An Update from the State House
Committees Pass Bills
For months legislative committees have been holding hearings on bills. While a few have passed already, a bulk of the legislation that passes does so at this time year, as proponents and opponents have had time to attempt to work out differences. The following piece of legislation saw activity last week:
H.5397, An Act Relating to Property – Mortgage Foreclosure and Sale, passed the House Judiciary Committee. The bill increases the penalty for failure to file a foreclosure deed, within 45 days of a foreclosure, from $40 a month to $300 a month with a maximum penalty of $2000. The penalty only applies to financial institutions.
Committees Schedule Bills for Consideration This Week
The following pieces of legislation are scheduled to be voted upon this week:
S.350 SUB A An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages. This bill has been amended to reflect concerns raised by the business community. If passed, employers could only withhold amounts from any employees wages that are specifically authorized under federal or state law (i.e. taxes) or are withheld based on a voluntary written agreement between the employer and the employee (i.e health insurance premium co-pays, health club membership dues, etc.). S.350 SUB A is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate Labor Committee May 31st.
Senate Resolution 774 is also scheduled for a vote in the Senate Labor Committee. The Resolution asks the Department of Labor and Training to create a “Return to Work” study group to look at the possibility of developing a hybrid TDI program similar to the RI Workers Compensation program to treat and rehabilitate workers experiencing medical conditions unrelated to work. The Chamber testified on the bill requesting inclusion on that working group. The Department said they would include the business community.
H.5646, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships – RI Business Corporation Act, is scheduled for a vote in the House Corporations Committee on Tuesday, May 30th. H.5646 would substitute a CPA certification that a corporation/limited partnership/limited liability company owes no taxes/fees to the state in place of a certificate of good standing from the tax division for conversions, dissolutions, withdrawals or cancellations.
Senate Labor To Hear Workplace Bullying Bill
S.189, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Healthy Workplace, will be heard in the Senate Labor Committee Wednesday May 31st. Under S.189, an employer would be held vicariously liable for the abusive actions of an employee unless the employer “exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any actionable behavior; and (2) The complainant employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of appropriate preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.” An employee that commits a bullying action could be held individually liable unless the person was acting at the direction of the employer “under actual or implied threat of an adverse employment action.”
Sugary Beverage Tax Hearing Scheduled
The House Finance Committee will take testimony on H.5787, An Act Relating to Taxation – Sugary Drinks, Wednesday, May 31st. H.5787 places a tax on bottled drinks based on the sugar content per ounce: Tier 1: Beverages with less than five grams (5g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces would not be taxed; Tier 2: Beverages with more than five grams (5g) but less than twenty grams (20g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) would be taxed at a rate of one cent ($0.01) per ounce. Tier 3: Beverages with twenty grams (20g) of sugar or more per twelve (12) fluid ounces would be taxed at a rate of two cents ($0.02) per ounce. Medical drinks, pure fruit juices and milks are exempt. The tax is to be paid by the distributor; but if the distributor fails to pay the tax, then the retailer is responsible for payment. Failure to pay the tax results in a misdemeanor charge, requirement to pay the tax and payment of a penalty equal to 50% of the tax owed. All distributors would be required to obtain a license to sell sugary drinks in Rhode Island.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6251, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- EXPIRATION DATES (Grants the administrator of the division of motor vehicles the power to extend the expiration dates up to ninety (90) days of permits, licenses, registrations, certificates, placards, and other privileges, under limited circumstances.)
House Bill No. 6255, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES -- RETAIL LICENSES (Amends the number of occasions upon which a Class A license holder under this chapter may dispense unlimited samples of wine products.)
House Resolution No. 6260, HOUSE RESOLUTION EXTENDING THE REPORTING AND EXPIRATION DATES OF THE SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION TO STUDY THE LOW AND MODERATE INCOME ACT
‘Paid sick leave’ bill not business friendly
Advocacy for the business community and focusing on improving the overall business climate are key components of what the Newport County Chamber of Commerce does for our members.
Representing all types of businesses, we are particularly concerned about major legislative initiatives that could change the landscape of business in our state. The “paid sick leave” bill, coupled with the continued pressure of minimum wage increases, predictive scheduling, TDI changes and additional mandates could make it difficult to conduct business in Rhode Island.
