February 4, 2013

Coming up in Committee: Fourteen Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, February 5 - February 7

Carroll Andrew Morse

Local Impact: East Providence, Foster, Johnston, Middletown 2

Inobvious Priorities: H5162 adds "city and/or town owned manhole covers and bridge placards" to a list of items that precious metals dealers are required to hold for fourteen days before doing whatever they're planning to do with them next. (H Judiciary; Tue, Feb 5)

14. H5165: Allows members of the armed forces and members of the national guard who "receive military orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy with a military unit for a period of not less than one hundred-eighty (180) days" to terminate a lease with 30 days notice. (H Veterans' Affairs; Tue, Feb 5)

13. H5213: Prohibits retailers from adding to surcharge to credit card transactions -- but does allow them to offer a discount for paying by cash or check. (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 5)

12. Bud. Art. 21: Converts a $4.2M loan used to obtain matching funds for the purchase of buses that was taken from a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority "revolving loan fund" into "a direct grant" that "need not be repaid". (H Finance; Tue, Feb 5)

11. H5166: Changes the qualification for adjutant general of the Rhode Island national guard from having served "not less than five years in one or more of the federal services" to having served "not less than five years in the Rhode Island National Guard". (H Veterans' Affairs; Wed, Feb 6)

10. Bud. Arts. 2, 3 and 4: Changes to state employee benefits including lots of mentions of "Non-Medicare-eligible retirees", removal of divorced spouses from family health plans, and establishment of a Social Security Alternative Retirement Income Security Program. (S Finance; Tue, Feb 5 & H Finance; Wed, Feb 6 [Art. 2 Only])

9. On Tue, Feb 5, the House Rules Committee will discuss the House rules for 2013-2014.

8. Bud. Art. 22/Bud. Art. 23: Puts the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation in charge of reissuing $25M (initially) in historic tax-credits that were issued by the state but have since been "abandoned". (S Finance; Thu, Feb 7) Looking over the current section of the law on historic tax credits (section 44-33.2), this appears to be the first instance of the Economic Development Corporation being given a role in the administration of historic tax credits, perhaps as a reward for the work they did administering the $75M for 38 studios?

7. Bud. Art. 11: A plan to use $10M per year in municipal aid for three years as an incentive for municipalities to transition their locally administered pension plans into MERS and create "Funding Improvement Plans" that are approved by the state. (H Finance; Thu, Feb 7)

6. H5078: Card-check unionization for public employees, with the definition of "public employee" expanded to encompass all "quasi-public entities". (H Labor; Wed, Feb 6)

5. H5079: Sets Rhode Island's minimum wage to $8.25 per hour beginning in 2014 and adjusts it upward for inflation in subsequent years, with the additional stipulation that the RI minimum wage must always be at least $0.15 per hour higher than the Federal. (H Labor; Tue, Feb 5)

4. Bud. Art. 7: OK, let's go through this one in gruesome detail (H Finance; Tue, Feb 5 & S Finance; Wed, Feb 6)...

  • Budget article 7 in its current form is identical to the original version of standalone Senate bill S0019 which would allow the state or any public corporation to enter into a deal to "refund" any non-voter approved "bond", "financing lease", "guarantee agreement", or "other obligation", without prior approval of the General Assembly, provided that "the governor certifies...that the refunding shall provide a net benefit to the issuer".
  • What Article 7 seems to be intended to do is allow an executive branch agency or a quasi-public corporation to make a deal that "promises" a refund to a state creditor, prior to any money being appropriated to pay for the refund. An argument can be made that, if a refund costs less than the following through on an original obligation, budgetary impact should be minimal or even positive and, therefore, necessary funding can assumed to be there, but there is still a legitimate and important question about how binding executive branch or quasi-public corporation deals can be in the absence of a legislative appropriation.
  • Meanwhile, the original S0019 was amended by the Senate Finance committee last week and sent in to the Senate Floor. Under S0019 Sub A, "the state" would be able to make a refund deal for "any financing leases entered into with the authorization of the general assembly" (no explicit mention is made of "bonds", "guarantee agreements", or "other obligations"), while "public corporations" could refund various instruments of obligation, but only if they had been issued "to finance the acquisition, construction, or improvement of an essential public facility".

3. H5138: Allows public schools "to assess students a reasonable fee for participation by a student in school extracurricular activities". (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Feb 6)

2. H5066: Moves the layoff notice date for public school districts in cases of "fiscal exigency or program reorganization" from March 1 to June 1. (H Labor; Wed, Feb 6)

1. H5106: Requires Rhode Island employers with 3 or more employees to "apply to participate" in E-Verify by 2015. (H Labor; Tue, Feb 5) A national debate over "comprehensive immigration reform" is shaping up around proposals for immediate amnesty in return for promises of future immigration enforcement. Against this backdrop, those following immigration issues should be cognizant that a law requiring an application to participate in E-verify falls, at best, into the category of a future promise once-removed.

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Just in time for the economic boom in Mexico. Economic growth has already surpassed the US but more importantly Brazil, which was the fastest growing in the region. Jobs are moving from China to Mexico. Rising labor costs in China accompanied by Mexico's proximity to the US and other major markets is making them more appealing. We may see another slowing of border crossings or an increase in 'self deportations'...LOL

Posted by: Max D at February 4, 2013 7:55 PM

Great analysis, Andrew.

So many bad things to comment on. Just to pick one:

"A plan to use $10M per year in municipal aid for three years as an incentive for municipalities to transition their locally administered pension plans into MERS and create "Funding Improvement Plans" that are approved by the state."

Please don't squander state tax dollars on this. Unfunded local pension plans are simply not the state's problem. Doubly don't squander our dollars in the absence of local pension reform. Local pensions are/were no more reasonable or affordable than state ones.

Posted by: Monique at February 5, 2013 10:06 PM

H5166 I doubt this is just "housekeeping". I wonder who has "a friend at court". I don't necessarily find it objectionable, just wonder about the timing. I used to have a NG General in my lunch club, his active service was rather cloudy.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 7, 2013 7:41 PM
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