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    Legislative Update from your
    Chamber of Commerce Coalition

     

    RI House Passes Budget

     

    The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a FY 2016 budget of $8.7 billion in record time and unanimously.  The debate that lasted roughly 2 ½ hours left many long time lobbyists and legislators scratching their heads.  The House passed the state pension settlement with no debate; passed the Governor’s economic development tools that she wanted however with some oversight provisions built in by the House; and endorsed the Governor’s proposal to expand the definition of hotels to include all rentals that are less than 30 days.  As the last article was passed at 7:16, the members gave themselves a standing ovation to celebrate the speedy adoption of the budget.  The Senate is expected to pass the budget this week. The final wrap up of the 2015 session should be June 23rd or 24th.

     

     

    Expansion of Hotel Definition – Effective JULY 1, 2015

     

    The budget passed by the legislature included the Governor’s proposal to expand the definition of “hotel” to include bed and breakfasts, Airbnb rooms, and anyone else that rents a dwelling for less than 30 days to transient customers.  THIS NEW TAX BECOMES EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2015.  That means the Division of Taxation has less than two weeks to promulgate emergency regulations and for individuals/companies renting their homes or rooms to register with the Division and begin collecting the appropriate tax.  All hotels under the expanded definition will be required to collect the sales tax of 7% on the rental units.  The 5% hotel tax will also be applied unless the rental is a house, condominium “or other resident dwelling” if it is rented in its entirety.  After early discussion with the Division of Taxation, it appears that any deposits or monies paid to the owner PRIOR to July 1, 2015 will not be taxed; but owners accepting any vacation rents received AFTER July 1, 2015 will have to assess the appropriate tax amount.  If you own a bed and breakfast or rent rooms or a house to vacationers, please watch your mail and email for updates on how to comply with the new law!

     

    Senate Puts Forward New Toll Initiative

    With the end of session looming, the Governor’s toll initiative was dead – alive – dead – and now possibly alive again in the form of S.997 and H.6321.  The bill will be heard June 17th by the Senate Finance Committee.  The proposal authorizes the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) to bond up to $500 million for bridge reconstruction and repair, and up to $100 million for debt service, installation of toll facilities and other associated costs.  To pay for the bond, DOT would have the authority to establish tolls on any bridge in RI which will be paid by large commercial trucks, defined as Class 8 (single trailer, 3-4 axles) up to Class 13 (7 or more axle multi-trailer trucks).  The toll would be set by DOT after a public hearing and the completion of a cost benefit analysis.  DOT also would set fines for those who fail to pay the toll with an addition penalty of $3000.00 for those who fail to pay the initial penalty within a prescribed timeframe.  If the owner still fails to pay, the registration is rescinded.  The bill calls for a limit to one toll payment per toll facility per day in each direction, and a daily maximum toll payment equal to the amount of tolls that would be paid for a border to border trip.  The boarder trip is defined as a trip from Connecticut on Route 95 to Massachusetts on Route 95.

     

    S.997 calls for a myriad of “economic development programs” to offset the payment of tolls.  A T.F. Green fund for “Shippers” would be available.  A program for Quonset “Shippers” is in the bill.  The maximum anyone could receive from these programs can’t exceed 70% of the amount actually paid in tolls.  A motor fuel tax rebate program for Class 8- Class 13 vehicles is created, with the maximum amount one could claim would equal the amount paid in tax.  The bill includes a vehicle registration rebate program for Class 8 – Class 13 vehicles which is taken as an income tax credit.

     

    Senate Bill No. 997  SUB AAN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- BRIDGE AND TURNPIKE AUTHORITY -- TOLLS  was passed by the Senate Finance Committee and is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate June 23rd

     

    House Bill No. 6321, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES -- BRIDGE AND TURNPIKE AUTHORITY – TOLLS will be heard in the House Finance Committee June 22nd at 3:00 p.m.

     

     

    Below is a list of legislation that will be active this week.  The list contains bill numbers, links to the legislation, summary explanations and the Chamber’s position if applicable. 

     

    Senate Bill No. 697, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS – PUBLIC MOTOR VEHICLES {LC2116/1} (Expands the definition of public motor vehicles to include transportation services licensed home care nursing care providers and facilities, assisted living providers, licensed adult day services as well as programs for inclusive care for the elderly.) This bill is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate Commerce Committee June 23rd.  The Chamber has no position but is providing it for informational purposes.

     

    Senate Bill No. 696, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS – TAXICABS AND LIMITED PUBLIC MOTOR VEHICLES {LC1969/1} (Eliminates requirement that taxicabs can be operated only by owners or employees during the first twelve (12) month period that the vehicle is in service and allows for leasing of such vehicles.) This bill and its House companion will be voted on in the Senate Commerce Committee June 23rd.  The Chamber has no position but is providing it for informational purposes.

     

    Senate Bill No. 1005, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS -

    TRANSPORTATION NETWORK COMPANY SERVICES {LC2915/1} (Establishes state regulation over transportation network companies, transportation network services, and transportation network drivers as well as the revision of taxi-cab or limited public motor coach regulations.)  This bill will be voted on in the Senate Commerce Committee June 23rd.  The Chamber has no position but is providing it for informational purposes.

    House Bill No. 5364, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS – MINIMUM WAGE - GRATUITIES (Incrementally raises the two dollar eighty-nine cents ($2.89) per hour subminimum wage for tipped workers between the years 2016 and 2020.) H.5364 is scheduled to be voted on June 23rd.  The Chamber opposes this bill.  Please contact your legislator and ask them to vote against this bill.