February 11, 2013
Coming up in Committee: Nine Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, February 12 - February 14
Local Impact: Central Falls
9. H5047: "Six hours of over-the-road driver’s training from a licensed driver’s training school" required for a first-time driver to obtain a license. (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 12)
8. Bud. Arts. 3 and 4: Changes to state employee benefits involving removal of divorced spouses from family health plans and establishment of a Social Security Alternative Retirement Income Security Program. (H Finance; Tue, Feb 12)
7. H5147 requires prisoners serving life sentences for first or second degree murder to have served 30 years before being eligible for parole (up from 20), and those serving life for other crimes to have served 20 (up from 10). H5145 requires prisoners serving non-life sentences for first or second degree murder to serve 50% of their sentence before being eligible for parole. (H Judiciary; Wed, Feb 13)
6. H5243: Prohibits medical health insurance premium rates from varying based on gender (excluding policies for "disability income, long-term care, and insurance supplemental policies which only provide coverage for specified diseases or other supplemental policies"). (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 12) Will a similar bill that applies to automobile insurance rates be following?
5. H5299: Requires that any Public Utilities Commission rate increase be authorized by a General Assembly joint resolution. (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 12)
4. Proposed House rules for 2013-2014 plus some amendments. The only major change in the main rules bill from last session is the addition of a substantial section defining House "caucuses", which does not appear to have any impact on the conduct of formal floor or committee business. (H Rules; Tue, Feb 12) The proposed amendments (each to be voted on separately) include...
- A proposal to try to cut House sessions off at 10pm,
- A proposal for the beginnings of a seniority system in House committees, and
- A proposal to prohibit consideration of floor amendments to the budget unless they are either first approved by the finance committee or by a 2/3 floor majority.
3. S0242: Prohibits tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge, Mount Hope Bridge and Jamestown Bridge, while increasing the state's vehicle inspection fee from $39 to $59, with the new money to be used for a bridge maintenance fund. S0022 is a more oblique and maybe not as complete restriction on Sakonnet River Bridge tolls, combined with transferring jurisdiction for the Sakonnet River Bridge back to the Department of Transportation from the Bridge and Turnpike Authority. (S Finance; Wed, Feb 13)
2B. S0049: Moves the layoff notice date for public school districts in cases of "fiscal exigency or program reorganization" and for "a substantial decrease of pupil population within its school system" from March 1 to June 1. Only in the case of a decrease in pupil population would layoffs be required to proceed by seniority (S Labor; Wed, Feb 13) The House version of this bill (H5066) was held for further study last week. Ideally, a pointer to the record of the committee vote would be provided here, but the General Assembly committee vote tracker still treats votes by House committees to surrender their right to take action on bills without leadership approval as if they are not happening. (By the way, Senate committee votes to hold bills for further study are recorded on the General Assembly's committee vote tracker).
2A. H5186: Moves the layoff notice date for public school districts in cases of a "decrease in pupil population, program reduction or elimination, or budget reduction" from March 1 to May 15. Under all three conditions, layoffs would be required to proceed by seniority. (H Labor; Tue, Feb 12)
1. H5340: Replaces municipal government approval as the last step of teacher contract negotiation with a binding arbitration process, moving final budgetary authority away from school committees and city/town councils to an unaccountable authority. (H Labor; Tue, Feb 12) (Here is just one of many reasons why binding arbitration is a bad idea: If retired Rhode Island judges are truly best qualified to make decisions about local taxation and expenditures, why do they need to be told that they need to consider the taxpayers "ability to pay"? Does anyone really believe that a retired Rhode Island judge who parachutes into a city or town on a one time basis will be better able to judge local residents' "ability to pay" than town/city councilors who have to regularly be elected by the people they are taxing?