Under The Dome
This Week At the State House
Tuesday, March 28th
Local control over tobacco is a subject of debate in the House Committee on Municipal Government & Housing, Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) in the House Lounge. H.6091, An Act Relating to Towns and Cities – Ordinances, gives each city and town the authority to adopt laws concerning the sale of tobacco products. This is an attempt to reverse the Rhode Island Supreme Court 2020 decision in “K&W Automotive vs. The Town of Barrington.” The decision struck down a Barrington ordinance banning tobacco sales and stated that Rhode Island has “a legitimate concern that inconsistent regulations respecting tobacco will lead to confusion and decrease compliance with various federal and state regulations. Additionally, in our judgment, a comprehensive approach is desirable because it will increase the effectiveness of tobacco regulations by preventing persons otherwise prohibited from obtaining a certain tobacco product in one municipality from simply traveling to the nearest municipality that does permit such a purchase.” Should the bill pass into law and municipalities ban the sale of tobacco or change the age at which products can be purchased, the State will have to find alternative sources of revenue as the tax on tobacco products raises over $100 million a year. Written testimony can be emailed to HouseMunicipalGovernmentandHousing@rilegislature.gov
The Committee is also scheduled to take a vote on H.6087, An Act Relating to Property – Landlord Tenant Act. In its current form, H.6087 prohibits landlords from collecting application fees from potential tenants. During the lengthy hearing on this bill, witnesses recalled landlords taking application fees and then immediately denying the application while keeping the fee. Some witnesses told stories of paying the fee only to find out later the landlord had no vacant apartments to rent. Opponents of the bill argued that legitimate expenses exist in trying to vet potential tenants and that perhaps a balance could be reached – allowing for some amount of fee while penalizing those that abuse the system. A proposed amendment could be posted for consideration as late as Monday at 4:00 pm.
Wednesday, March 29th
If you decide to attend the House Labor hearing in the House Lounge at the Rise (approximately 4:30 pm) bring your dinner. There are 27 bills on the agenda, including a vote on H.5929, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Fair Employment Practices. This bill declares it an unlawful employment practice to require an employee, as a condition of employment, to execute a nondisclosure agreement or an agreement with a clause that requires alleged violations of civil rights remain confidential, or a non-disparagement agreement concerning alleged violations of civil rights. Any such contract provision shall be void.
If you wish to submit written testimony for a bill in the House Labor hearing, send it to HouseLabor@rilegislature.gov Hearings will take place on the following bills:
H.5015, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations - Minimum Wages. H.5015 eliminates the 2014 minimum wage uniformity clause. The Chamber advocated strongly for this clause as uniformity helps employers plan for increases, supports efforts to pay employees correctly if they are working in multiple locations, and inhibits competition between municipalities that attempt to attract the same business. H.5015 allows all 39 cities and towns to adopt their own minimum wage requirement, creating a huge burden on businesses with multiple site locations.
H.5372 and H.5747, Acts Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages create contractor liability for any unpaid wages due to employees of subcontractors or to a third-party. An employee can choose to file a civil complaint or to file a complaint with the Department of Labor to gain relief. If the employee chooses the civil complaint route, that employee can be represented by another person, organization or collective bargaining agent. If an employee files a wage action against a subcontractor, the contractor is jointly and severally liable for all wages, benefits and penalties and attorney fees assessed. Contractors and subcontractors are not permitted to enter into any agreement that eliminates the contractor’s liability.
H.5588, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage, adjusts the minimum wage annually, starting January 1, 2026, at an amount equal to the cost-of-living increase.
H.5589, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage increases the minimum wage to $15.50 on January 1, 2025, to $17.00 on January 1, 2026, to $18.50 on January 1, 2027 and to $20.00 on January 1, 2028. In 2021, the General Assembly passed a law phasing in an increase of the minimum wage to reach $15 an hour by January 1, 2025. Under current law, the minimum wage will change to $14 an hour on January 1, 2024 and to $15 an hour on January 1, 2025.
H.5928, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage increases the minimum wage to $14.50 on January 1, 2024, to $16.75 on January 1, 2025, to $19.00 on January 1, 2026 and annually thereafter based on the cost-of-living adjustment.
H.6078, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wage increases the minimum wage to $15.50 on January 1, 2025, to $17.00 on January 1, 2026, to $18.50 on January 1, 2027, to $20.00 on January 1, 2028, and annually thereafter based on the cost-of-living adjustment.
H.5592, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Inspection of Personnel Files proposes a number of changes to an employee’s right to review personnel files. Rhode Island law grants employees the right to inspect their own personnel files. To exercise this right, an employee makes the request, and the employer must allow that employee to see the file within seven days of the request (excluding holidays and Sundays). An employee can request copies from the employer, with the employer having the right to charge a reasonable amount to make the copies. The current law recognizes the employer’s right to maintain the records, and the employee’s right to review the records. H.5592 reduces the timeframe for an employer to respond to a request from seven days to five days. The request is no longer for the ability to review documents, but to obtain a full copy of the file at the expense of the employer; and it applies to former employees as well as existing employees. H.5592 requires employers to keep specific information in the file for a period of three years. The bill also carries penalties including a $500-$2500 fine to be collected by the Department of Labor, and a fine of $500 to the employee, in addition to any other relief the employee might be entitled to under law.
