Legislative News – January 21: Expanding broadbad; Firearms; Vicious Dog; Medical Marijuana

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Rep. Vella-Wilkinson introduces legislation to create a nine-member Veterans Oversight Commission

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would create a nine-member permanent joint military and veterans’ affairs oversight commission.

The bill (2020-H 7175) would establish the commission for the purpose of overseeing operations of Rhode Island Office of Veterans’ Affairs and fiscal oversight of military affairs and defense.

“The issues facing veterans are many,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson, a retired naval officer. “Homelessness, medical issues, poverty and unemployment continue to plague those who served their country gallantly and honorably. We have a duty and obligation to ensure that veterans receive proper medical care, prompt and courteous service at the Veterans Home and that veterans have an opportunity to thrive in Rhode Island. This commission, which would include veterans among its membership, would go a long way toward doing just that.”

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The panel would include four members from the House of Representatives, three from the Senate and two veterans to be appointed by the governor. The commission would oversee all operations of the Rhode Island Office of Veterans’ Affairs, exercise fiscal oversight of the air and army national guard, and oversee matters related to veteran services to include operation of  the veterans’ cemetery and Rhode Island veterans’ home.

The panel would coordinate and consult with the United States Veterans Administration.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) and Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Senate Judiciary Committee meets today to hear bills on 3D printed guns and medical marijuana

STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee will be meeting today, Tuesday, January 21 at the RISE of the Senate (approximately 4:30 p.m.) in Room 313 of the State House to hear and/or consider two pieces of legislation that relate to 3D printed firearms and the state’s medical marijuana program.

The first bill (2020-S 2004), sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), 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 committee will be looking at a proposed substitute (2020-S 2004A) of the legislation.

The second bill (2020-S 2006), sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), establishes certain limitations on regulations promulgated by the Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation in regard to medical marijuana.

Ruggiero seeks more vigorous effort to expand broadband

STATE HOUSE – In an effort to advance high-speed internet connectivity across Rhode Island, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has introduced legislation calling for the creation of state entities to take charge of spreading broadband access.

Legislation she has introduced calls for the appointment of a statewide broadband coordinator as well as the creation of a Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council.

Rhode Island has a fiber-optic broadband network, Beacon 2.0, completed in August, 2013, that connects many state institutions including URI, RIC and the State Data Center, 39 school districts, 16 library facilities and the state’s three largest hospital consortia with a fiber optic backbone. But when the federal grant that helped fund its construction was exhausted, Rhode Island ceased having a state entity in charge of expanding access to fiber optic technology. Representative Ruggiero’s legislation seeks to ensure the state aggressively seeks opportunities and funding for expansion.

“High-speed internet is an absolute necessity to our economy here in Rhode Island. Our economy is rooted in information — technology, innovation, education — and we need to have the bandwidth to support it statewide. That’s how we will retain and attract business. Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that do Rhode Island is one of only two states in the country that has not committed any resources to monitoring trends, accessing federal funds, broadband policy and improving connectivity.  My bill ensures that this important policy work is being done in Rhode Island,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).

The House resolution (2020-H 7096) requests that the governor designate a statewide broadband coordinator dedicated to the oversight of broadband accessibility and internet connectivity for the 21st century and who would be responsible for accessing federal dollars for economic development, broadband policy and coordinating any future funding efforts.

It also calls for the Department of Administration and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to establish the 10-member Rhode Island Broadband Advisory Council to assist the broadband coordinator. The council would be made up of volunteer stakeholders from Commerce, the League of Cities and Towns, Infrastructure Bank, Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network (OSHEAN), Connect Greater Newport and internet service providers.   

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Judiciary Committee meets Wednesday to hear three bills relating to firearms

STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee will be meeting Wednesday, January 22 at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House to hear three pieces of legislation relating to firearms.

The first bill (2020-H 7101), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), establishes a statewide public safety computer aided dispatch records management system.

The second bill (2020-H 7102), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), 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 third bill (2020-H 7103A), sponsored by Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence), provides that applications to purchase firearms be sent by the seller to the police department of the city or town where the purchaser lives. 

Media Advisory: Commission studying vicious dog hearing process to meet

STATE HOUSE – A legislative commission to study potential reform of Rhode Island’s vicious dog laws will meet tomorrow for a report from representatives of animal rescue agencies who serve on the panel.

The meeting is scheduled Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The meeting will include an overview of sub-group meetings from Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals President Joe Warzycha and Potter League for Animals Executive Director Brad Shear.

The commission, led by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), is conducting a comprehensive review and is to make recommendations regarding the regulation of vicious dogs and any administrative hearings pertaining to them.

Media Advisory: Valverde, Cassar to announce bill on abortion access for Medicaid enrollees, state employees

STATE HOUSE – At an event marking the 47th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision tomorrow, Sen. Bridget Valverde and Rep. Liana Cassar will announce legislation concerning abortion access for state employees and Medicaid enrollees.

The legislators plan to announce the legislation at an event called “Closing the gaps in access to abortion,” organized by The Womxn Project tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. in the State House rotunda.

House Health, Education and Welfare Committee to hear presentation on P-TECH learning initiative

STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare is scheduled to meet Thursday to hear a presentation on the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) learning initiative.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 23, at 3 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The committee will hear a presentation on the initiative by Grace Suh, vice president of education and corporate responsibility for IBM North America. Hemang Dave, chief innovation officer for IBM North America, will present the innovations that are coming to Rhode Island.

The P-TECH initiative, codeveloped by IBM, is a new approach to education that blends high school, community college and workplace skills in one. These innovative public schools span grades 9 to 14. Within six-years, students graduate with their high school diplomas and no-cost associate degrees in a STEM discipline, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step into well paying, high potential jobs.

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