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  • Under the Dome is a government affairs update brought to you during the Rhode Island General Assembly session by the Chamber of Commerce Coalition. Each week, the Chamber Coalition will bring you legislative and administration items of interest including legislation that has been introduced, administrative and regulatory updates, legislative committee hearings, budget reports and more.

    Remember: The Chamber of Commerce Coalition is your voice at the Rhode Island State House. If you have any concerns, questions or comments, please feel free to contact David Carlin, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce and lobbyist for the Chamber Coalition, at (401) 334-1000 ext. 107 or by email at dcarlin@nrichamber.com.


  • March 10, 2014


    What are the top three issues affecting your business that your Chamber Coalition represented you on at the State House last week?

     

     

    1. Senate bill numbers 2249 and 2250

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2249.pdf (Link to first bill)

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2250.pdf (Link to second bill)

    Both bills are relating to LABOR - MINIMUM WAGES

    The first bill was introduced by Senators Lynch, Miller, Metts, Pearson and Satchell

    The first piece of legislation would provide an increase in the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2015 and would continue raising the minimum wage each January 1st until January 1, 2017, at

     which time the minimum wage would be increased automatically each year using an index.

    The Chamber Coalition opposes this legislation. (The minimum wage was increased to $8.00 per hour just a little over two months ago.) In particular, the Chamber Coalition is very concerned about automatically increasing the minimum wage by tying it to an index.

    The second bill was introduced by Senators Raptakis, Ciccone, Sheehan, Walaska and McCaffrey

    Although similar to the first bill, this bill would require an increase in the minimum wage each January 1st to be calculated by using an index. The Chamber Coalition also opposes this legislation.
    Both bills were heard by the Senate Labor Committee and have been held for further study.

    2. Senate bill number 2232

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2232.pdf (Link to bill)

    This bill is related to COURTS AND CIVIL PROCEDURE--PROCEDURE GENERALLY--JUDGMENTS, ORDERS AND DECREES -- INTEREST ON JUDGMENTS

    The bill was introduced by Senator Miller

    The bill would provide that interest on judgments would accrue from the date of the filing of the civil action, not the date the cause of action occurred.

    The Chamber Coalition supports this responsible tort reform legislation. Many lawsuits have lingered for a great deal of time during the judicial process, thereby subjecting civil defendants (often business entities) to extra interest that can be very expensive.

    3. House bill number 7478

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/HouseText14/H7478.pdf (Link to bill)

    This bill is related to DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICES

    The bill was introduced by Representatives Lima, O`Neill, and Jacquard

    This legislation would repeal current law and allow class action lawsuits to be brought against ANY businesses that are regulated in any way by the state.

    The Chamber Coalition opposes this legislation. Current state law prohibits bringing class action suits against regulated entities. This bill is “an old favorite” of trial lawyers and will lead to expensive, unnecessary and very burdensome legal liability for a great number of businesses. (Financial institutions, insurance companies, gaming venues, pharmacies, public utilities, communications providers, health care facilities and many, many more.)

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    Two identical Senate and House bills (see below links) have been submitted that would grant jurisdiction to the workers' compensation court to decide whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor in a number of various labor contexts.

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2409.pdf

    http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/HouseText14/H7277.pdf

    These bills have not been heard by a legislative committee yet, but because they have been filed the Chamber Coalition would like to provide our summary about independent contractor classification vs. employee classification:

    From the Chamber Coalition’s point of view, the major issue with [employee misclassification] legislation is that it creates a presumption that everybody is an employee and sets a new standard to determine whether they are actually an independent contractor. Why do we need a new standard? Particularly one that in the Chamber Coalition’s  view makes it more difficult for the business community to contract with independent contractors and makes it more difficult for independent contractors themselves. We don’t need another impediment here in RI for business. A stringent “employee misclassification” law was enacted in Massachusetts a few years ago and has all but eliminated the use of independent contractors by business. It’s also drastically reduced some independent contractors’ business. The Chamber Coalition  recognizes that abuse could be a problem in certain circumstances, (flagrant violators not

     

    paying withholding taxes, unemployment, workers compensation, etc.) however, the Chamber Coalition doesn’t believe the proposed legislation is the answer. The Chamber believes that stricter civil and criminal enforcement and other avenues are more appropriate. For example, why not strengthen the civil penalties? Perhaps even criminalize certain flagrant violations? (Huge difference between flagrant behavior and honest oversight.)

    If proposed legislation concerning employee definitions pass as written, everyone from our state’s largest employers (who might use independent contractors for anything from removal of snow to the installation of phone lines) to the state’s many sole proprietorships, will have one more impediment to engaging in business. We don’t want what happened in Massachusetts to happen in Rhode Island. Massachusetts enacted an independent contractor law that creates the presumption of employee status (vs. independent contractor) for wage law, and requires businesses to meet a three part test to prove otherwise. As referenced in one report, “the Massachusetts law makes the test essentially impossible to meet for a company with workers providing services that are within the company’s usual course of business. The law also broadens the applicability, increases its penalties for noncompliance, and makes it a more attractive vehicle for private lawsuits, including class actions.” There has to be a better alternative. In the Chamber Coalition’s opinion, we don’t need the force of law to help “level the playing field” for certain (largely labor shops) businesses who may feel they have lost out on an opportunity to earn additional business.
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    Where will your Chamber Coalition be at the State House this week? (Schedule to date)

    Date

    Committee

    Time

    Place

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    House Committee on Corporations

    Rise of the House

    Room 203 - State House

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    2:00 P.M.

    Room 35 - State House

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    Rise of the House

    Room 35 - State House

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    House Committee on Labor

    Rise of the House

    Room 205 - State House

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    Senate Committee on Judiciary

    3:00 PM

    Room 313 - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    1:00 PM

    Room 35 - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    Rise of the House

    Room 35 - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    House Committee on Judiciary

    Rise of the House

    Room 205 - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    House Committee on Small Business

    Rise of the House

    House Lounge - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Senate Committee on Finance

    Rise of the Senate

    Room 313 - State House

    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Senate Committee on Labor

    Rise of the Senate

    Room 212 - State House

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    1:00 PM

    Room 35 - State House

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    House Committee on Finance

    Rise of the House

    Room 35 - State House

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    House Committee on Small Business

    Rise of the House

    Room 101 - State House

     

     


     

    Remember: The Chamber of Commerce Coalition is your voice at the Rhode Island State House. If you have any concerns, questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact David Carlin, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Northern RI Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce Coalition coordinator and lobbyist at (401) 334-1000 ext. 107 or by email at dcarlin@nrichamber.com