Rhode Island State House Tuesday, May 4, 2021Tuesday, May 4, 2021 4pm Rhode Island House Legislation, which raises the rate to $15 over four years, heads to Senate, which has approved companion measure Bill to eliminate subminimum wage for disabled also OK’d The House today passed legislation introduced by Rep. David A. Bennett to increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from $11.50 to $15 over a four-year period.
Published on May 4, 2021
By Uprise RI
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Legislation, which raises the rate to $15 over four years, heads to Senate, which has approved companion measure
Bill to eliminate subminimum wage for disabled also OK’d
The House today passed legislation introduced by Rep. David A. Bennett to increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from $11.50 to $15 over a four-year period.
The bill (2021-H 5130A) would increase the minimum wage to $12.25 on Jan. 1, 2022; raise it to $13 on Jan. 1, 2023; raise it to $14 on Jan. 1, 2024; and finally to $15 on Jan. 1, 2025.
The legislation will now go to the Senate, which in February passed companion legislation (2021-S 0001aa) sponsored by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
“At last, Rhode Island is on the path toward breaking the cycle of poverty for those at the bottom of the wage spectrum. Minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation over the decades, and our neighboring states have already taken this step toward making it closer to a living wage,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “This legislation is a long time coming, the result of many years of advocacy by many on behalf of working people. I’m very grateful to my colleagues for moving this bill forward today for the sake of hardworking Rhode Islanders, many of whom do critical work in health care and other essential services, and who were asked to put their own lives at risk during the worst of the pandemic. Today, we are committing to a more livable wage for our constituents, because working families deserve the dignity of being able to support themselves on their wages.”
The minimum wage in Rhode Island was last raised to $11.50 on Oct. 1, 2020. In Massachusetts, the minimum wage is currently $13.50, but is scheduled to rise to $15 by Jan. 1, 2023. Connecticut’s minimum wage goes to $13 in August, and is slated to rise to $15 on June 1, 2023.
Representative Bennett added that minimum wage increases, particularly those aimed at bringing Rhode Island’s wage up to the level of surrounding states, help employees without putting their companies at a competitive disadvantage, since they apply to all employers. Raising employees’ salaries can also help taxpayers by reducing low-earning workers’ reliance on government assistance.
Representative Bennett, who is chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, has been the primary sponsor of every law enacted to raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage since 2012, when minimum wage was $7.40.
The House also approved a separate measure (2021-H 5851) sponsored by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi to repeal a law that allows employers to pay workers with disabilities below the minimum wage.
The legislation eliminates a practice that resulted in a federal Department of Justice lawsuit against Rhode Island over the rights of intellectually or developmentally disabled Rhode Islanders. In 2014, the state entered a settlement that, among other things, ended the use of sheltered workshops where disabled individuals in day programs performed work for wages significantly below the minimum wage. But the state law allowing subminimum wage for disabled people remains on the books.
“Disabled individuals are entitled to the same rights, protections and dignity as all Rhode Islanders. Of course they should be protected by our minimum wage laws. While I’m relieved that state day programs for the disabled stopped engaging in this practice a few years ago, there’s no excuse for any law that allows anyone to take advantage of disabled people and pay them less than other workers. We must repeal this law to ensure that no one abuses disabled Rhode Islanders in this way ever again,” said Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).
Rep. Slater’s nursing home staffing bill passes the House
Rep. Scott A. Slater’s (D-Dist. 10, Providence) legislation (2021-H 5012Aaa) which sets minimum staffing standards for nursing home care passed the House of Representatives tonight. The bill is meant to address an ongoing crisis in nursing home staffing that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This bill is about getting our nursing home patients the quality care that they need and deserve. Our nursing home system was already facing enormous challenges and problems before COVID-19 and the pandemic has only made these issues much worse. In order for our patients to be treated and cared for properly, these changes to the law must be made,” said Representative Slater.
The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 3.58 hours of resident care per day by January 1, 2022 and beginning on January 1, 2023, 3.81 hours of resident care per day would be required.
Rhode Island ranks 41st in the nation in the number of the average hours of care nursing home residents receive, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rhode Island has one of the lowest average resident-care hours per day of any New England state.
The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for direct caregivers to recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce. Short staffing drives high turnover in nursing homes. Not only does high turnover create undue stress and burnout for remaining staff, it diverts valuable resources to recruit, orient and train new employees and increases reliance on overtime and agency staff. Low wages are a significant driver of the staffing crisis. The median wage for a CNA in Rhode Island is less than $15, and $1/hour lower than the median wage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The legislation will also invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex health care needs.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration where Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) has sponsored the legislation (2021-S 0002). (From a press release)
House OKs Donovan bill to ban intentional release of balloons
The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan to protect the environment and wildlife by prohibiting the intentional release of large groups of balloons.
The legislation would ban intentional, simultaneous releases of 10 or more balloons into the air.
