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.)
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
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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