For example, on the surface, paid sick leave sounds like a reasonable benefit. The title of the bill, Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, while well intended, is equally problematic for employers as it is for employees. In fact, many mandated provisions run counter to best practices in human resource management and may actually detract from attracting the best talent.
Legislation would require every employer to provide employees with 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 56 hours a year. Unused sick/safe time must be carried over to the next year, unless the employer chooses to pay the employee for the unused time.
Additionally, if the employee is seasonal and comes back to the employer within a year, the unused sick time carries over as does the accrual of time.
New legislation would create a bureaucratic mess. There are complicated accrual formulas, postings and record keeping requirements, and the penalties for noncompliance are severe. The bill not only applies to full-time workers, but also to part-time workers, on-call workers, seasonal workers, temporary workers and student interns.
Rhode Island employers would have to incur the considerable expense to revamp and modify their payroll systems, making our state a national outlier. This is not the message we want to send after all of our efforts to improve our unemployment rate and attract national companies to our state.
The intervention of government into the normal and private working relationship between management and its employees is a massive overreach. Mandates do not promote productivity but reduce competition, stifling innovation.
Please join the Newport County Chamber of Commerce for a Rhode Island State Senate District 13 candidate debate on Thursday, June 29, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at Belle Mer in Newport. This is an opportunity for business leaders to pose questions to our elected leaders, so they can understand first-hand how their legislation could impact the local economy. To register, visit NewportChamber.com and sign up by Monday, June 19.
The Chamber of Commerce Politics and Pancakes Series tackles the challenging business issues that will affect many of us if our voices are not heard. We are dedicated to bringing government officials and leaders to Newport County for breakfast speaking programs to discuss issues of dire importance to the business community.
We welcomed Gov. Gina Raimondo to discuss her budget as proposed for the kick-off event of this series in March, and we look forward to this debate as well as many more engaging speakers and topics of importance throughout the year.
An Update from the State House
New Bill Filed to Address Woonsocket Tax Code
H.6226 (link below) was filed last week. Currently, the City of Woonsocket has three classes of property rates: 1) tangible personal property and motor vehicles; 2) residential real estate less than four units; and 3) commercial and industrial real estate as well as residential real estate with more than four units. The new proposed legislation appears to break the first class into two subgroups: 1)(i) tangible property and 1)(ii) motor vehicles. This language change was proposed to prepare for the potential motor vehicle tax phase out should the State’s budget include such phase out. The second change comes in the second tax classification. H.6226 clarifies the ability of the City to implement a homestead exemption for residential property. However, new language concerning residential property, grants the City authority “to divide this class into nonowner and owner-occupied and homestead properties and adopt separate tax rates.” If passed non owner occupied residential properties could be taxed at a different rate than owner occupied residential property. The bill has been sent to the House Municipal Government Committee for review.
Wage Lien Bill Passes Senate
S.192, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages passed the Senate 34-0 last Wednesday (3 not voting). This bill would allow employees to place a lien on an employer’s property if he/she believes wages have not been properly paid. The process is as follows:
House Committee to Reconsider Passage of Marijuana Study Legislative Commission Bill
H.5551 Sub A, A Joint Resolution Creating a Special Legislative Commission to Study the Effects of Legalizing Marijuana passed on May 16, 2017 is scheduled for reconsideration by the House Judiciary Committee on May 24, 2017. The Resolution calls for the creation of a 17 member commission to “conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and thereafter the potential impact on Rhode Island.” The commission is charged with reporting its findings to the legislature by March 1, 2018. The Senate version S.277, was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 18th and held for further study.
Minimum Wage Hearing Update
The Chamber, in a rare joint hearing of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Labor Committee, registered its opposition to increasing the minimum wage, during what was a lower key hearing than in the House Labor Committee. Jobs for Justice, the lead proponent, continued to state that were it not for employees, there would be no businesses in Rhode Island. They also emphasized the fact that Massachusetts and Connecticut have a higher minimum wage than Rhode Island. Opponents talked about the business community’s need for predictability and the multiple year increases that the state has experienced recently. The business industry advocates also mentioned was the difficulty that the effective date of July 1, 2017 brings with it.
