill – S.771, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Wages (see link below). This bill appears to pierce the relationship between temporary employment agencies and their customers, but also affects subcontractors and general contractors. S.771 creates a definition for “Labor contractor” to include any person or entity that provides another company with “employees, independent contractors, subcontractors or workers of any kind to perform labor or services.” No written contract is required to establish this relationship to the Labor contractor. S.771 then defines “Lead entity” as a person or entity that accepts labor or services from someone through a “Lead contractor.” The real crux of the bill is the following: “A lead entity shall share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor for any violation of title 28.” Title 28 covers most RI labor laws i.e. wages, hours, holidays, etc. In addition “the president and treasurer of a corporation and any officers or agents having the management of such corporation shall also be deemed civilly liable for a violation of title 28.”
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6106, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS - FROZEN DESSERTS (Eliminates multiple fees for frozen dessert processors licensed as food service establishments.)
House Bill No. 6111, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer from inquiring about a prospective employee wage and salary history before an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated.)
House Bill No. 6125, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RHODE ISLAND RETIREMENT SECURITY PROGRAM (Establishes a private employer IRA program allowing employees to contribute at least five percent (5%) of their payroll period wages into the IRA program, with oversight by the Rhode Island retirement security board.)
House Bill No. 6128, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - COMMERCE CORPORATION (Prohibits the commerce corporation, without general assembly approval or resolution, from providing leases, loan guarantees, grants or any other financial assistance, for any baseball park, recreational facility or any ancillary facility development.)
House Bill No. 6129, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES (Amends provisions of the tax increment financing act in order to encourage municipalities to use tax increment financing to facilitate economic development.)
Senate Bill No. 746, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS - LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED RAW AND PACKAGED FOOD PRODUCTS (Requires that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in this state have a label disclosing that the food is genetically engineered food upon the occurrence of 4 other states adopting similar labeling laws as specified in this act.)
Senate Bill No. 747, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS - LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED RAW AND PACKAGED FOOD PRODUCTS (Requires that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in this state contain a label with the disclosure that the food is genetically engineered food.)
Senate Bill No. 756, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - ENERGY FACILITY SITING ACT (Prevents the energy facility siting board from proceeding to final hearing or issuing a final decision if one or more of the designated agencies inform the siting board that they are unable to form an advisory opinion due the conduct of the applicant.)
Senate Bill No. 758, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS -- LABOR AND PAYMENT OF DEBTS BY CONTRACTORS (Adds to the protection afforded to subcontractors on public work contracts, and provides for the award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.)
Senate Bill No. 771, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - WAGES (Defines and recognizes the existence and potential liability of lead entities concerning the payment of wages.)
Senate Bill No. 773, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Amends the fair employment practices act by clearly establishing that employees of a defendant employer may be individually liable for unfair employment practices.)
Senate Resolution No. 774, SENATE RESOLUTION RESPECTFULLY REQUESTING THAT THE RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND TRAINING CREATES A “RETURN TO WORK” PLANNING GROUP TO STUDY THE POSSIBILITY OF DEVELOPING A HYBRID TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE PROGRAM SIMILAR TO THE STATE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROGRAM THAT FACILITATES TREATING AND REHABILITATING WORKERS WITH MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT WERE NOT CAUSED BY WORK
The Wavemaker Fellowship program provides up to 4 years of student debt relief to professionals who work in RI in a STEM or commercial design field. Click here to learn more & apply today!
The State of Rhode Island announces its first “Diversity Business Enterprise Forum” to connect diverse business owners with resources and opportunities to grow their business through Government Procurement. The event is being held on Thursday, April 27, from 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at The Vets, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence, RI, with registration from noon – 12:30 p.m.
The forum is hosted by the ODEO’s Minority Business Enterprise Compliance Office (MBECO) and Supplier Diversity Office (SDO), in partnership with Oasis International, Progreso Latino, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, Center for Southeast Asians, Center for Women & Enterprise, African Alliance of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Black Contractors Associations, Urban Ventures, Rhode Island Black Business Association, Rhode Island Indian Council, RI Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and NAACP/Providence Branch.
The event will feature a business networking opportunity, entitled: “The Procurement Exchange” from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., where vendors will be able to have a face-to-face conversation with several State agencies, quasi-state agencies, and prime vendor project managers and procurement officials about current and future projects, and opportunities to contract with these entities. The event will also feature three workshops:
“How To Do Business with the State of Rhode Island” 1:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
“How to Apply for MBE, WBE, DBE, ACDBE, 8(A),
VOSB, and SDVOSB Designation” 2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
“Financing Your Business” 3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
To register, go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/state-of-rhode-island-diversity-business-enterprise-forum-tickets-33583161139
REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED
An Update from the State House
Employer Property Liens, Employment at Will , Chickens and Veal
Last week was a busy week as a packed room discussed the ability of an employee to place a lien on an employer’s property if the proper wages are not paid. The Chamber testified against the bill pointing out that the burden of proof would shift heavily to the employer. An employee could send a letter stating the amount owed to the employee and the address of the property to be attached. If the employer fails to file a complaint in Superior court within 30 of the date of the letter, the lien is perfected. This system would encourage employers to pay even if they feel the wages are not owed – it would be cheaper to pay the employee than to pay an attorney to fight the dispute. The committee members asked great questions of the witnesses and seemed to understand the legal challenge of the lien proposal. The proponents are preparing substitute language in the hopes of passing some form of the bill.