All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as biodegradable, end up as litter on our waterways and landscapes. Animals, attracted by their vibrant colors and shapes, mistake them for food, causing injury or death to countless sea and land creatures each year. Balloons are also a nuisance to commercial fishermen and can even cause power outages when they tangle with power lines.
According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 503 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during the September 2019 International Coastal Cleanup.
Representative Donovan, an avid kayaker who represents a coastal district, has witnessed these dangers firsthand. A few years ago, while kayaking on the Sakonnet River off Portsmouth with a friend, she encountered a seagull entangled in the string of a balloon. She captured the gull, which was injured and suffering, and used some nail clippers she had with her to free it from the string.
“Balloons may conjure up sweet images of childhood innocence, and the sight of them rising into the sky may seem wondrous and beautiful. But what goes up must come down, and when balloons come down, they become a particularly insidious kind of litter. They often end up in the water, and are among the types of plastic litter that kill and painfully maim fish, birds and other wildlife,” said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth). “Releasing balloons is harmful. While I’m grateful that these events have become rarer in recent years as awareness of their impact has spread, they should be made illegal to ensure that they become a thing of the past. Dumping hazardous plastic into the environment is not a suitable celebration of anything in 2021.”
The bill (2021-H 5376A), which Representative Donovan has introduced since 2019, provides exceptions for scientific or meteorological balloon launches with government permission, hot air balloon launches and indoor releases. Each violation would be punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense and $250 for subsequent ones. The bill would take effect Nov. 1.
The bill has widespread support from environmental groups across Rhode Island and fishermen’s associations. In 2018, the New Shoreham Town Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of balloons on Block Island as a means of addressing this issue. Representative Donovan’s bill would not prohibit balloon sales, only the outdoor release of balloons.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate, where Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) is sponsoring companion legislation (2021-S 0038). (From a press release)
- H5012A by Slater ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – NURSING HOME STAFFING AND QUALITY CARE ACT
- H5376A by Donovan ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – BALLOONS
- H6233 by Morgan ENTITLED, AN ACT TO VACATE THE FORFEITURE OR REVOCATION OF THE CHARTER OF RIVER BEND CONDOMINIUM HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION, INC.
- S0811 by Coyne ENTITLED, AN ACT TO VACATE THE FORFEITURE OR REVOCATION OF THE CHARTER OF MOTHERS’ MORNING OUT, LLC
- S0816 by Seveney ENTITLED, AN ACT TO VACATE THE FORFEITURE OR REVOCATION OF THE CHARTER OF FRAJEELAI, LLC
Senate passes President Ruggerio’s Plastic Waste Reduction Act
The Senate today passed the Plastic Waste Reduction Act that was introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).
The legislation (2021-S 0037) is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.
“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” said President Ruggerio. “Several Rhode Island jurisdictions have already enacted similar policies to promote and encourage the use of recyclable bags, and I think it’s appropriate to be consistent throughout the state.”
Plastics that enter the marine environment break down through wave action and sunlight into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life, putting Rhode Island’s fishing industries and aquatic ecosystems at risks. The legislation also acknowledges that plastic bags and thin plastic films are the predominant contaminant of recycling loads in Rhode Island, and that single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale.
Under the legislation, retail sales establishments would be prohibited from making available any single-use plastic checkout bag or any paper checkout bag that is not a recyclable paper bag or a paper carryout bag at restaurants.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2021-H 5358) has been introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown). (From a press release)
Senate passes Quezada legislation requiring insurance, Medicaid coverage of doula services
The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) that would make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs.
The bill (2021-S 0484) would provide for medical assistance health care for expectant mothers and would establish medical assistance coverage and reimbursement rates for perinatal doula services. The purpose of the bill is to achieve healthier outcomes for women and babies, particularly for black women, who experience significantly higher rates of death or injury during childbirth than white women do.
“There is no question that this bill will save lives and be good for women of color in Rhode Island,” said Senator Quezada, “but it also makes strong economic sense. Women who use doulas often require fewer expensive medical interventions during childbirth, which will save them, the hospitals and the insurance companies money and make the childbirth process much easier for all involved.”
Doulas are trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to women during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few postpartum weeks. They assist in making women as comfortable as possible during birth, providing help with breathing techniques, massage and advice, and can help advocate for the woman during the birth. Births assisted by doulas have significantly lower rates of cesarean section, with one study showing a 39 percent reduction.
“Studies have shown that doulas greatly improve health outcomes for women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth,” said Senator Quezada. “Their assistance can prevent complications and reduce the cesarean and preterm rates. Ultimately, they are a win-win because they make childbirth safer while saving health care dollars.”
