March 19, 2012

Coming up in Committee: Twelve Sets of Bills Scheduled to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, March 20 - March 22

Carroll Andrew Morse

Local Impact: Central Falls, Glocester, Middletown/Newport, New Shoreham, Pawtucket 2, Portsmouth 2, Providence, Smithfield.

12. I've never been sure if the high-profile tension in Rhode Island between auto body shops and insurance companies is an "only in Rhode Island thing" or if it's connected to some broader trend; whatever the answer, here is this year's raft of bills on the subject: H7688, H7690, H7692, H7782, H7783, H7787, H7789 (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 20).

11B. H7885: Allows employees of the RI Resource Recovery Corporation to unionize (H Labor; Wed, Mar 21). Noted because it seems a little unusual that 4 representatives from one community (Johnston) are sponsors of this bill...

11A ...speaking of which, 5 Senators from Providence would like to make a change in the state law on infrastructure rights (S2601), to extend it to telecommunications, cable and satellite services (S Corporations; Thu Mar, 22).

10. H7796: Mandates that all health insurance plans issued in Rhode Island include a "telehealth" component, defined as "the mode of delivering health care services and public health via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care while the patient is at the originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site" (H Corporations; Wed, Mar 21).

9. Bud Art 7, secs 3-5: Special obligation bond issues for the Airport Corporation, the Quonset Development Corporation and the Resource Recovery Corporation. All 3 sections contain a variation on a statement that "none of the bonds or the loan agreements shall constitute indebtedness of the state or a debt for which the full faith and credit of the state is pledged" (H Finance; Wed, Mar 21).

8. H7794: Requires insurers to reimburse the full amount to healthcare providers and then go get the deductible from the insured party (H Corporations; Wed, Mar 21).

7. S2489: Changes election rules from requiring that "substantially not more than nineteen hundred voters shall be served by the same polling place", to requiring that "voting districts" shall be limited to 3,000 voters (S Judiciary, Tue Mar 20) This is a sub-A version of the bill -- suggesting that the legislature is serious about passing it -- where the limit has been knocked down from the 4,000 voters in the original.

6. H7582: The official description says this bill "legalizes marijuana and establishes regulations associated with legalization". It leans heavily towards regulation, legalizing only the activity of "constructively using, obtaining, purchasing, transporting, or possessing one ounce or less of marijuana" with regards to direct usage (H Judiciary; Wed, Mar 21).

5. H7873: "Health insurers shall reimburse eligible physicians, no less than one hundred forty percent (140%) of what Medicare would pay the physician for providing the same service", with eligible physicians defined as physicians who "provide medical services within a designated medically underserved practice area", provide 5% of their care free and meet a few other conditions (H Corporations; Wed, Mar 21). Supporters of this bill will then go on to claim, with a straight face, that government-provided health care is inherently cheaper.

4. S2604: Allows out-of-state businesses to operate in RI during a declared disaster without being immediately treated, for purposes of taxation and regulation, as having opened a branch office in RI (S Corporations; Tue, Mar 20).

3. H7797: Creates a process for reviewing and retiring health insurance mandates (H Corporations; Wed, Mar 21).

2. H7892/H7909: Various measures, sponsored by the Lieutenant Governor, to establish "health insurance standards in addition to, but not inconsistent with" Obamacare, including a prohibition on limiting or excluding healthcare coverage based on pre-existing conditions and the establishment of a a single, statewide community rating for small-employer plans (H Corporations; Wed, Mar 21). Of course, if Obamacare is repealed or declared unconstitutional, Rhode Island would still have to live under any of its provisions that are passed into state law.

1C. H7272: Moves layoff notice date for public school teachers from March 1 to June 1 (H Labor; Tue, Mar 20).

1B. H7286: Teachers' right-to-work bill, prohibiting membership in a labor organization from being a condition of employment for teachers, teachers aids or specialists who work in an educational setting (H Labor; Tue, Mar 20).

1A. H7757: Repeals the Caruolo Act and requires that municipal education contracts be ratified by a city or town council (H Labor; Tue, Mar 20).