An Update from the State House
H.5451 and S. Acts Relating to Businesses and Professions – Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board are both being considered by the General Assembly this session. The bills require any applicant for a license or registration issued by the Contractors’ Registration Board to undergo a national criminal background check. If certain crimes show up on the back ground check, the enforcement agency conducting the background check must notify the Contractors’ Registration Board that “disqualifying information has been uncovered.” Those crimes include: murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault, first-degree child molestation sexual assault, second-degree child molestation sexual assault, assault on persons sixty (60) years of age or older, assault with intent to commit specified felonies (murder, robbery, rape, burglary, or the abominable and detestable crimes against nature), felony assault, patient abuse, neglect or mistreatment of patients, burglary, first-degree arson, robbery, felony drug offenses, felony obtaining money under false pretenses, felony embezzlement, abuse, neglect and/or exploitation of adults with severe impairments, exploitation of elders, felony larceny, felony banking law violations, or willful trespass. The Board Executive Director would then meet with the applicant to obtain the facts surrounding the “disqualifying information” and make a determination as to whether the applicant should be rejected or permitted to obtain the license or registration. The final determination rests with the Executive Director of the Contractors’ Registration Board. Proponents believe this will protect RI citizens from potential crimes as contractors often work inside the home in close proximity with home owners and their families. Opponents fear this process will hinder the ability of former inmates to rejoin society in a productive way.
House Finance Committee to Hold Budget Hearings
On Tuesday March 21, at the Rise (approximately 4:30), the Finance Committee will take testimony from the public concerning the reduction or elimination of the motor vehicle excise tax. The Governor’s proposal calls for a 30% reduction in the valuation of motor vehicles – roughly a $58 million ticket item for the state. Speaker Mattiello has committed to reducing the tax by about $40 million in this fiscal year with a subsequent reduction to occur in each of the following 5 years until the tax is eliminated. Raimondo has said that the elimination of the tax would cost the state $215 million.
On Wednesday, March 22, at the Rise (approximately 4:30), the Finance Committee will hear testimony on Articles 8 and 9 of the Governor’s budget. Budget Article 8 – includes a fifty (50) cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax. This tax, estimated to raise $8.7 million would be divided into three buckets: $500,000 for a tobacco control program, $2.5 million for a Department of Environmental Outdoor Recreation Investment program and $5.7 million for the general fund. This tax would be the second highest in the country – second to the state of New York. Other new products that would be subject to the tax include: cigars, cheroots, stogies, smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco, hookah, shisha, snuf and hollow cylindrical or cone tobacco paper.
Article 8 also establishes new penalties for violating almost every tax law requirement including corporate taxes, sales tax, tax credit laws, conveyance taxes, gift taxes….the list goes on. The proposal states that if a person or corporation violates a tax law, the Division of Taxation can: 1) revoke a license or permit that is issued by the Division; 2) order the person/corporation to cease the violation; and/or 3) levy an administrative penalty between $100 and $50,000. Additionally the Division could assess an additional penalty equal to the costs it incurred for both inside and outside legal counsel fees.
New Bill Filed to Give Employees New Remedies
H.5931, which was filed last week, seeks to provide new legal remedies to employees. While the bill reads like a coded message, it can be discerned with a little work. The bill basically gives employees (1) a private right of action, (2) protection from whistle blowing and (3) the right to job reinstatement and health benefits reinstatement, in the event the employee believes the employer has violated state laws relating to employment hours for children, wage discrimination based on sex, minimum wage violations, employees manufacturing products from their home, holiday businesses and holiday and Sunday work. The biggest change is the ability to file a private right of action in court instead of going to the Department of Labor and Training for administrative relief. This process is more costly for employers. The bill can be found at: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/HouseText17/H5931.pdf
Small Cell Wireless Technology Bill To Be Considered By Committee
H.5944 – An Act Relating to Public Utilities and Carriers – Small Cell Siting Act. This bill seeks to position Rhode Island to deploy new wireless telecommunications technology to handle increased cell traffic and 5G technology. Small cell base stations are set to play an important role in expanding the capacity of wireless networks; and no state has – as of yet – deployed the technology on a large scale. These cells provide flexibility at less cost. The technology also reduces the number of large cell towers needed, as small cells can be placed on existing poles, street lights, etc. However, carriers need to install many small cells to communicate with each other. H.5944 encourages the installation of small cells by eliminating the ability of a municipality to charge a rental fee for placing a cell on public property. The City or Town could charge permitting fees for the initial installation, and the Carrier would maintain sole responsibility for installation and maintenance of the cell. Some communities in other states have attempted to charge up to $4,000.00 for one cell site which has caused difficulties in establishing the new technology. H.5944 seeks to eliminate that possibility. The House Corporations Committee will take testimony on the bill Tuesday, March 21st at the Rise.
The following bills were filed:
House Bill No. 5908, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS (Imposes a fee of one hundred sixty dollars ($160) for all domestic and foreign corporations for a certificate of authority to transact business in this state.)
House Bill No. 5911, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - STATEWIDE SITE READINESS FUND (Creates the statewide site readiness fund a state sponsored fund for the preparation of shared ready commercial, industrial and manufacturing property in the state.)
House Bill No. 5946, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY (Prohibits retail sales establishments from making available to their customers, plastic checkout bags, or plastic water bottles or expanded polystyrene disposable food containers at the point of sale.)
Senate Bill No. 584, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - PAYMENT OF WAGES (Eliminates repealed statute references and creates a mechanism for workers to enforce their existing right to continuation of medical benefits, reinstatement after returning from being a temporary caregiver and Sunday pay wage laws.)
Senate Bill No. 586, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY (Requires registration and criminal background checks of individuals who provide personal care assistant services.)
Senate Bill No. 618, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS - RHODE ISLAND NONPROFIT CORPORATION ACT (Simplifies process for foreign corporations to obtain certificate of authority by producing only certificate of good standing legal assistance from incorporating state or country.)