House Finance Committee Endures Marathon Hearing
For five hours, the House Finance Committee listened to testimony concerning bills that are geared to stop the Burrillville Power Plant and H.5369, An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Energize RI: Clean Energy Investment and Carbon Pricing Act of 2017. While the Chamber took no position on the anti-Invenergy bills at this time, the Chamber did testify against H.5369. H.5369 imposes a $15 per ton carbon tax on all fossil fuels for the years 2018 and 2019, and escalates $5 per ton (plus an inflation rate) every year thereafter. The fee would result in a first-year tax of 13.1 cents per gallon on gasoline, 15.5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel, 9 cents per gallon on LPG and 14.5 cents per gallon on jet fuel. The tax would go up from that point starting in 2020. There is also a tax on natural gas, propane, coal and all other fossil fuels according to their carbon content. Forty percent of the taxes collected would be returned to individuals over the age of 18 with a bump for heads of households. Thirty percent would be returned to business based on the number of employees. Presumably taxes would be collected all year and returned after tax filing time when the Department of Revenue can determine how many Rhode Islanders are over 18 and how many have children, as well as how many employees each company might have had during the year. H.5369 was held for further study.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6224, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS' COMPENSATION--BENEFITS (Repeals a provision of the workers' compensation law that provides that for injuries on and after July 1, 2023, "material hindrance" includes only compensable injuries causing a greater than sixty-five percent (65%) degree of functional impairment.)
House Bill No. 6226, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- WOONSOCKET (Creates several new subsections in the Woonsocket property tax code.)
An Update from the State House
Revenue Estimating Conference Reveals Challenge for Legislature
A marathon meeting of the State’s Revenue Estimating Conference resulted in an agreement that the State of Rhode Island is facing a $60.1 million shortfall in the current year revenues and a $39.5 million revenue shortfall for FY2018. The Corporate tax collections are expected to bring in $125 million this year – last year the state collected $134.9 million; and the revenue associated with the collection of sales tax on internet sales was also less than expected. These are just two of the line items that came in low. In addition to the revenue challenge, expenses were up by about $15 million. What does that mean? Officials must find a way to close a $100-$115 million gap. House Finance Chairman Marvin Abney stated that previous legislatures have gone through this before and that they will find a way to do it again. “We have to,” he said. The Chairman, now overseeing the creation of his second budget, suggested that the committee needs to look at current programs to determine what is working positively for the state, and then look at options for cutting expenses.
State law requires a budget to be passed by June 30th. The legislature hopes to meet that deadline with time to spare.
Senate Labor Committee Passes Wage Lien Bill
S.192, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages passed the Senate Labor Committee with a few amendments, much to the surprise of members of the business community. It is scheduled to be voted on by the entire Senate Wednesday 17th. Unfortunately, the changes to the bill were minimal. This bill would allow employees to place a lien on an employer’s property if he/she believes wages have not been properly paid. The process is as follows:
S.192 provides little due process rights for employers and encourages employees to use the process because the employee has no costs associated with sending a letter, and very little cost for filing a lien. Additionally, even if the employer believes no wages are owed, it will be cheaper to pay the employee the amount demanded than to pay court fees and attorney fees to fight an unfounded or misunderstood claim. It is important to note that the Department of Labor and Training supported the concept of the bill.
The Chamber opposes the passage of S.192.
Treasurer Releases Local Pension Plan
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner is circulating a plan to address the problem of municipal underfunded pension programs – called the Healthy Local Pension (HELP) proposal. Most of the 34 locally administered pension plans are currently less than 60% funded, qualifying for critical status, and 12 plans finished FY2015 with a funding level below 40%. The escalating liabilities affect municipal investments in infrastructure and schools as well as the local tax structure.
The HELP legislation provides an optional pathway for these communities to join the state-run MERS system, which provides lower overhead costs, professional management and responsible governance. All 116 plans already in MERS have an average funding level of 83%. Under current law, however, a municipality must conform immediately to the MERS requirements such as retirement age, years of service and length of amortization schedules in order to join the program. The Treasurer’s proposal would allow municipalities to join MERS and phase in their plans to eventually match the MERS requirements. One option would allow municipalities to maintain their current benefit levels for existing employees, but require all new employees to confirm to MERS requirements. Municipalities could also choose to renegotiate benefits with existing employees in order to reduce their unfunded liability faster. The bill would also provide an option for municipalities with closed plans, in which no new participants will be added, to turn over management of the systems to Treasury without changes in benefits. These closed plans would not be considered part of the MERS system.
