Legislative News – Jan. 23: Drug affordability board; Environmental action needed at every level

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Rep. McNamara introduces legislation that would establish a drug affordability board

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would create a prescription drug affordability board to protect Rhode Islanders from the high costs of prescription drug products.

Under the proposed legislation (2020-H 7121) the board would be tasked with investigating and comprehensively evaluating drug prices for Rhode Islanders and possible ways to reduce them to make them more affordable.

“With prescription drug prices at an all-time high, state government has to come up with innovative ways to rein in drug spending,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. “This board will identify when a drug’s cost could create affordability issues either for patients or Rhode Island’s health care system.  Armed with this information, the board will identify drugs that may present affordability challenges.”

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The board would consist of five members, along with alternate members, one appointed by the governor, one by the president of the Senate, one by the speaker of the House, one by the attorney general and one appointed jointly by the speaker and Senate president who would chair the board.

In addition to the board, the bill will also create a Prescription Drug Stakeholder Council, which will offer stakeholder input to guide the Board’s decision-making. The council would comprise members from various backgrounds and associations, including representatives of drug corporations, health insurance providers, healthcare advocacy groups, researchers, labor unions, doctors, nurses, dentists, hospitals, pharmacists, biotechnology companies and other stakeholders.

“The board would work in consultation with the stakeholder council to study and report on the pharmaceutical distribution and payment system,” explained Representative McNamara. “Based on that information, the board would determine whether to conduct a cost review of the drugs and determine whether it creates affordability challenges for patients and other stakeholders.”

The board would be required to report annually on the legality, obstacles, and benefits of setting upper payment limits on prescription drug products in the state; and would make recommendations for legislation necessary to make prescription drugs more affordable in Rhode Island.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester), K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and James B. Jackson (D-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry Warwick, has been referred to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

Rep. Canario is ‘severely disappointed’ in governor’s budget proposal; cites numerous tax and fee increases

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is severely disappointed with the FY 2021 budget proposal (2020-H 7171) that was recently submitted by Governor Raimondo.  In particular, Representative Canario cites the numerous tax and fee increases, several of which were rejected by the General Assembly last session.

“After reviewing this budget proposal, it appears that the word collaboration is not in the governor’s vocabulary.  We are facing over a $200 million deficit and the governor’s proposal to close this gap is filled with disastrous economic policies that the General Assembly rejected only last year, including numerous new taxes and fees, as well as several increases in existing taxes and fees,” said Representative Canario.

“Rhode Islanders are in better shape than they were a decade ago after the Great Recession, but our residents are nowhere near financially stable in their daily lives.  Most Rhode Islanders simply cannot afford to have even more money taken from their pockets and bank accounts.  Our governor likes proposing ideas that get her plenty of national press, but yet, as in years past, she fails to offer meaningful and realistic ways to pay for these initiatives.  This budget proposal is nothing more than a political document and in no way is it a good-faith attempt to fund and manage the State of Rhode Island,” said Representative Canario.

“The proposal for legalized recreational marijuana is simply the most glaring, disappointing, and insulting example of the governor’s disregard for the legislative branch.  After being told many times in public and in private that the General Assembly is not comfortable legalizing marijuana, the governor instead chose to include it in her budget anyway, adding an additional $20 million to the deficit, rather than collaborating with the General Assembly to find real solutions to the budget deficit.  Collaboration is how things get done in government, perhaps one day the governor will realize this and add the word into her vocabulary,” concluded Representative Canario.

Kislak: Environmental action needed at every level

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence) has issued the following statement:

We all must take action to protect our environment. After decades of inaction, we now need dramatic changes we need to in order to secure a future for our children and future generations on our precious planet. I also know that, as human beings, we sometimes have a difficult time addressing large, even existential, problems like the climate crisis.  However, we all must, and we must act at all levels – international, national, regional, state, local and individual.

As individuals, we can change our habits, conserve water and energy, compost, get energy audits for our homes, install solar panels, buy renewable energy, carpool, bike, and more.

On a local level, we can read and work toward fulfilling Providence’s Climate Justice Plan (link here). Other cities and towns, and our state, could also undertake a community-based approach to centering climate policy on addressing community goals and needs relating to environmental justice.

On a state level, we can pass legislation that ensures state action, accountability and transparency in energy and carbon policy. We can regulate PFAS – “forever chemicals” – in our water supply and in food packaging; enact policy that supports individual habits, like a plastic bag ban, or tax credits for solar energy; and pass legislation that enables climate resiliency in our coastal communities and our whole state. We can and must work for local transportation policy that supports train, bus, bike and pedestrian travel. 

National and regional transportation and carbon policy will be crucial to addressing climate change, as will international work to stop the fires destroying the Amazon, to keep companies from buying and cutting it down, and to address the climate change that is keeping the fires burning and causing all sorts of really weird and scary weather (dust storms! hail!) in Australia.

In short, we need to take action at all levels. You can count on me to work for our environment in the General Assembly. I also would encourage you to connect with one or more environmental groups in Rhode Island. Here is a short list of some politically active environmental groups in RI: Audubon SocietyClimate Action RIConservation Law FoundationRI Bicycle CoalitionEnvironmental Justice LeagueSunrise Movement – ProvidenceEnvironmental Council of Rhode Island (with a more complete member list of dozens of RI environmental groups).