An Update from the State House
The Revenue Estimating conference finished its work last week and concluded that the state will have a reported $37 million in additional revenue over what was originally predicted. With that said however, some expenses were also higher for the year, leaving legislators with some tough decisions to make. The House, Senate and Governor’s office have begun pre-negotiations on the FY2017 budget. The goal is to release a budget in a couple weeks, giving the General Assembly the opportunity to wrap up its legislative work the middle of June. Those are just targets, but it is doable.
Patent Troll Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee
H.7425, An Act Relating to Commercial Law, passed the House Judiciary Committee last Tuesday. This bill, filed at the request of the Attorney General, increases the penalties against those who file frivolous patent infringement lawsuits against businesses. A number of Rhode Island businesses have been victims of this practice. Unfortunately, those that have received the threatening letters – many times by fax - find it easier and cheaper to pay the settlement offer than to research the origins of the technology they are using and fight in court. A majority of cases have been filed against business that use technology but are not technology companies themselves. H.7425 would require the person making the accusation to include in a letter, the patent number, the name and address of the patent owner, and factual allegations outlining the specifics of the infringement. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText16/HouseText16/H7425.pdf
House Finance Committee to Hear Energy Bills
On Tuesday, May 17th, the House Finance Committee will take testimony on two bills focused on making funds available for renewable energy projects. H.7070, An Act Relating to Public Utilities and Carriers-Green Energy Revolving Fund, calls for creating available loans from $2,500 to $40,000. The funds could be used for any project that qualifies under the state’s PACE program such as the replacement of inefficient heating and cooling systems, appliances, windows, etc. The borrower could be a municipality, corporation or an individual. H.7262, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Solar Industry Economic Investment Act, is similar to H.7070 except that it focuses solely on the solar industry. The bill establishes a revolving loan fund to make monies available to business with less than 500 employees for the installation of solar panels. H.7262 also provides for a 10% tax credit to solar installation companies if their employees work at least 30 hours a week and the wages are equal to or greater than 125% of the average annual wage paid by all employers in the state.
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. 8193, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS - CONTRACTORS' BONDS (Expands the penalties which public works contractors can be assessed for failing to properly pay persons for the services they provide to them.)
House Bill No. 8203, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT (Makes changes to the workers' compensation laws including increasing daily pay for members of the medical advisory board and changing the mileage rate that work-injured employees receive when they attend medical exams and rehabilitation, to the IRS rate.)
Senate Bill No. 2955, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RESILIENT RHODE ISLAND ACT OF 2014 - CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATING COUNCIL (Directs the climate change coordinating council to study a carbon pricing program.)
Senate Bill No. 2966, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION -- HISTORIC PRESERVATION TAX CREDITS 2013 (Provides that applicants for historic tax credits shall have ninety (90) days after the date of the commission's written determination certifying the rehabilitation to pay the required three percent (3%) non-refundable fee to the division of taxation.)