Rep. Vella-Wilkinson Bills Would Keep People, Businesses Empowered During Declared Emergencies

            

STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on State Government and Elections heard testimony this week on legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would empower people during declared emergencies as well as aid businesses financially.

The first bill (2021-H 5287) would establish a joint General Assembly Emergency Council, which would be activated 90 days after the governor declares a state of emergency. The council, which would consist of 10 members, would determine if the state of emergency has ended and address the restoration of the state’s economy, if necessary.

“One of the biggest issues we have struggled with during the COVID pandemic is the lack of representative government during an emergency,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Emergency declarations were established to give the governor broad powers when action needs to be taken quickly and decisively during an emergency, but it’s quite a different matter when that emergency gets drawn out for an extended period of time. When that happens, it’s imperative that the General Assembly stand up and provide oversight to make the decisions that need to be made legislatively on behalf of the people.”

The second bill (2021-H 5288) would aid small businesses by establishing a restricted receipt account within the Commerce Corporation for all fines collected from individuals and businesses violating policies or procedures during a state of emergency. Those funds would be kept for distribution to small businesses in the form of forgivable loans or grants by the corporation. 

“COVID-19 has spurred an ongoing economic crisis, and small businesses have borne the brunt of it,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “While it may be necessary to fine businesses that shirk their responsibilities to the public health, at the same time we should be doing all we can to help small businesses financially. This legislation would ensure that the money collected in fines would be used only to help those small businesses.”

 

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott says thousands are without power across the state as Ian makes landfall. Now a post-tropical cyclone, Ian landed as a hurricane in South Carolina earlier today and is moving up the East Coast. Scott says around 200-thousand people are without power, and that now is not the time to ease up worries.        The White House says the federal response to Hurricane Ian is not about politics. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre [[ kar-EENE jhan-pea-AIR ]] declined to offer an opinion about whether Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is doing a good job in his storm-ravaged state. Jean-Pierre noted DeSantis and President Biden have had several productive phone conversations.        Former President Trump is scheduled to be deposed next month in a defamation lawsuit. A woman named E. Jean Carroll has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, and says she plans to file a separate civil suit against Trump on top of the defamation suit. The former President has denied Carroll's allegation that he assaulted her.       The CDC says it has "moderate" confidence the rate of monkeypox cases in the U.S. will either decline or plateau within the next two weeks. In its latest report on the outbreak, the CDC said cases could either decline or plateau, or begin rising "slowly" or "rapidly" with exponential growth.        A high-profile trial stemming from last year's Capitol riot is expected to begin soon. Yahoo News reports jury selection has ended in the trial of Stewart Rhodes, who is charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the attack. Rhodes is the leader of the Oath Keepers militia group who authorities say helped plan the riot and called for civil war. He's one of five defendants in the trial that'll start next week.       Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett says his recent car crash was a serious wake up call. The defensive end was going 20 miles over the speed limit when he crashed his car on Monday. Thankfully, both he and his passenger escaped relatively unscathed, with Garrett suffering a minor shoulder and bicep sprain.