This Week at the General Assembly


STATE HOUSE — Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly this week. For more information on any of these items visit



§  House passes bill that would compensate the wrongly imprisoned
The House of Representatives passed legislation (2021-H 5470A) introduced by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) that would give compensation to innocent people who have spent time behind bars but were later released when new evidence shows they were not guilty. The measure now moves to the Senate where similar legislation (2021-S 0672) has been introduced by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).
Click here to see news release.


§  Senate votes to prohibit ‘source of income’ housing discrimination
The Senate approved legislation  (2021-S 0561) sponsored by Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) to prohibit discrimination against tenants because of the source of their income. The bill is primarily aimed at preventing landlords from refusing to rent to Rhode Islanders who receive Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers. The bill now heads to the House, which on March 2 approved companion legislation (2021-H 5257aa) sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).
Click here to see news release.


§  Senate OKs legislation that protects families with parents that have disabilities

The Senate has passed legislation (2021-S 0056) introduced by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption. Rep. Terri Cortvriend (Dist. 72, Portsmouth Middletown) has introduced the companion legislation (2021-H 5394) in the House of Representatives.

Click here to see news release.


§  Senate passes bill excluding chronic intractable pain from medication guidelines

The Senate has passed legislation (2021-S 0384A) introduced by Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication. The legislation acknowledges that every patient and their needs is different, especially those suffering from chronic pain.  The measure now moves to the House, which passed similar legislation (2021-H 5247) introduced by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) on March 9.

Click here to see news release


§  Senate OKs bill that protects children from being left alone in vehicles

The Senate has passed a bill (2021-S 0128) introduced by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis’ (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich) that would protect minors left unattended in a motor vehicle. The legislation repeals the requirement that law enforcement issue only verbal warnings of the risks to persons leaving a child under the age of seven unattended in a motor vehicle. Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) has introduced the companion bill (2021-H 5184) in the House of Representatives.

Click here to see news release.


§  Senate passes bill requiring cultural competency training for state workers

The Senate approved legislation (2021-S 0428) introduced by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) that would require the Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity (ODEO) to provide all state and municipal employees annual training in cultural competency. Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) has introduced the companion legislation (2021-H 5752) in the House of Representatives.

Click here to see news release.


§  Rep. Batista, Sen. Acosta introduce police reform legislation
Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Rep. José F. Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence) have introduced the Rishod K. Gore Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (2021-S 05972021-H 5993) to institute critical reforms including a statewide mandate for police body cameras, a requirement that police intervene in and report severe misconduct by fellow officers, and personal liability for police officers who engage in willful misconduct.
Click here to see news release.


§  Sen. Picard bill would have governor, lieutenant governor run as a ticket
With Rhode Island in the midst of transitions in the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices, Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) has once again introduced legislation (2021-S 0274) to ask voters whether they wish to amend the state constitution to elect the governor and lieutenant governor together as one ticket. The bill (2021-H 5742) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland).
Click here to see news release.


§  Rep. Handy, Sen. Murray legislation would raise RI Works assistance
Backed by a coalition of community, faith and antipoverty advocates, Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) have introduced legislation (2021-S 02262021-H 5683) to provide the first rate increase in 30 years, as well as other benefit improvements, for the Rhode Island Works Program, the state’s cash assistance and work-readiness program for low-income children and their families.
Click here to see news release.


§  McNamara bill would make school social services Medicaid eligible
Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation (2021-H 5067) that would make services provided by school social workers and certified school psychologists eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement.
Click here to see news release.




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Pfizer is seeking the FDA's approval for the emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 12-15. Both the company and it's German partner BioNTech [[ bye-oh-N-tek ]] said they also plan to submit similar requests in other countries. A clinical trial found the vaccine to be safe and effective in producing strong antibody responses in that age group.       Congressional investigators are looking over documents that reportedly show efforts by the Trump administration to alter or block CDC reports regarding COVID-19. The Washington Post reports that Trump appointees within HHS privately cheered their efforts to give a more positive view of the pandemic in 2020. The report references an email calling for more attention on the number of deaths attributed to heart attacks, cancer and suicides.       The White House is defending the administration's border policies amid the surge of illegal immigrants. Speaking to reporters, Press Secretary Jen Psaki [[ SAH-kee ]] said it would be inhumane to send the kids packing. She added the administration is taking a broader view of periodic border surges and is focused on the root causes.        A semiconductor chip shortage is forcing General Motors to reduce overtime shifts at two assembly plants. The cuts will affect Flint, Michigan and Fort Wayne, Indiana plants which produce a variety of pickup models from Chevrolet and GMC brands. The cuts are to be made this weekend.       A memorial for rapper DMX is growing outside of White Plains Hospital in New York. That's where the hip-hop start died today at the age of 50. Fans placed many things like candles, balloons and champagne bottles.        President Biden is paying tribute to the late Prince Phillip. Speaking to reporters, Biden said that the Duke of Edinburgh [[ ED-in-burra ]] was a "heck of a guy" and will be missed. The husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth passed away at the age of 99.       A dog owner in Massachusetts is back with her pup following a long absence. WBZ-TV reports that the canine, named Bay, had been missing from her Framingham home since 2016. The dog's owner received a call last week from Animal Control that the dog had been found safe and sound in Needham about 10 miles away from her home.