H.5707, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages changes an employer’s responsibilities as it relates to providing for employees with statements of earnings. Today employers must include the hours worked, deductions from gross earnings and an explanation of those deductions. H.5707 adds items such as the last four digits of the social security number, deduction explanations in the employee’s preferred language, the employer’s address and name, and output information if pay is based on quantity. H.5707 also requires employers to provide a type of “mini employee handbook” to employees in each employee’s primary language. The information includes items such as: wage information, benefits, holiday information, sick time, and travel and expense policies. DataUSA reports that 22.4% of Rhode Island households report speaking a primary language other than English. While the most common non-English language spoken in Rhode Island is Spanish followed by Portuguese, there are reportedly forty-one languages spoken as a primary language in the State. Some families are fluent in both their primary language and English, others are not. H.5707 requires employers to adapt to the needs of each individual employee.
H.5708, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages requires every Rhode Island business, with thirty or more employees, to post competitive salary ranges for open positions on the company’s hiring page or on third-party hiring platforms. If an employer fails to post the appropriate information, it is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined $400 for each separate offense or imprisoned up to one year.
The following new bills have been filed:
Senate Bill No. 716 (Dept. of Labor and Training) Goodwin, DiPalma, Ciccone, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYMENT SECURITY -- GENERAL PROVISIONS (Eliminates the "until June 30, 2023" sunset on the increase in the total amount of earnings a partial-unemployment insurance claimant can receive before being entirely disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0716.pdf
Senate Bill No. 753 Valverde, McKenney, DiMario, Miller, Murray, Euer, Sosnowski, Gallo, Gu, Kallman, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- BEVERAGE CONTAINER DEPOSIT RECYCLING ACT OF 2023 (Establishes a system for the recycling of beverage containers working with the department of environmental management.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0753.pdf
Senate Bill No. 754
BY DiPalma, Euer, Tikoian, McKenney, Burke, Quezada, F. Lombardi, Zurier, Gu, Picard
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW -- GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- RHODE ISLAND DATA TRANSPARENCY AND PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT (Provides data privacy protections for the personal identifiable information of Rhode Islanders.)
Senate Bill No. 759 Gu, Sosnowski, Euer, Mack, Britto, Kallman, DiPalma, Gallo, AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW--GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- GIFT CARD FRAUD (Requires sellers of gift cards to post notice warning of scams/instructing consumers what to do as victims/train employees to identify/respond to fraud/violations punishable by a civil fine of $500.)
Senate Bill No. 770 Euer, Cano, Mack, Murray, Lauria, Acosta, DiMario, Miller, Sosnowski, Britto, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ACT (Establishes requirements which would have to be met by an applicant prior to the issuing of permits for an activity that would have an environmental impact on or would increase the cumulative impacts on an environmental justice area.)
Senate Bill No. 778 Lauria, Ruggerio, Pearson, Miller, DiMario, Gu, Lawson, DiPalma, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- RHODE ISLAND WOMEN'S EQUITY INCENTIVE ACT OF 2023 (Creates the Rhode Island Women’s Equity Incentive Act of 2023 offering tax credits up to $3,500 per employee per year to eligible businesses.)
Senate Bill No. 821 Ciccone, Britto, DiPalma, F. Lombardi, Burke, Tikoian, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKPLACE PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY ACT (Protects bullying/psychological abuse in workplace inflicted upon employees by employers/co-employees/provides civil remedies to affected employees/fines against employers/imprisonment/fines against co-employees.)
Senate Bill No. 825 Ruggerio, Pearson, Gallo, DiPalma, LaMountain, Tikoian, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- REAL JOBS RHODE ISLAND ACT (Establishes a real job Rhode Island program, which is an industry-led system to advance the skills of the state's workforce to grow the state's economy and increase sustainable employment for middle-class families.)
Senate Bill No. 826 Mack, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Raises the minimum wage for the years 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028 and 2029, to $15.50, $17.00, $18.50, $20.00, and $21.00, per hour, respectively.)
Senate Bill No. 827 Mack, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- MINIMUM WAGES (Raises minimum wage on January 1, 2026 and each January 1 thereafter, by the percentage increase in the CPI-U, as published by the US Dept. of Labor Statistics, as of August of the previous year over the level as of August of the year preceding that year.)
Senate Bill No. 828 Goodwin, Lawson, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- PAYMENT OF WAGES (Eliminates repealed statute references and create a mechanism for employees to enforce their existing right to continuation of medical benefits.)
House Bill No. 6187 (by request) Dawson, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- BUSINESS CORPORATION TAX (Exempts new entities in the first two (2) years of existence from paying the minimum tax if annual net taxable income is less than five thousand dollars ($5,000).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H6187.pdf
House Bill No. 6196 Alzate, Batista, Giraldo, Potter, Boylan, Speakman, Henries, Felix, Morales, Tanzi, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ACT (Establishes requirements which would have to be met by an applicant prior to the issuing of permits for an activity that would have an environmental impact on or would increase the cumulative impacts on an environmental justice area.) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H6196.pdf