An Update from the State House


    House Labor Committee Hearing

    As mentioned in last week’s UTD, the House Labor Committee was scheduled to hear testimony on two bills aimed at changing the employer/employee relationship by requiring employers to provide 14 day written work schedule notices, retention pay, flexible work schedule requests, payment for work outside of the written schedule provided, etc.  The two bills (H.7515 and H.7634) were postponed and will be heard at a later date.  The committee did take testimony on H.7505 which prohibits employers from deducting any amount from their employees' wages except for items specifically stated in state or federal law; and would ban employers from deducting from wages amounts for spoilage, breakage, cash shortages, losses, fines or penalties for tardiness, misconduct or quitting by an employee without notice.  H.7505 would not allow an employer to deduct – even with employee written authorization – health insurance copays, uniform costs, gym memberships, PAC contributions, child care costs etc.  The Chamber testified against H.7505.  The proponents of the bill did not intent to capture so many benefits provided to employees through payroll deductions; and they agreed to work with the Chamber to re-draft the bill’s language.


    What’s in the Governor’s Budget Proposal

    Over the following weeks, “Under The Dome” will feature overviews of sections of the Governor’s budget.  In this edition, we look at Articles 5, 7, 12, 13 and 16.


    Article 5, Relating to Capital Development Program

    In Article 5, the Governor proposes to place six (6) bond questions on the ballot in the upcoming election.  Added together, the questions seek $257.5 million in new bonding authority.  The projects are:

    1.      An addition to the school of engineering Bliss Hall on the URI Campus ($25.5 million) and $20.0 million to establish an innovation center (a university/business collaborative effort for research and development) at a Rhode Island based university = $45.5 million

    2.      Repairs and modernization work at Quonset = $70.0 million

    3.      Improvements to state parks, bike paths, brownsfield remediation, and open space aquisition (including the completion of the Blackstone River Bikeway) = $35.0 million

    4.      Affordable housing programs (existing building renovations, new construction, foreclosure assistance) = $40 million

    5.      Repair, upgrade and modernize public schools = $40.0 million

    6.      Construction of a new Veterans Home, and renovation of existing facilities = $27.0 million



    Article 7, Related to Medicaid Reform Act

    This Article authorizes the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to undertake various reforms within the Medicaid program:

    1.       Suspension of the payment rate increase to nursing facilities scheduled for October 1, 2016.

    2.      Implementation of long-term care beneficiary liability collections

    3.      Conversion to a fixed administrative rate for Medicaid managed care plans

    4.      Establishment of a wage pass-through program for certain home health professionals

    5.      Expedited eligibility procedures for community-based long term services and supports

    6.      Establishment of care management models promoting the “health home” concept

    7.      Authorizes Elderly Affairs to provide dementia care services through its co-pay program to individuals with incomes up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level



    Article 12, Relating to Revenue – Cigarette Taxes

    Article 12 increases the excise tax on cigarettes by $0.25 per pack of twenty cigarettes.  The additional tax and associated sales taxes is projected to generate $7.1 million in additional revenue.  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText16/HouseText16/Article-012.pdf


    Article 13, Relating to Making Work Pay

    This articles raises the minimum wage from $9.60 to $10.10 per hour effective January 1, 2017.  If passed, this increase would mark the fifth year in a row that the minimum wage has been increased by the state.   http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText16/HouseText16/Article-013.pdf


    Article 16, Relating to Making it Easier to do Business in Rhode Island

    Article 16 addresses Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI).  Under the proposed article, the UI tax would go from rate schedule I to a modified rate schedule H, saving businesses $30.0 million a year beginning in calendar year 2017.  The savings are projected to increase to $40.0 million a year starting in calendar year 2019.  The Article also establishes a TDI fraud program and reduces the time allowable for an employee to file a TDI claim from 1 year to 90 days.  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText16/HouseText16/Article-016.pdf


    Below is a list of new legislation that was filed this week.  The list contains bill numbers, links to the legislation, and summary explanations. 


    House Bill No. 7621AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS - PUBLIC MOTOR VEHICLES (Prohibits the operator of a public motor vehicle from transporting any passenger unless the pickup time is prearranged at least two (2) hours before the actual pickup.)


    House Bill No. 7664AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- PUBLIC HEALTH AND WORKPLACE SAFETY ACT (Prohibits the use of electronic nicotine-delivery system products in enclosed public places and enclosed facilities within places of employment.)


    House Bill No. 7687AN ACT RELATING TO COMMERCIAL LAW--GENERAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS -- NON-COMPETITION AGREEMENTS (Declares non-competition agreements unenforceable in the state unless integral to the sale of a business interest or the dissolution of a partnership or the withdrawal of a partner from a partnership.)


    House Bill No. 7694AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR PAY ACT (Increases the scope of protections and remedies available to employees who are discriminated against in their wages due to their sex.)


    House Bill No. 7707AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES - THE IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION ACT OF 2015 (Reduces the time a person or government agency who stores personal information has to disclose a breach of that information security to 14 days; breaches affecting more than 500 people must be reported to the AG and major credit bureaus within 24 hrs.)


    House Bill No. 7752AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS - TAXATION AND REGULATION OF MARIJUANA (Removes the state's prohibition on adults using, possessing, and cultivating marijuana for personal use. Establishes a system of regulated marijuana retail distribution to adults 21 and older and imposes taxes at both the wholesale and retail level.)