15 Sep 2014
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Last Week at the General Assembly. . .

Recent goings on at the Rhode Island State House.

Last Week at the General Assembly. . .

General Assembly launches easy-to-use bill tracking email system
Members of the public who want to track the progress of certain bills throughout the legislative session can now use the General Assembly website to sign up for email updates. After a simple registration process, a member of the public can subscribe to up to 50 bills of his or her choice. Using the new tool, one can search for bills by committee, category, sponsor, range of bill numbers or individual bill numbers. Users will receive email updates regarding the change in status of these bills hourly, daily, or weekly, depending upon their preferred settings. 

Senate passes legislation banning gender rating in health insurance market
Falling into step with the federal Affordable Care Act, the Senate has passed a bill ( 2013-S 201A) sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) to ban health insurers from utilizing the discriminatory practice known as “gender rating,” or routinely charging women and men different premiums for individual insurance. Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) sponsors the House companion bill ( 2013-H 5243).

House approves ‘Made in RI’ bill
The House passed the first piece of the leadership-backed economic development package, a bill ( 2013-H 6030) sponsored by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) to create a “Made in Rhode Island” collaborative to help promote locally made products. Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) is sponsoring the legislation ( 2013-S 809) in the Senate, where it is also part of that chamber’s economic development legislative package.

Senate OKs bill integrating renewable energy into economic strategy
The Senate passed a bill ( 2013-S 0123A) to strengthen ties between the state’s renewable energy plan and its economic development strategy. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), would make changes to the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resources Management Council in order to support forward movement in the realm of green jobs and renewable resources.

Senate resolution calls for task force on economic development through the arts
The Senate unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed requesting that the governor create a “State of the Arts” Planning Task Force. The resolution ( 2013-S 0914), co-sponsored by other members of Senate leadership, calls for the task force to develop a strategic plan and to identify specific steps that can be taken to attract, retain, support, expand and market arts and associated creative industries in the state.

Senate approves veterans’ educational assistance bill
The Senate approved legislation ( 2013-S 0576A) calling for the establishment of veteran-friendly educational programs that allow service personnel returning from duty to pursue their education in an accelerated manner through programs that acknowledge a veteran/student’s military training and coursework. Sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), the bill is part of the “Pave the Rhode Back Home” package of bills introduced to help veterans and their families. The House companion bill ( 2013-H 5856) is sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).

Specialty license plates may get an expiration date
The Senate approved legislation ( 2013-S 0915) to establish an expiration date for specialty license plates that fail to achieve the mandated minimum number of pre-paid orders within five years of the enactment authorizing the plates. Most specialty plates authorized for sale are required to reach a minimum pre-paid order of 900 before they are produced. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton).

Ackerman encourages healthier lifestyles with tax credit incentives
Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) introduced a bill ( 2013-H 5736) on behalf of Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts that would create a tax credit for small employers that implement a wellness program for employees, subject to standards set by the state Department of Health (DOH). Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) is the sponsor of the Senate companion legislation ( 2013-S 0751).

Bill would allow regional water authority
Legislation ( 2013-H 6099) introduced by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) would create the Ocean State Regional Water Authority, which would be authorized to acquire and maintain water systems currently operated by local water supply systems throughout the state.

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