Rhode Island lawmakers return to work in rare fall session
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers are returning Tuesday to work on bills that were caught in legislative limbo when the General Assembly abruptly adjourned. The session ended in June amid a budget dispute. They will tackle unresolved issues including paid sick days and adding federal health care protections to state law.
A look at what lawmakers are considering during the rare fall session:
PAID SICK DAYS
Legislative leaders have said their top priorities for September include a proposal to mandate paid time off for workers who call in sick. The state House of Representatives and Senate, both heavily Democratic, have passed versions of the proposal. The chambers have to reconcile the differences between the bills before legislation can be sent to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who calls the issue a top priority.
DISARMING DOMESTIC ABUSERS
Both chambers have also passed versions of a proposal to require anyone subject to a domestic protective order issued by a court to surrender guns. Legislative leaders have also said they plan to reconcile minor differences to move this legislation forward. Raimondo says she supports it.
PROBATION AND PAROLE REFORM
A package of bills aims to save money and make communities safer by offering such services as drug treatment in place of incarceration. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has said the legislation has drawn a lot of attention. It has already passed the Senate, so his chamber will consider the bills and he expects them to pass. It also has support from the governor. “We keep too many people on probation and parole,” Raimondo says. “We don’t do enough to address the mental health issues of people and they wind up incarcerated.”
Labor leaders want the General Assembly to override Raimondo’s veto of a union-backed measure to extend public employee labor contract agreements after they’ve expired. It passed both chambers overwhelmingly, but it’s unclear whether lawmakers are going to override the veto.
The House plans to take up a bill pushed by the good government group Common Cause that would allow the state Board of Elections to perform post-election audits of paper ballots as a way to ensure voting machines have not been hacked. The board supports the bill, which has passed the Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee held a series of hearings on a plan to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has said he is aiming for a November vote.
Another Senate priority is a bill to put into state law protections that currently exist through the federal Affordable Care Act. The move would prevent exclusions for pre-existing conditions and allow people up to the age of 26 to stay on a parent’s policy, for example.
The House is considering legislation to monitor the impact of phasing out the car tax. The budget was hung up over a disagreement between the chambers over details of phasing out the tax. Legislative leaders struck a deal to consider legislation separately to monitor the impact. The Senate approved it in August.