The Chamber supports the HELP proposal.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6203, AN ACT RELATING TO EDUCATION -- THE EDUCATION EQUITY AND PROPERTY TAX RELIEF ACT (Permits the Cumberland Town Council to establish limits on the number of students from the Cumberland school district who may enroll in any charter public school, Davies, and the Met Center.) This bill is scheduled to be head in the House Health, Education & Welfare Committee Wednesday, May 17th at approximately 4:30pm.
House Bill No. 6211, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- INDIVIDUALIZED WORKER SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROGRAM ACT (Abolishes the current temporary disability insurance program and replace it with a more flexible, expansive and mandatory new program that compensates all workers who become disabled due to non-work related injuries.)
Senate Resolution No. 882, SENATE RESOLUTION CREATING A SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION TO CONDUCT A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE CREATION OF A WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION SYSTEM IN RHODE ISLAND (Creates an 11 member commission to conduct a review and make recommendations on the creation of a world-class education system in Rhode Island, and who would report back to the Senate by March 1, 2018, and expire on July 1, 2018.)
Senate Bill No. 886, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS --DUTIES OF UTILITIES AND CARRIERS (Requires pub. utilities/electric distribution cos. to provide prompt/adequate service to ratepayers for new service/upgrades with penalty up to $10,000 with electric distribution cos. to provide written estimates/itemized bill for work in excess of $500.)
Senate Bill No. 888, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- ELECTRONIC WASTE PREVENTION, REUSE AND RECYCLING ACT (Amends the electronic waste preventions, reuse and recycling act.)
An Update from the State House
Call To Action!!!
The Chamber needs your help now! Please contact your State Representative and State Senator to tell them you OPPOSE the passage of H.5413 and S.290. These bills would mandate businesses to provide the most generous paid leave benefit in New England, (it is more generous than any other state law) to their employees.
H.5413 and S.290 require the following:
Time can also be taken for domestic violence issues, if a school is closed for a health emergency or if the employee or someone with affinity is being stalked.
Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and report any response back to the Chamber. Thank you!!!
Phase Three of Legislative Session Underway
As stated previously in UTD, the legislature has entered phase three of the legislative session. A majority of the hearings have taken place, and negotiations between the House, Senate and Governor’s office have begun over bills that may pass during session. This process requires both leadership teams to determine which bills have general support from the members of the legislature. The Revenue Estimating Conference ends this week, meaning all three branches will agree on a final revenue number for the 2018 fiscal year budget and negotiations on the budget will accelerate as well. All of this flurry of activity signals the legislature’s desire to adjourn sometime in mid to late June. Whether they achieve that goal is largely based on the ability to resolve differing budget priorities.
Senate Labor Committee Schedules Vote on Lien Bill - Wednesday
S.192, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages is scheduled to be voted on Wednesday, May 10th in the Senate Labor Committee. This bill would allow employees to place a lien on an employer’s property if he/she believes wages have not been properly paid. The process is as follows:
S.192 provides little due process rights for employers and encourages employees to use the process because the employee has no costs associated with sending a letter, and very little cost for filing a lien. Additionally, even if the employer believes no wages are owed, it will be cheaper to pay the employee the amount demanded than to pay court fees and attorney fees to fight and unfounded or misunderstood claim. It is important to note that the Department of Labor and Training supported the concept of the bill.
The Chamber opposes the passage of S.192. Please contact your Senator to express your opposition to this bill.
