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 http://www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease

 

§ Equality in Abortion Coverage Act becomes law
The General Assembly passed and Gov. Dan McKee signed into law the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (2023-S 00322023-H 5006) sponsored by Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket). The law will provide insurance coverage for abortion care to individuals on Medicaid as well as state employees.
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Assembly passes legislation reducing driving privilege card fees

The General Assembly passed legislation (2023-H 5780, 2023-S 0751) introduced by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket, Central Falls) and Sen. Robert Britto (D-Dist.18, East Providence, Pawtucket) that reduces the fee for an original driver privilege card. The legislation reduces the fee from $50 to $25 in order to bring the fee in line with the cost charged for renewing a driver’s license and would take effect on July 1.  The measure now moves to the governor’s desk.

Click here to see news release.

 

§ House OKs bills amending housing act, easing process of building ADUs
The House of Representatives passed two bills addressing the state’s housing crisis. The first (2023-H6081A), sponsored by Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), would amend the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act to modify and clarify the procedure for review of applications to build housing. The second (2023-H 6082Aaa), sponsored by Rep. June Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), would provide homeowners the right to develop an accessory dwelling unit within the existing footprint of their structures or on any lot larger than 20,000 square feet. Both measures now move to the Senate for consideration

Click here to see Shekarchi release.

Click here to see Speakman release.

 

§  Senate OKs bill requiring insurance coverage for diagnosing, treating infertility

The Senate passed legislation (2023-S 0107) sponsored by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) that would mandate that all insurance contracts, plans or policies provide coverage for the expense of diagnosing and treating infertility, including preimplantation genetic diagnosis in conjunction with in vitro fertilization.  The bill now heads to the House, where Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) has introduced the legislation (2023-H 5351).

Click here to see news release.

 

§  Senate passes bills requiring universal healthy free school meals

The Senate passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) and Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) that would require universal healthy free school meals at the state’s public schools. Senator Cano’s bill (2023-S 0071) would require free meals to be provided for all elementary and secondary students attending public schools, to the extent state and federal funds are available.  Senator Acosta’s bill (2023-S 0071) would require free breakfast and lunch be provided for all students. Both bills now move to the House for consideration, where Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has introduced a bill (2023-H 56396) similar to Senator Cano’s.

Click here to see news release

 

§ House OKs bill that would increase penalties for theft of catalytic converters
The House of Representatives passed legislation (2023-H 5841aa) introduced by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) that would increase the penalties for thefts of catalytic converters. It would mandate a bill of sale, eliminate cash payments and require the attorney general to suspend the license of any violator of the law. A conviction under this law would be a felony subject to fine and imprisonment.
Click here to see news release.

 

§ Legislation would prohibit incarceration of children under 14
Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown) and Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak, (D-Dist. 4, Providence) have introduced  legislation (2023-H 53592023-S 0344) that would prohibit Family Court from detaining or committing any juvenile under the age of 14 years to the training school for any offense, with exceptions for murder, first-degree sexual assault or an attempt to commit either.
Click here to see news release.

 

§ Morales bill would establish a statewide ‘Medicare for All’ healthcare system

Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence) has introduced legislation to establish a statewide universal, comprehensive single-payer health care program. The bill (2023-H 6339) would create a “Medicare-for-all” style single-payer program that would replace multiple “middlemen” insurers with a single coverage provider, the Rhode Island Comprehensive Health Insurance Program.

Click here to see news release.

 

§ Boylan introduces bill to study school lockdowns, safety drills

Rep. Jennifer Smith Boylan (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) has introduced a resolution (2023-H 6422) that would create a commission to study lockdowns, fire drills and the associated mental health supports for students. The commission would be made up of public safety officials, teachers, students, mental health professionals and legislators. It would be tasked with answering complex questions such as whether and when students should be encouraged to evacuate during lockdown events, whether advanced notice should be provided to students and/or parents prior to a lockdown drill and whether the frequency of drills should be changed.

Click here to see press release.

 

§ Lawson, Kazarian seek state funding for East Providence housing development

Sen. Valarie Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) and Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) are sponsoring a joint resolution (2023-S 09852023-H 6297) to provide state funding for a proposed housing project in East Providence. The project, called the Taunton Avenue Collaborative, would provide 160 new apartments in a vibrant and diverse community for extremely low-income households, youth aging out of foster care and low- to moderate-income families. Residents would have access to a variety of supports from area nonprofits.

Click here to see news release.

 

Former President Donald Trump is in Washington, D.C. huddling with Republican lawmakers. Trump told reporters today Republicans are unified and he expects to take back the White House in November. He said he plans to "bring common sense back to the government" and secure the southern border if he wins the election.        The Supreme Court is keeping widely used abortion pill mifepristone [[ mif-ah-pris-tone ]] available to Americans. The high court unanimously ruled that a group of anti-abortion doctors who challenged the FDA's actions to make mifepristone [[ mif-ah-pris-tone ]] more accessible did not have legal standing to sue and threw out the case. The ruling will allow the pill to be mailed to patients without an in-person doctor's visit.       Wisconsin Republicans are coming to the defense of Donald Trump after the former President allegedly criticized Milwaukee during a meeting with Congressional Republicans. Punchbowl News reported that Trump called Milwaukee a "horrible city." Wisconsin Congressman Derrick Van Orden said Trump was specifically referring to the crime rate in Milwaukee, while Representative Bryan Steil said Trump didn't say the comment at all. This comes as Milwaukee is set to host the Republican National Convention next month.       There are growing fears in the U.S. that the Israeli-Hamas war is widening. This as attacks between Israel and the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah are increasing. The Iran-backed group has been shelling Israel's northern border in retaliation for Israel's assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander. Israel has since sent fighter jets to hit "Hezbollah military structures."       A U.S. Navy submarine is now in Cuba a day after two Russian war ships arrived at the Havana Port. The U.S. Southern Command confirmed the USS Helena arrived at Guantanamo Bay Thursday. It said it's part of a routing port visit and the vessel's location and transit were previously planned. The arrival of a Russian frigate and submarine at the Havana Port has been seen as a show of force by the longtime ally of Cuba, but both the U.S. and Cuba said it posed no threat.       The Eagles are next in line to play the Sphere in Las Vegas. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will play a total of eight shows over four weekends at the cutting edge venue this fall. The residency will kick off on September 20th and end on October 19th. U2 opened the venue last year and have been followed by residencies from Phish and Dead & Company.