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