Senate Environment Amends Bill to Double Tax
S.442, An Act Relating to Waters and Navigation – Climate Change Coastal Adaptation Trust Fund, was amended last week and is headed for the Senate floor. In the original form, S.442 called for a doubling of the petroleum per barrel that was first adopted in 1989. The 5 cents per barrel fee was adopted to create a fund to allow DEM to quickly react to any petroleum spill in the coastal waters of RI. However the fund has been “raided” over the years for other projects. S.442 would have doubled the tax to 10 cents per barrel – raising an additional $1.8 million a year for projects made necessary due to rising tides and flooding. The Senate Committee passed S.442SubstituteA creating the Climate change coastal Adaptation Trust Fund, but eliminated the new 5 cent per barrel fee. The new version allows for money to be designated out of the general revenue fund at the legislature’s discretion, allows for the receipt of grant money and donations.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6184, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -- PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Precludes electric distribution companies from including their gas transmission contracts or cost of facilities in the rate base for electricity customers.)
House Bill No. 6192, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES (Exempts both the land and building of the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre in Woonsocket and as identified by street address and plat and lot number.)
House Bill No. 6193, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES (Prohibits individuals from completing alcohol-server training requirements from online or Internet sources.)
House Bill No. 6198, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE (Allows employees, of an employer that sponsors disability insurance programs, to elect to exempt them from temporary disability insurance coverage.)
We are excited to announce that our 2017 Board of Directors has officially been instated. To help members learn more about our Board, we have added a new component to our monthly e-newsletter. Our “5 Questions with the Board” feature will profile a different Board member each month!
For our first edition, we welcome and introduce our new Board Chair, Mr. Peter B. Wilbur! Peter is the Chief of Staff and Vice President for Community Relations at Roger Williams University.
1. What was your primary motivation for becoming a member of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce?
As we know, relationships are what it is all about and this is a large part of what I do for the University. I saw the Newport County Chamber of Commerce as a player in the relationship/connection business and a pathway for the University to engage its students with the business community for the joint effort of economic development in the State of RI. Connecting Higher Education with the business community is critical, especially when it comes to workforce and pipeline development in Rhode Island. Newport County represents a robust and differentiated economy that is entirely different from the rest of the State.
2. What do you find most interesting about your business or industry?
I love being involved in an activity that provides others with the tools they need to lead better lives. Education is certainly one of those areas. Times have changed for higher education and the marketplace for prospective students and their parents is focused on gainful employment and the launching of careers. Roger Williams University is acutely aware of this market demand and has taken the initiative to distinguish itself through project-based experiential education. The development of our Community Partnerships Center has become the clearinghouse for harnessing the resources of the university (faculty & students) to assist businesses, non-profits, municipalities and government agencies with important projects throughout the State.
3. How has your membership with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce helped to advance your business or industry?
Roger Williams University has deep Rhode Island roots and while the major portion of our student body is from out of state, membership in the Chamber has enabled us to renew and enhance our Rhode Island focus, especially with the engagement of the business community in a joint effort to create value and economic development in the State of RI. The Roger Williams University Community Partnerships Center is just one aspect of that accomplishment. The Chamber is a perfect venue and partner for engaging Roger Williams University with the business community and the State of Rhode Island.
4. What is your favorite Newport County Chamber of Commerce event or program?
Truthfully, the events and programs offered by the Chamber are like family…. I love them all! The networking and relationship building opportunities offered by these events and programs is invaluable, particularly the Economic Development series, the Annual Meeting and the Chamber Connections. I must say that I also enjoy the government relations activities as well. I guess I do love them all!
5. What do you hope to bring to the Newport County Chamber of Commerce as Board Chair in 2017?
The southern portion of our great State represents an entirely different and unique opportunity for economic development and the resulting positive impact on its communities. The role of Chambers of Commerce has changed as well. We must now focus on distinguishing ourselves as a Chamber such that the value proposition for becoming and remaining a member is strongly self-evident. My hope, as both a board member and board chair, is to provide the needed leadership, support and focus that will result in an even more robust and nimble Chamber that is both relevant and supportive to the ever-changing needs of our business community within the region.
We appreciate Mr. Wilbur’s dedication to the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and look forward to working with him this year!