The proposal to eliminate of the employment at will doctrine, gave the Chamber an opportunity to point out that only Montana has altered the doctrine, meaning Rhode Island would be the second state in the country to change employment at will. Again, the committee member asked probing questions to better understand the potential hazards of adopting a change.
An overflowing room of animal advocates and farmers led to a long debate on the treatment of chickens, pigs, calves and cows. The bill to eliminate the ability to restrict movement of these farm animals also includes language that disallows companies from purchasing animals raised in this manner. This issue is expected to be alive and debated throughout the remainder of the legislative session. If passed, as is, restaurants and other food companies would be responsible for ensuring the meat/eggs purchased comply with the law. Additionally, veal, as the public knows it, could no longer be served in Rhode Island.
Paid Sick Leave Bill To Be Heard Wednesday
On Wednesday at approximately 4:30 p.m. the Senate Labor Committee will meet in the Senate Lounge to hear testimony on paid sick leave. S.290, like the House bill, requires every employer to provide paid sick and family leave to employees. The leave accrues at 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to a yearly maximum of 56 hours. The leave can be taken after the employee completes 90 days on the job. The leave can be used for the employee’s illness, illness of a parent, child, sibling, or anyone the employee has “an affinity” to which could mean friend. Leave can also be used for preventative care or domestic abuse issues – including stalking. An employee should notify the employer if it is reasonably possible, but employers cannot ask for proof of illness or domestic violence issues until the employee has been absent for 72 consecutive hours. The employer must hold the employee’s job for those three days. This is sometimes referred to as “No call, no show, no problem.” Please contact your state senator to let them know you oppose the passage of S.290.
TDI/TCI Expansion Bill Hearing Wednesday
The Senate Labor Committee will also debate the expansion of the State’s Temporary Disability Program and the Temporary Caregiver Insurance. S.678 would allow state and municipal employees to participate in the TDI program – they are currently exempt from the program. The bill increases the benefit rate from 4.62% of wages paid to the individual in a calendar year to 7.69%; and expands the TCI program to allow an employee to take time off to care for siblings and grandchildren.
Marijuana Hearing Tuesday
Marijuana will be the topic of discussion Tuesday at approximately 4:30 p.m. in the House Judiciary Committee – in the House Lounge. H.5555 legalizes recreational marijuana and establishes a system of marijuana growing, processing, and distribution. H.5551 will also be discussed at this hearing. H.5551 creates a 15 member commission to review and make recommendations on the effects of legalizing marijuana to the General Assembly by March 1, 2018.
MERS System Under Attack – Again
For those in the mortgage lending system or in the real estate market, S.659, An Act Relating to Property – Forms and Effect of Conveyances will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday at approximately 4:30 p.m. in room 313 at the State House. This bill would require every transfer or assignment of a mortgage to be filed in the municipality wherein the property lies. Failure to record the transfer would make the transfer essentially void. The bill seeks to eliminate the ability to use the MERS system for tracking mortgage assignments. Rhode Island would be the only state in the country to eliminate MERS, thus making the sale of mortgages on the secondary market nearly impossible.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6077, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS-THE ENERGY AND CONSUMER SAVINGS ACT OF 2005 (Establishes minimum energy efficiency standards for certain products sold or installed in the state.)
House Bill No. 6082, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RHODE ISLAND HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE (Authorizes the RI health benefit exchange to seek a waiver under the Affordable Care Act, allow qualified small business owners/sole proprietors to purchase qualified health benefit plans offered by the exchange & not be forced into the individual market.)
Senate Bill No. 716, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYMENT SECURITY - BENEFITS (Increases the maximum weekly unemployment benefit rate to the higher of fifty-seven and one-half percent (57.5%) of the average weekly wages paid to workers in the prior calendar year or six hundred sixteen dollars ($616) per week.)
Draft Recommendations Published; Now Collecting Feedback Based on input from stakeholders and the Committee of Practitioners, RIDE has published the first drafts of recommendations for components of Rhode Island's ESSA State Plan.
Click here to view the ESSA State Plan Draft Recommendations Guide.
RIDE is now collecting your feedback on these recommendations so that your perspective can continue to inform our decision-making and our state plan can be responsive to your experience.
The following surveys will be open from March 31 – May 15, 2017. We thank you in advance for sharing!
1. Accountability Feedback Survey – English / Español
2. Supporting Educators & Leaders Feedback Survey – English / Español
3. Supporting All Students Feedback Survey – English / Español
4. School Improvement Feedback Survey – English / Español
Community Feedback Forums
Our community outreach continues in late April and early May. RIDE will host six regional community forums to share updates and gather feedback on the draft recommendations for the state's ESSA plan.
We will hold six forums at locations across Rhode Island:
· Greater Providence Area: Monday, April 24, at Cranston High School East, 899 Park Avenue, Cranston (Spanish language interpretation services are available)
· Southern Rhode Island: Wednesday, April 26, at Narragansett High School, 245 S Pier Road, Narragansett
· East Bay: Thursday, April 27, at Pell Elementary School, 35 Dexter Street, Newport
· Northern RI: Monday, May 1, at Cumberland High School, 2600 Mendon Road, Cumberland
· West Bay: Wednesday, May 3 at West Warwick High School, 1 Webster Knight Drive, West Warwick
· Providence: DATE TBA, at Providence Career and Technical Academy, 41 Fricker Street, Providence (Spanish language interpretation services are available)
All forums will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. These forums are open to everyone, but to reserve a spot at any of the forums, click here: http://www.ride.ri.gov/essa-forums