RI State House

Weekly Roundup: Key Developments in Rhode Island’s General Assembly (February 5-9)

In a bustling week at the Rhode Island General Assembly, significant legislative strides were made, touching on a spectrum of issues from dining regulations to healthcare penalties. Here are the highlights from the week’s events:

1. Outdoor Dining Permanently Allowed by General Assembly

In a landmark decision, the General Assembly has passed a bill (2024-H 7064A, 2024-S 2028A) sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Alana M. DiMario, allowing outdoor dining at restaurants on a permanent basis. The legislation provides municipalities with the authority to regulate the extent of outdoor dining areas. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s approval.

2. House Approves Fellela Bill on Overmedication Penalties

Legislation (2024-H 7013A) introduced by Rep. Deborah A. Fellela, imposing penalties for death resulting from overmedication, received approval from the House of Representatives. The bill introduces a three-year probationary period for licensees found guilty of overprescribing, with subsequent violations potentially leading to license suspension or revocation. The Senate will now consider the measure.

3. Joint Oversight Committees to Address Washington Bridge Crisis

In response to the ongoing crisis on the Washington Bridge, the House Committee on Oversight and the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics, and Oversight will hold a joint meeting next week. The session aims to delve into the causes of the bridge’s failure and outline plans for its future. The meeting is scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. in Room 35 at the State House.

4. Opening of Rhode Island Reconnect Center Celebrated

Governor Dan McKee, alongside Rep. Cherie L. Cruz and Sen. Sandra Cano, inaugurated the new location of the Rhode Island Reconnect visitor center. The center, supported by an $8 million investment from the General Assembly, offers assistance to students in overcoming barriers to education and degree completion.

5. Tax Relief Bill for Seniors Introduced by Rep. O’Brien

Rep. William W. O’Brien presented a bill (2024-H 7485) aiming to provide substantial tax relief on pension and annuity income for senior citizens. The legislation proposes modifications for taxable pension and annuity income, applicable for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2025.

6. DiPalma and Serpa Advocate for APRA Reform

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa held a press conference introducing legislation (2024-S 2256, 2024-H 7181) focused on reforming the Access to Public Records Act (APRA). The bills have been referred to the respective committees for further consideration.

7. State House Rally for Anti-Gun Violence Legislation

Various organizations, including the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, rallied at the State House to advocate for anti-gun violence legislation. Priorities include a secure storage bill and an assault weapons ban, both sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell and Sen. Pamela J. Lauria, among others.

8. AARP Supports Legislative Priorities for 2024

AARP Rhode Island unveiled its legislative priorities for 2024, endorsing bills such as the Secure Choice Program and measures encouraging construction of accessory dwelling units.

9. DiMario Named Legislator of the Year at Clean Water Legislative Summit

Sen. Alana M. DiMario received the Clean Water Legislator of the Year award at the 2024 Clean Water Legislative Summit. The event included remarks from Rhode Island’s federal delegation and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi.

10. Economic Progress Institute Hosts Policy Briefing on Predatory Lending

The Economic Progress Institute organized a policy briefing on payday lending practices in Rhode Island, led by Rep. Karen Alzate. Legislation introduced by Alzate and Sen. Ana B. Quezada seeks to close exemptions allowing payday lenders to charge triple-digit interest rates.




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