Legislative News – Jan. 27: Funding of school trips; banning intentional release of balloons; Plastic Waste Reduction Act

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Here’s the latest news and updates out of the General Assembly today, Monday, January 27th. This story will be updated if more items come in.

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Health, Education and Welfare Committee to hear bills on the funding of school field trips

STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear several bills related to schools, including two on the funding of school field trips.

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The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on legislation (2020-H 7069) introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) that would allow a school district to assess or request a contribution of money from a student or the student’s parent or legal guardian to pay, in whole or in part, for the cost of district-sponsored field trips, dances, and clubs.

The committee will also hear testimony on a bill (2020-H 7043) submitted by House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry) that would allow parents to be asked for funding of school sponsored field trips as long as the district provides funding to any student whose family cannot afford the trip.

The committee will also hear testimony on the following bills

  • 2020-H 7048 — This bill, introduced by Rep. John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence), would require the Department of Education to develop and make available for school use a mental health curriculum. Schools would be required to provide four hours of mental health instruction to seventh grade students.
  • 2020-H 7071 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), would direct the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a review and revision of the statewide bullying policy.
  • 2020-H 7111 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), would provide that every superintendent of schools creates an annual report on the progress and status of academic achievement of foster care youth.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is chaired by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Finance Committee meets on Tuesday to hear motion picture tax credit bill

STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, January 28 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 35 of the State House to hear testimony on a bill that relates to the state’s motion picture production tax credit program.

The bill (2020-H 7247), sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), authorizes the film office director to waive the primary locations within the state requirement for any feature film or television production spending a minimum of $10,000,000 in qualified expenditures.

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Judiciary Committee meets twice this week to vote on medical marijuana and gun bills and to hear testimony on a variety of legislation

STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting twice this week to vote on three bills and to hear testimony on several other different pieces of legislation.

On Tuesday, January 28 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House, the Judiciary Committee will consider a bill (2020-H 7013), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), which establishes certain limitations on regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation in regard to medical marijuana.

The committee will also consider legislation (2020-H 7102A), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), which prohibits the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3D printed firearms.

The last bill (2020-H 7103A) to be considered by the committee, sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), would provide that applications to purchase certain firearms be sent by the seller of the firearm to the police department of the city or town in which the purchaser of the firearms has his or her residence and would provide for the use of electronic mail in the forwarding of the application.

On Wednesday, January 29 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 205 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony on the following pieces of legislation:

  • 2020-H 7086, sponsored by Representative Serpa, enables innocent persons who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime to petition the presiding justice of the superior court for an award of compensation and damages.
  • 2020-H 7148, sponsored by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), creates the Joint Committee of the Repealer to compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations, and executive orders received from citizens, businesses, and government agencies.
  • 2020-H 7210, sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), prohibits any development of land contiguous to the State House unless approved by the General Assembly.
  • 2020-H 7092, sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), allows a person who has been convicted on the basis, in whole or in part, on scientific evidence that has been found or otherwise determined to be discredited by the scientific community, eligible to seek post-conviction relief on that ground.

Donovan bill would ban intentional release of balloons

STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on January 28 after 4:30 pm on legislation introduced by Representative Susan Donovan.  The legislation attempts to protect the environment and wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air.

Balloons not only pose a significant threat to wildlife, they are a nuisance to commercial fishermen and cause dangerous power outages. Most recently on January 12 of this year, a stray mylar balloon caused a power outage that left over 2.500 customers without electricity.

All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as biodegradable end up as litter on our waterways and landscapes. Animals, attracted by their vibrant colors and shapes, mistake them for food causing injury or death to countless sea and land creatures each year. 

According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 737 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during its statewide cleanup in September 2018.  Dead sea creatures continually wash up on our shores, their stomachs filled with plastic debris or bodies tangled in the strings of released balloons.

The bill (2020-H 7261), which is modeled after legislation proposed in New Jersey, would prohibit any intentional release of balloons, except for scientific or meteorological purposes with government permission, hot air balloon launches and indoor releases. Each violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 per offense, although releases of multiple balloons at once would be considered a single offense.

The bill has widespread support from environmental groups across Rhode Island and Fishermen’s Associations.  Norbert Stamps, who supports the legislation, is Vice President of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, Executive Board member of the Commercial Fishermen’s Research Foundation, Board Member of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine and past president of the RI Lobstermen’s Association.

In 2018, the New Shoreham Town Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of balloons on Block Island as a means of addressing this issue. Representative Donovan’s bill would not prohibit balloon sales, only the outdoor release of balloons.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee to hear testimony on Plastic Waste Reduction Act

STATE HOUSE — The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is scheduled to meet Wednesday to hear testimony and potentially vote on legislation relating to plastic bag use.

 The meeting will take place Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the rise of the Senate (about 5 p.m.) in Room 211 on the second floor of the State House.

The committee will hear testimony on the Plastic Waste Reduction Act (2020-S 2003), introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), that would reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture is chaired by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

MEDIA ADVISORY: Senate to vote on 3-D, ghost gun ban tomorrow

STATE HOUSE — The Senate is scheduled to vote on legislation that would ban 3-D printed guns during its session tomorrow.

The Senate is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in its chamber on the second floor of the State House.

The bill (2020-S 2004A), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), would prohibit the manufacturing, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, or transfer of any ghost gun or firearm that is undetectable by metal detectors commonly used at airports and public buildings including 3-D-printed firearms.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Special legislative task force to study Rhode Island’s Education Funding Formula to meet to finalize report

STATE HOUSE — A special legislative task force charged with making a comprehensive study of the state’s education funding formula will convene Tuesday to discuss and adopt its final report.

The commission will meet Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

After opening remarks by the task force chairman, Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the commission will discuss a draft of its final report, and finally adopt the official version.

The commission was charged with making a comprehensive study of the funding formula and to report on its findings and recommendations to the Senate.

Rep. Vella-Wilkinson bill would require witnesses to take oath before testifying before General Assembly

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would require witnesses offering testimony to General Assembly committees to be sworn in.

The bill (2020-H 7298) would require all witnesses who are representatives of a state department or agency appearing in their official capacity or any expert witness who is testifying before the General Assembly or any committee to be sworn before testifying. Anyone testifying falsely would be guilty of perjury before the General Assembly.

“The testimony we receive from experts and agents of state government is very serious,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Lawmakers rely on that testimony and the information we receive to make decisions about bills that will have a profound impact on the people of Rhode Island. It’s not just idle opinion, and it should be taken very seriously.”

Witnesses would be required to declare that they will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation.

Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), who cosponsored the bill, said, “Telling the truth the first time around always helps to better understand the situation and helps to properly resolve it in a timely, professional and respectful manner.  This bill will ensure such truth is presented to the committees, allowing the legislature to make informed decisions on the bills before us.”

The legislation, which is also cosponsored by Representatives Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) and David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.