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

 

§  House approves three housing bills; part of Speaker’s housing package

The House passed three bills that are part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) 14-bill package of legislation to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis. The first bill (2023-H 6058A), sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), would allow developers to build more units per acre if a certain percentage of those units are set aside for low- and moderate-income housing. The second bill (2023-H 6059A), sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), would amend zoning standards and make changes to dimensional variance standards to spur more housing development in the state. The third bill (2023-H 6061Aaa), also sponsored by Representative Craven, would amend subdivision and land development permits and processes to provide more predictability and to standardize processes throughout the state.  All three bills now head to the Senate for consideration.

Click here to see Abney release.

Click here to see Craven release.

 

§  House passes McGaw bill requiring no-cost EpiPen coverage
The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Michelle McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) to require health insurers in Rhode Island to cover the full cost of life-saving epinephrine injectors, commonly known by the brand name EpiPen. The legislation (2023-H 5176A), which now goes to the Senate, is aimed at preventing costs from being an obstacle to those whose lives depend on the device for management of anaphylactic reactions.

Click here to see news release.

§  Senate OKs legislation to include climate change in economic planning
The Senate unanimously approved legislation (2023-S 0062) sponsored by Sen. Pamela J. Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) to add data about climate change, sea level rise and coastal resiliency to the list of matters that should be considered by the Rhode Island Commerce and the Division of Planning as part of the creation of the state’s long-term economic development vision and policy and strategic planning.
Click here to see news release.

§  House approves bill to ensure appointment of CRMC hearing officers
The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) to enable the Coastal Resources Management Council’s executive director to ensure the regulatory agency has the professional staff it needs to make sound determinations on coastal development proposals. The legislation (2023-H 5779A), which now goes to the Senate, empowers CRMC’s executive director to hire a hearing officer for the agency if the position is left vacant for 90 days or more.
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Senate passes measure to create special education ombud
The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) to help families navigate challenges in getting special educational needs met at school. The bill (2023-S 0063) creates an independent ombud office for special education to ensure school districts meet the standards required to comply with individualized education programs for students with disabilities. The legislation now goes to the House, where Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is sponsoring companion legislation (2023-H 5166).
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Senate OKs bill requiring driver education to include dangers of driving high

The Senate passed legislation (2023-S 0667) introduced by Sen. David P. Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Lincoln, North Providence) that would require driver education courses to include a program about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana. The measure now moves to the House, where similar legislation (2023-H 5768) has been introduced by Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter).

Click here to see news release.

 

§  House OKs bill allowing low-speed vehicles on R.I. roads

The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) to establish laws providing for the use of electric low-speed vehicles in Rhode Island. The bill (2023-H 5457A) would allow electric low-speed vehicles with a top speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour to be registered and driven on roads with speed limits that do not exceed 35 miles per hour. The vehicles — which are allowed in 47 other states — are a green transportation option for short trips, such as local delivery and use for college campuses, hospitality and tourism. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) is sponsoring companion legislation (2023-S 0419).
Click here to see news release.

 

§  Senate passes Mack legislation establishing Juneteenth as state holiday

The Senate approved legislation (2023-S 0444) sponsored by Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence) that would establish Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a state holiday, to be held every year on June 19. The federal government first recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021. The bill now heads to the House for consideration where Rep. Brianna E. Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence, Pawtucket) has introduced the legislation (2023-H 5380).

Click here to see news release.

 

§  Speaker Shekarchi introduces legislation to create life science hub

Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) introduced legislation to create a life science hub in Rhode Island. The bill (2023-H 6426) would create a new quasi-public entity known as the Rhode Island Life Sciences Hub (RILSH), which would evaluate and potentially invest in Rhode Island-based companies in the life sciences sector that meet vigorous eligibility criteria and promote economic growth and workforce development. RILSH would aim to strengthen the life science sector in Rhode Island and encourage collaboration and innovation among public, private and academic institutions.

Click here to see news release.

 

§  Senators Gu and Ujifusa organize AAPI celebration at State House

Sen. Linda Ujifusa (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) and Sen. Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown), the first Asian Americans elected to the Rhode Island state legislature, gathered community leaders from across the state for a celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The event was emceed by Newport Mayor Xaykham Khamsyvoravong, who is Lao-American, and the first Asian American mayor of that city. There were performances by musicians and dancers from across the Rhode Island Asian American Pacific Islander community.

Click here to see news release.

 

Texas is getting slammed by severe weather as the first named storm of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season makes landfall. The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Alberto formed over the Western Gulf of Mexico, and is already making an impact with heavy rain in Southern Texas. Coastal towns are being urged to prepare for heavy rain, flooding and possible tornadoes today and tomorrow.       Firefighters are steadily containing the largest wildfire currently burning in California. Containment of the nearly 16-thousand-acre Post Fire burning in northern Los Angeles County and part of Ventura County has increased eight percent overnight to 39 percent. The fire started close to the 5 Freeway in Gorman on Saturday afternoon. One commercial structure was destroyed by fire and there has been one injury.       The attorney for Justin Timberlake says he's looking forward to representing the pop star following his DWI arrest. Timberlake was arrested early Tuesday morning in the Hamptons on New York's Long Island. In a statement to Page Six, Edward Burke Junior said, "We look forward to vigorously defending Mr. Timberlake against these allegations," adding, "He will have a lot to say at the appropriate time."       A growing number of Democrats plan to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress. Progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren said this week she plans to boycott the address next month in protest of Netanyahu's handling of the war in Gaza. She told reporters that Netanyahu has created a "humanitarian catastrophe." Senator Bernie Sanders, Representatives Ro Khanna, Jim Clyburn, and dozens of other progressive lawmakers have also announced they will not attend.       A groundbreaking study of nearly one million people suggests those who feel happy have more career success. Social scientists and happiness experts say that unless you're using money to buy experiences, donate, or get extra time, it can't buy you happiness. Studies consistently reveal that those who feel optimistic and happy going into a job have more career success. According to experts, happy people make more money, have better relationships and are more successful in life.       An Oregon summer-league baseball team is now the first sports team in the U.S. to sell cannabis-based refreshments at games. The seltzer drinks will be available in passion fruit and lemon flavors. They'll be available for fans 21 and over. The Pickles say the Portland Parks and Recreation department gave them the thumbs up.