Editor's Note: This report is produced by people who work for the General Assembly. Readers are reminded that there may be more than one interpretation of the Assembly's actions.
July 2, 2018
Legislative Press Bureau at (401) 528-1743
This year at the
STATE HOUSE — Here are the highlights from news and events that took place in the General Assembly in 2018. For more information on any of these items visit http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease
PUBLIC SAFETY/ JUSTICE
· The General Assembly passed two laws to prevent gun violence and mass shootings: “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others, and a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications.
· Legislators passed “Kristen’s Law,” which will allow judges to sentence drug dealers who sell fatal doses of illicit drugs to up to life in prison.
· The legislature amended the authorization for municipalities to use speed cameras in school zones. The new law mandates more signage and would change the initial violation ticket cost from $95 to $50 for each offense. It would also be expunged after three years.
· The budget passed by the General Assembly provided $54.7 million to fully fund the second year of the phase-out of the excise tax on automobiles.
· Lawmakers voted to help members of the insolvent St. Joseph’s Health Services pension plan reach settlements in their multiple class-action lawsuits.
· Lawmakers added five years to the life of an expiring law that keeps families in their homes and avoids foreclosure through mediation.
· The General Assembly passed enabling legislation to allow public support for a new baseball stadium in downtown Pawtucket. The stadium would be the future home of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
· The General Assembly passed legislation to alter the boundaries of a parcel within the I-195 Redevelopment District. The change is necessary in order for a potential construction project to move forward.
· The 2019 budget passed by lawmakers provides $11 million in job training funds through Real Jobs Rhode Island, and continues funding for other economic development programs, including the Rebuild Rhode Island construction tax credit and the Wavemaker Fellowship program.
· Legislators restored several budget cuts to health and human service programs, including the $18 million proposed cut to programs that serve the intellectually or developmentally disabled and a $15.7 million cut to Medicaid disproportionate care. They also eliminated $9.9 million in new copays for Medicaid enrollees.
· The General Assembly approved legislation to ensure that mastectomies are covered by insurance in Rhode Island.
· Lawmakers add electronic smoking, vaping to workplace smoking ban.
· Legislators empowered patients to curb the possibility of opioid addiction by allowing for partial-fill prescriptions, creating a non-opioid directive form, funding the creation of a behavioral healthcare link for crises, allowing EMTs and other emergency responders to provide Narcan to addicts or their friends or family members, and to develop standards for co-prescribing Narcan along with opioids.
· The state budget included the voluntary extension of services up to age 21 for those who are in foster care on their 18th birthday.
· The legislature passed a law to examine the safety of Rhode Island’s schools and to ensure that school safety plans are adopted in each school department.
· Legislators prohibited the use of tanning beds by minors.
· The budget includes a $250 million bond referendum to rebuild schools across the state.
· Lawmakers agreed to provide $6 million in additional funding for the Rhode Island Promise program that allows residents two free years at Community College of Rhode Island.
· Legislators added $21.9 million in education aid, bringing it to $976.3 million this year.
· The General Assembly established the “independent provider” model of at-home care, which allows consumers to hire and manage caregivers of their choice while the state takes on certain responsibilities, such as setting caregivers’ wages, qualification standards and hours.
· The state budget bill establishes an $800,000 community senior services grant program to provide grants for senior centers and programs.
· The state budget also established the Rhode Island Aging and Disability Resource Center to assist individuals in crafting long-term care plans for themselves and family members.
· The legislature tightened the penalties for animal abuse crimes, including forbidding perpetrators from living with animals for five years for misdemeanors, 15 years for felonies. It increases the penalty for repeat convictions for animal cruelty to a maximum of six years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000.
· Lawmakers improved animal protection laws to prevent animals, including hunting dogs, from being outside in extreme temperatures without permission of an animal control officer.
· The General Assembly outlawed battery cages for egg-laying hens, effective in 2026.
· The legislature included a $47.3 million bond referendum in the budget for green economy and clean water initiatives.
· The General Assembly restructured the Coastal Resources Management Council to reflect separation of powers and better enable it to perform its duties.
· A legislative commission was approved to study the possibility of a recycling program for multi-family properties and condo complexes.
For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our Web site at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.