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    A Legislative Update from your
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition

     

    Here's what’s happening at the State House

     

    The RI General Assembly is taking its annual spring recess this week. As it is each year, the break takes place during school vacation week. Last Thursday was the last full day for the General Assembly until Tuesday, April 29th. Actually, the RI Senate decided to shorten its legislative week last week, meeting only on Tuesday and Wednesday. There were no committee hearings on Thursday for the Senate nor was there a Senate session. The House, however, did meet as normal during the week –both in session and in committee hearings.

    From the Chamber Coalition’s legislative advocacy point of view, the big news of the week came last Tuesday afternoon, prior to House and Senate business for the day. Word was spreading through the State House about the RI Department of Revenue income and other tax collections report for the month of March. (The most recent data available.) The numbers in the report were dramatically less than what the House, Senate and Governor’s office budget officials had counted on. The state collected only $39 million in income tax for March and expectations were that the number would be about $53 million. That’s $14 million less than predicted in one revenue category alone. Overall state tax collections (from most all sources) totaled a little over $300 million for March and that number was also less than forecast. In fact, it was about 10% less.

    These numbers are important for the Chamber Coalition because we are advocating for a number of tax policy reforms, workforce training and education delivery changes and other important economic development initiatives. If the trend the state faces is collection of less revenue than forecast, legislative leaders and the Governor will have even more difficult choices to make as to what priorities survive in the FY 2015 budget. As the Chamber Coalition has previously reported, the state already faces a number of expenditures that were either not included in or not funded to the necessary level in the budget for the next fiscal year. (Expenses like certain infrastructure concerns; I.E. the Sakonnet River Bridge upkeep, state employee pay increases recently negotiated, state funded obligations for Obamacare in RI after Jan 1, 2015, etc.) For the full revenue report, click here.

     


     

    The Chamber Coalition of course also provided our positions on a number of pieces of legislation that were heard in legislative committee hearings last week. The following bills with links provided, explanations of the proposals and our positions were our main focus for the week:


    Senate Bill 2457
    Introduced by Senators Felag, Sosnowski, Lynch, Bates, Goodwin
    AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES ACT (This act would align the review of administrative rules with the refiling of rules and regulations process.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition supports

    Senate Bill 2480
    Introduced by Senators Lynch, Felag, Bates, Conley, Miller
    AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- REGULATORY FAIRNESS IN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES (This act would amend the process for submission of economic impact statements, and eliminate a number of exclusions which are set forth in the existing statute.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition supports

    Senate Bill 2858
    Introduced by Senators Lynch, Walaska, Goodwin, Ruggerio, Lombardo
    AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT - RHODE ISLAND REGULATORY REFORM ACT (Authorizes the office of regulatory reform to review state and local regulatory and permitting processes and provide online maps, flow charts, and other visualizations.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition supports

    Senate Bill 2779 (Duplicate House legislation, H 7982 is below)
    Introduced by Senators Gallo, Ruggerio, Miller, Archambault, Goldin
    AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (This act would expand state labor law –similar to the 2013 expansion of TDI- regarding employer/employee relationships to standards uncovered by the FLSA.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition opposes

    House Bill 7547
    Introduced by Representatives Shekarchi, McNamara, Bennett, Almeida, Williams
    AN ACT RELATING TO SALES AND USE TAXES - LIABILITY AND COMPUTATION (This act would establish certain presumptions concerning the use of electricity, gas or other fuel furnished by a public utility for the purpose of computing sales and use taxes.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition supports

    House Bill 7751
    Introduced by Representatives Slater, Tanzi, Diaz, Blazejewski
    AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - PERSONAL INCOME TAX (This act would reduce the RI earned income tax credit from 25% to 20% of the federal earned income credit and increases the refundable earned credit allowed from 15% to 100% of the amount by which the RI earned income credit exceeds the RI income tax.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition supports

    Senate Bill 2511
    Introduced by Senators Goldin, Lynch, Cool Rumsey
    AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- INDIVIDUAL HEALTHCARE COVERAGE (This act requires all Rhode Island adults to obtain and maintain health insurance and imposes tax penalties for non-compliance.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition opposes

    Senate Bill 2533
    Introduced by Senators Goldin, Nesselbush, Cool Rumsey, Conley, Miller
    AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY - THE RHODE ISLAND HEALTHCARE AUTHORITY (This act would establish the parameters and requirements for “single payer” health insurance in the state, monitored by a new entity, the Rhode Island healthcare authority.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition opposes

    House Bill 7982 (Duplicate Senate legislation, S 2779 is above)
    Introduced by Representatives Coderre, Cimini, Blazejewski, Williams, Ajello
    AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (This act would expand state labor law –similar to the 2013 expansion of TDI- regarding employer/employee relationships to standards uncovered by the FLSA.)
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition opposes

    Senate Bill 2484
    Introduced by Senator Felag
    AN ACT AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- EQUITABLE FUNDING FOR ESSENTIAL HEALTH SERVICES (This act would establish funding requirements for child and adult immunization programs and contributions to be made by health care insurers.)
    The Chamber of Commerce Coalition did not offer support or opposition to this legislation but we are very closely monitoring the bill and any potential amendments or other developments. Much more to come in the weeks ahead on this proposal.

    House Bill 7277
    Introduced by Representatives Ucci, Corvese, Williams, Melo, Blazejewski
    AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- EMPLOYEE CLASSIFICATION
    This legislation that the Chamber Coalition strongly opposes, which would re-define who is and isn’t an independent contractor in the state, was supposed to be heard last Thursday in the House Labor Committee, but was withdrawn at the sponsor’s request.

     


     

    Please note as well:

    A new date for the annual Chamber of Commerce Coalition Legislative Reception. As you know, we needed to postpone the original date (last Thursday, April 17th) because the RI Senate was not in session. The new date for the reception will be Thursday, May 15th from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm. As always, the reception will be held at the RI State House in the rotunda area just outside of the Governor’s State Room. The event cost will be $15 and as a reminder, complimentary food and drinks are provided as part of the admission cost and so is free valet parking in front of the State House.

    There will be more to follow in the coming weeks, but please spread the word about the new date, time and details as often as you can. It’s crucial that we have great attendance so that legislators can hear from all of us in the business community about our priorities for this legislative year. Thank you for all your support and understanding.

     


     

    Finally, the Chamber Coalition would normally give you a look at the legislative committee calendar for the week ahead and what hearings we are involved with. But as mentioned earlier, The RI General Assembly is taking its annual spring recess this week and as such there is no legislative calendar. The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, April 29th.

     


     

    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