Under the bill, services from a trained, qualified doula would be eligible for coverage through private insurance and Medicaid, including the state medical assistance program, for up to $1,500 per pregnancy. The bill, which would take effect July 1, 2022, would also set industry standards and create a statewide registry of doulas to assist women in connecting with qualified professionals, while simultaneously helping to assure that doulas are fairly compensated for their work.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2021-H 5929) has been introduced by Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). (From a press release)
- S0037 by Ruggerio ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION ACT
- S0155 by McCaffrey ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS – SINGLE-USE PLASTIC STRAWS
- S0706 by Ruggerio ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION – PROPERTY SUBJECT TO TAXATION – EXEMPTIONS
- S0305 by Miller ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – ALCOHOLISM
- S0484 by Quezada ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HUMAN SERVICES – MEDICAL ASSISTANCE – PERINATAL DOULA SERVICES
- S0651 by Coyne ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – THE BREAST CANCER ACT
- S0713 by Goodwin ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – OFFICE OF STATE MEDICAL EXAMINERS
- S0065A by Miller ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS – UNIFORM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT – OFFENSES AND PENALTIES
- S0318A by Archambault ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES – PASSING, USE OF LANES, AND RULES OF THE ROAD
- S0518 by McCaffrey ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES – GENERAL PROVISIONS
- S0676 by Euer ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES – RESPONSIBILITY OF OWNERS OF RENTAL VEHICLES
- S0681 by F Lombardi ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HIGHWAYS – FREEWAYS
- S0848 by Goodwin ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION COMMEMORATING MAY OF 2021, AS “NATIONAL SKIN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH” IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
- S0849 by Goodwin ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION CELEBRATING MAY 2ND THROUGH MAY 8TH, 2021, AS “NATIONAL CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES WEEK” IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
- S0853 by Goldin ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION EXPRESSING DEEPEST CONDOLENCES ON THE PASSING OF VARTAN GREGORIAN, NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED HISTORIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST
- S0854 by Picard ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION PROCLAIMING APRIL 25, 2021, TO BE “PARENTAL ALIENATION AWARENESS DAY” IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
- S0855 by Lombardo ENTITLED, AN ACT TO VACATE THE FORFEITURE OR REVOCATION OF THE CHARTER OF PAINT & COLOR, INC.
- S0856 by Cano ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION PROCLAIMING APRIL OF 2021, AS “ARAB AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH” IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
- S0857 by Euer ENTITLED, SENATE RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING APRIL OF 2021 AS “DONATE LIFE MONTH” IN THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
- H6137 by Kazarian ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
- H6138 by Solomon ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
- H6158 by Shekarchi ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
- H6176 by Potter ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
- H6177 by Ackerman ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
- H6178 by Shekarchi ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SOLEMNIZATION OF MARRIAGES
5pm (Rise) House Committee on Corporations
SCHEDULED FOR CONSIDERATION
- H6051 by Kennedy, Abney, Azzinaro, Edwards, Solomon, Shanley, Vella-Wilkinson ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO AERONAUTICS – RHODE ISLAND T.F. GREEN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (Renames the state airport in Warwick from “TF Green state airport” to “Rhode Island TF Green International Airport.”)
- S0519 by McCaffrey, Archambault, Kallman, Anderson ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO AERONAUTICS – RHODE ISLAND T.F. GREEN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (Renames the state airport in Warwick from “TF Green state airport” to “Rhode Island TF Green International Airport.”)
- S0142 by Gallo, Ciccone, Pearson, Sosnowski ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES – REGULATION OF SALES (Allows the sale of alcoholic beverages on New Year’s Day by retail Class A licensees.)
SCHEDULED FOR HEARING AND/OR CONSIDERATION
- H6265 (Secretary of State) by Amore ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS, AND PARTNERSHIPS – UNIFORM LIMITED PARTNERSHIP ACT (Enacts the Rhode Island Limited Partnership Act to govern the law of limited partnerships in this state and repeal chapter 12 of title 7 entitled “Limited Partnerships”.)
- H6266 by Solomon ENTITLED, AN ACT TO VACATE THE FORFEITURE OR REVOCATION OF THE CHARTER OF M.E. O’BRIEN & SONS, INC.
- H5680 by McNamara ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY – STATE BUILDING CODE (Increases the levy on total construction costs that cities and towns may charge for building permits and directs that 50% each of the levy be transmitted monthly to the department of labor and training for workforce training.)
5pm (Rise) House Committee on Finance
- Public Higher Education
- Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
5pm (Rise) Senate Committee on Finance
SCHEDULED FOR CONSIDERATION
- H6037 by Kazarian, Amore ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO A TAX AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF EAST PROVIDENCE AND EXXONMOBIL OIL CORPORATION (Provides for a tax treaty between the city of East Providence and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation subject to the ratification of the East Providence city council.)
SCHEDULED FOR HEARING
- H6122 (Governor) by Abney ENTITLED, AN ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE STATE FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2022
Department of Administration: FY2021 Supplemental and FY2022 Budgets
- FY2021 Article 1, Section 5: RICAP Repayment Delay
- Article 2, Sections 4-6: State Funds
Public Utilities Commission: FY2021 Supplemental and FY2022 Budgets
- Article 8: Public Utilities and Carriers
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