RIHA celebrates successful end to spring legislative session
The 2021 legislative session was one for the record books.
Despite having to lobby remotely, RIHA had one of it's most active legislative sessions, tracking over 400 bills and implementing our most ambitious advocacy agenda to date.
RIHA had an unprecedented number of bills pass this year that were all aimed at helping our industry recover from the COVID pandemic.
The General Assembly will be back in the fall to discuss how the American Rescue Plan funds will be used. RIHA is already at the table, working to make sure our industry's voice is heard.
Third Party Delivery companies regulated
One of RIHA's top legislative priorities was to prohibit third party delivery companies from putting restaurants up on their website without the restaurant's permission. This legislation will go into effect in 90 days.
Alcohol to Go extended to March 2022
After months of advocacy from RIHA, the General Assembly extended alcohol to go until March 2022. The legislation mirrors the existing Executive Order that RIHA worked on last year.
Outdoor dining zoning rules extended
At the suggestion of RIHA, the General Assembly passed legislation which would impose a moratorium on the enforcement of any municipal ordinance or zoning requirement that would penalize owners of food service establishments and bars for any modifications or alternations to their premises in response to an emergency declaration by the governor or local municipal officials. The moratorium would be effective until April 1, 2022.
More flexibility for partial UI benefits
After several months of RIHA's advocacy, the state took action to change the UI system to encourage people to return to work.
- On May 23, 2021, the RIDLT reinstated the work search requirement for people collecting UI benefits.
- The General Assembly passed legislation which encourages people to go back to work by allowing them to earn more on partial unemployment while also collecting the federal $300. Since it's implementation, an additional 4,500 Rhode Islanders that were already working part-time are now keeping more of the money they earn.
Short Term Rentals required to register with the State
After several years of advocacy, the General Assembly moved forward with legislation that would require short-term rentals to register with the State. This is an important first step in regulating unlicensed short term rentals that are acting as hotels without any of the regulations governing traditional lodging establishments.
Breweries required to have liquor liability insurance and alcohol safety training
The General Assembly took steps to bring breweries more into alignment with other liquor licenses by requiring them to obtain liquor liability insurance and follow alcohol server training requirements.
Human Trafficking Prevention Act passed
In response to several high-profile cases of human trafficking in hotels in other parts of the country, the RI lodging community asked the General Assembly to take action. The Human Trafficking Prevention Act was designed to encourage employees to report suspicious behavior.
The final legislation requires hotels to post information about human trafficking for employees. RIHA will develop a sample poster for hotels in the coming weeks. There is no training requirement. It goes into effect on January 1, 2022.
Tipped wage remains at $3.89
Despite several pieces of legislation aimed at raising and eliminating the tipped wage, RIHA was able to keep the tipped wage at $3.89.
$15 minimum wage passed, first increase moved to January 1, 2022
The General Assembly passed a $15 minimum wage bill this year. After hearing from RIHA, the first increase was moved from October 2021 to January 1, 2022. We were also able to eliminate hazard pay from the final legislation.
January 1, 2022: $12.25
January 1, 2023: $13.00
January 1, 2024: $14.00
January 1, 2025: $15.00
Pay Equity legislation passed
The General Assembly passed legislation that implemented "equal pay for comparable work." The bill is a result of months of conversations between the sponsors of the legislation, the proponents and business groups such as RIHA and the Northern RI Chamber. This collaborative approach means that this legislation achieves our industry’s commitment to equity while also understanding the needs of the business community.
RIHA will be doing several trainings on the new law before its implementation.
So-called "Workplace Bullying" bill defeated
The Senate passed a "workplace bullying" bill, which would have made it easier for employees to file hostile work environment claims did not move forward in the House.
TCI benefits extended
The General Assembly approved an expansion of "temporary caregiver" benefits from four weeks to five weeks starting next year, and to six weeks, beginning in 2023.
In 2013, Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to allow payments to employees taking up to four weeks off from work “to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or to bond with a new child.”
Rhode Island workers pay for both TDI and “Temporary Caregiver Insurance” through a payroll tax. The current rate is 1.3% and 2022 rate will be released in December.
The Assembly passed a bill that would make it illegal for a business to report or threaten to report an employee to federal immigration police if the employee complains about unfair labor practices.
PPP Tax Threshold Increased to $250,000
Over the last several months, our industry has been the leading opposition voice to the proposal to tax the PPP, with over 1,230 emails being sent to legislators from our industry.
Although the General Assembly included a tax on the PPP, as a result of our efforts, they increased the threshold to $250,000 and implemented changes to make it easier for businesses impacted in 2020 to pay the tax.
RIHA and other business groups successfully defeated a proposal to impose a tax on sugary drinks.
Tax on high-income earnings
The budget did not raise taxes on those in the state's top income tax bracket. The tax increase would have raised the state tax rate on income over $475,000 from 5.99% to 8.99%. It was estimated to generate $128 million in state revenue each year.
Straws upon request goes into effect January 1, 2022
Beginning January 1, 2022, restaurants must wait for customers to request a straw instead of automatically giving one. RIHA successfully advocated for the implementation date to be moved to January 1, 2022 give businesses times to adjust.
Statewide Plastic Bag ban goes into effect January 1, 2023
After several years of negotiations, a state-wide plastic bag ban will go into effect on January 1, 2023. The language was a result of a negotiation between environmental groups and business groups, including RIHA.