An Update from the State House
Unless you were on vacation last week, you probably have heard that the legislature ended on an abrupt note Friday. The Senate amended Article 11 of the budget (Car Tax Phase Out) to require a freeze of the phase out of the tax if at any time the reduction in tax caused the State to dip into the rainy day fund. When the House discovered the amendment was going to be offered, the Speaker closed the House desk, meaning no new business could be transmitted to the House from the Senate or from any House Committee as well. The budget remains in the Senate awaiting transmission to the House. Because it technically remains in the Senate, the Senate could reconsider the vote on the budget, amend it back to reflect the way it was drafted prior to the amendment and then wait for the House to open the desk to receive it. Alternatively, the House could decide to open the desk, accept the amended budget and vote on it.
If no budget is passed, the state will continue to operate. Under law, in the event no budget is passed, spending will continue at a level equal to the last fiscal year budget. Rhode Island is not alone. 9 states have failed to pass a budget as of July 1, 2017 (Illinois has been without a budget for two years). Two more states passed a budget and are awaiting signatures from their Governors.
Until the impasse is bridged, bills will remain in limbo – creating a positive and a negative outcome depending upon your position on the many bills that began moving the last couple days of session. Bills are not dead, because the legislature could decide to come back into session at which point all bills would be alive. Should the legislature choose not to return, then all bills would die on December 31st.
Future issues of Under the Dome will only be written when there is news to report. Until then, please have a safe and enjoyable summer!
Two of the major bills in play were the paid leave bills – S.290 and H.5413. On June 29th, the House passed its version of paid leave (H.5413 SubA). For the business community, this bill was more palatable, although still not without its challenges. The House bill contained a state preemption of municipal ordinances so that the State of Rhode Island would have one set of paid leave rules for all businesses. The Senate version specifically stated that each city or town could adopt ordinances calling for more generous paid leave benefits for employees of companies located within their borders. The House version more clearly stated that employees must provide notice to employers when they wish to take paid leave, provided the employer has a written policy concerning how such notice must be given. Both versions still contained language addressing paid leave for seasonal employees that utilized a municipal statute in state law. The use of that statute appeared to bring seasonal municipal employees under the requirements of paid leave while other municipal employees were exempt. Lastly, the House version exempted union construction companies from the paid leave act.
On June 30th, the House Labor Committee amended the senate version to mirror its House version, thus creating S.290 SubB. The Senate amended H.5413 SubA later that evening on the Senate floor by reinstating most of the language from S.290 SubA. So where are the bills now? S.290 SubB is in the House Labor Committee waiting for the House desk to be opened for transmittal. H.5413 is in the Senate awaiting the opening of the House desk for transmittal. The bills are very different.
Bills Transmitted to the Governor
A couple bills of interest were transmitted to the Governor prior to the suspension of legislative activities.
S.350 SubB, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages, bars employers from deducting from any employee’s wages, amounts for “spoilage or breakage, shortages or losses, and fines or penalties for tardiness, misconduct or quitting.” Federal law already prohibits deducting from wages for these items from many employees. The original version of S.350 would have barred the deduction of any amount of wages unless specifically allowed under federal or state law. The original language would have barred the deduction for health insurance premiums, gym memberships, charitable deductions, etc.
H.5397 SubA and S.388 SubA, Acts Relating to Property – Mortgage Foreclosure, increase the penalty on financial institutions for failure to file a foreclosure deed within the required 45 days of the purchase of the property at foreclosure sale. The penalty increases from $40 per month to $300 per month up to an aggregate of $2000.00. This is meant to provide municipalities with the ability to determine who owns properties for tax purposes and upkeep.
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!
This month, we welcome and introduce our new Board Secretary, Mr. John Edick! John is the Owner and CEO of Blackstone Caterers.
1. What was your primary motivation for becoming a member of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce?
Blackstone Caterers was a member of the Chamber of Commerce when I started working for Newport Harbor Corporation. When we purchased the company in 2010 it was part of our annual marketing budget. The Chamber was a great way to meet the business people of our communities as well as many of the board members. Not long after that I was asked to become a board member myself. It seemed a great way to participate and give back to the organization and the community.