An Update from the State House
Governor Raimondo Holds RI Promise Conference Call
Governor Raimondo held a RI business community conference call with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam participating as her guest. The state of Tennessee has a tuition program that is a little different than the RI proposal in that it only covers 2 years of free tuition at a community college. Governor Raimondo began by talking about the necessity for individuals to earn a college education in order to be competitive in the economy. Governor Haslam told those on the call that his state, in 2012, conducted a study which showed that by 2025, 55% of the jobs would need a college degree At that time only 32% of TN individuals had degrees. To address the problem, they needed to “shock the system” and “giving something for nothing” - 2 years free tuition and fees – would deliver a shock. The program only requires a person to graduate from high school and maintain the academic standard for enrollment in the community college. TN did not include 4-year college tuition because it was more expensive, but it was discussed during the legislative debate. TN, being a bigger state, has a number of community colleges to choose from, whereas RI is limited. Early data from TN showed a 30% first-year increase in student enrollment in community colleges and technical schools meaning 33,000 students enrolled. In the second year, TN experienced a 63% re-enrollment rate; and 70% of high school seniors filled out FASA forms in the last two years. Student loan requests by TN students decreased by 17%. Additionally, TN 4-year colleges did see a minimal downturn in “less selective” four year schools when the TN program went into effect.
Responding to a question, Governor Haslam acknowledged that the TN program was probably going to pay for the education of kids that will not stay in the state, but he said he was not concerned about it. When asked about the cost of the program, the Governor stated that the costs were on target despite having more students than originally anticipated. He said the difficult part was projecting what the needs of the new students might be and matching those needs with the teaching program required. Governor Haslam wants to expand the TN program to all adults in the future, regardless of age.
Governor Raimondo said, “…the RI Promise Program is my number one priority.” The issue will continue to be debated as the budget process moves forward.
Bill Requires Language Translation of Contracts
H.6139, An Act Relating to Businesses and Professions – Translation of Legal and Financing Documents, was filed on April 26th and has been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday May 2nd. The bill requires the translation of contracts into Spanish or Japanese if the client speaks that language as their primary language, and if the contracts are related to the following business transactions: (1) automobile purchases and leases; (2) loans or other extensions of credit for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes, (except loans secured by real property); (3) consumer loans secured by real property, if arranged by a real estate loan broker, or made by a personal finance company; (4) contracts for the rental, lease or sublease of apartment, dwellings, motor vehicles and mobile homes for a period longer than one month; (5) reverse mortgages; and (6) mortgage foreclosure consulting contracts. The translation requirement does not apply if the customer negotiated the contract with the assistance of his/her own interpreter. To view further details of the bill go to http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/HouseText17/H6139.pdf
Senate Committee Passes Carbon Study
Last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture passed S.108 which calls upon the Climate Change Coordinating Council to study the “effectiveness of the state and/or multi-state carbon pricing program to incentivize institutions and industry to reduce carbon emissions. The study must include the effectiveness of allocating revenues generated from such carbon pricing program to fund enhanced incentives to institutions and industry for targeted efficiency measures; projected emissions reductions; economic impact to businesses; any economic benefits to Rhode Island and impacts to the state's economic competitiveness if the program were implemented.”
Senate Labor Hears Testimony on Employee Liability Bill
H.773, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Unfair Employment Practices, would make employees of a defendant employer individually liable for unfair employment practices. The bill seeks to respond to a RI Supreme Court decision that denied the ability to sue an employee who sexually harassed another employee on the job. Unfortunately, the way the bill is written, it could allow an employee to sue another employee who is acting in the employer’s normal course of business, thus increasing litigation and giving plaintiffs more pockets to choose from for claims. The Chamber offered to work with the sponsor to amend the bill. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/SenateText17/S0773.pdf
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6139, AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS -- TRANSLATION OF LEGAL AND FINANCING DOCUMENTS (Requires many consumer contracts to be translated from English to Spanish or Japanese under some circumstances.)
House Bill No. 6141, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYMENT APPLICATIONS (Gives the department of labor and training the jurisdiction to review claims alleging that employers had improperly inquired about an applicant’s criminal history on an employment application.)
House Bill No. 6143, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PARENTAL AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE (Grants unpaid pregnancy leave to part-time workers, clarifies their access to unpaid sick leave during their pregnancy, and provides additional protections for pregnant workers who work in the medical field.)
Senate Bill No. 815, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES - RETAIL LICENSES (Creates additional restrictions on the times for which caterers with a Class P license may serve alcohol and provides for the additional penalty of possible suspension or revocation of license for violations of this section.)