2. What do you find most interesting about your business or industry?
I have been in the food industry my whole life, starting out at a dairy bar in upstate New York while in high school. I later went to college and studied Hotel & Restaurant Management. I loved the hospitality business because it was fun. I know it seems like working night and day and very long hours may be hard, but it has always been very rewarding as well. Now with Blackstone Caterers, the idea of executing events and making people happy is just what I have always wanted to do. It is still extremely rewarding.
3. How has your membership with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce helped to advance your business or industry?
I am often asked how has the Chamber helped me, but I joined to help them and my fellow industry partners in Newport and Rhode Island! I feel as though I am an ambassador for our city. I was not born here, but moved here in 1980. It wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to really live in Newport and work here. Joining the Chamber strengthened my relationship with the entire business community as well. Promoting Newport, promoting our industry and the wonderful gifts we have to offer is a pleasure. The relationships have truly helped the Blackstone Caterers brand.
4. What is your favorite Newport County Chamber of Commerce event or program?
The Chamber does so much, for so many different businesses and people it is difficult to single out one event. Having said that, Blackstone Caterers is proud to be a sponsor for “Women in Business”. We have the pleasure of employing some amazing women at Blackstone and they do lead our company. Personally, strong women leaders have been important in my life as well. I always like to remember some that helped me grow. My grandmother taught me to cook, my mother taught me to dance and my wife taught me everything else!
5. What do you hope to bring to the Newport County Chamber of Commerce as a Board Member in 2017?
I am in my second term as a board member. I am proud to serve on several committees, Executive, Strategic Planning and Marketing committees keep me busy. I am hopeful that while I am here I can help make to chamber meaningful and impactful. Providing leadership for the next chamber members as well and future board leaders. I have enjoyed my time!
From Premier Vacation Destination to Preferred Convention & Meeting Location
For years, we have been advocates of bringing conventions to the Newport community. Although we are a great vacation destination, this is not our only appeal. Our charm, local attractions, amazing venues, and hospitality have put us on the map for many small to mid-sized conventions. Newport combines the small town feel with various excursion opportunities, team building exercises on the bay and countless other opportunities for conventions to enhance their participant experience.
As reported recently, Rhode Island will host the National Governors’ Association Summer Meeting from July 13th - 16th. Social events are scheduled in the “City by the Sea,” which was described in promotional materials as being famed for its mansions and coastline. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has also worked diligently to advocate for the National Association of State Treasurers meeting here as well. Our statewide officials certainly understand the appeal of our region for the purposes of these types of conferences and our local economy continues to benefit from these types of opportunities.
More events like this present tremendous opportunities for our community to benefit. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the New England Society of Association Executives (NESAE) were both here in June. In July, we will see the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association (NECTA)3-day conference, as well as the Eastern States Building Officials Federation, the Oley Foundation, and the Public Funds Summit, to name a few. The Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA), headquartered here in Middletown, will host its Defense Industry Days conference this August which will attract defense contractors and national leaders in the defense industry to Newport for a few days.
All of these conferences do a wonderful job exposing the attributes of Newport County to different constituencies, helping to extend the tourism season, and exemplifying all of the attributes we have to offer as not only a vacation destination, but also as a center for commerce and innovation. Thank you to the efforts of Discover Newport for continuing to market destination Newport as a great place for these types of conferences and we look forward to working together to continue to attract these opportunities.
To show our support and our dedication to making the Newport community as welcoming as possible, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce offers a VIP Card program. This VIP Card is open to participants of conferences and enables us to showcase our members. Developed in conjunction with Discover Newport, this program encourages visitors that have a variety of reasons to be here to stop into the local business where they can receive discounts and promotions. The card introduces conference attendees to the community, while also generating activity for some of our participating members. By simply presenting this card to participating Newport area retailers, restaurants, attractions and more, conference goers can relish in all of the benefits of attending a conference in our area.
As we all know, and now soon the rest of the country and world will see, Newport County is not only a vacation destination for many tourists and visitors, but also a great place to work, live and play. These small to mid-sized conferences help showcase all of what Newport has to offer. We are a destination filled with diverse purposes and missions, all coming together in a collective community that continues to grow and flourish.