Legislative Roundup – Jan. 8: Rep. O’Brien will reintroduce bill to arm campus police; Mattiello, Ruggerio to file bill on compassion center expansion

The following press releases were issued by the State of Rhode Island General Assembly on January 8th.

Rep. O’Brien will reintroduce original bill to arm campus police at public colleges after reading reports from CCRI and RIC

STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) will be reintroducing legislation mandating the arming of campus police officers at the state’s public colleges after reviewing reports from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the Community College of Rhode Island on the broader issues of campus policing regarding arming campus police. 

Currently, the University of Rhode Island is the only public institute of higher education that has armed its campus police officers.  URI instituted this policy in 2015.  Representative O’Brien has also noted that Brown University in Providence, a private institution, also has campus police officers that carry firearms.

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“This bill is about nothing more than the safety and protection of the students, faculty, and staff at our public colleges.  I know this is a difficult topic for some to discuss, but in a world of active shooters and terrible tragedies determined by seconds and minutes, it is completely irresponsible for us to fail our students and staff by having to rely on off-campus law enforcement if the worst case scenario should happen on our public campuses,” said Representative O’Brien.

The reports were a result of a House resolution (2019-H 5138A), sponsored by Representative O’Brien, that passed the House this past legislative session.  The original version of Representative O’Brien’s legislation (2019-H 5138) mandated the training and arming of public campus police officers and would include campus police officers under the state’s “Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.”

In their reports, both CCRI and RIC acknowledged a cost of approximately $200,000 each to train and arm their campus police officers, but, both institutions are reluctant to arm their campus police officers.  URI stated that arming their police force was the correct policy to enact in light of safety concerns and procedures.

“I would suggest that both the presidents of RIC and CCRI request the proper funding to enact this proposal when the state budget is crafted.  As a member of the House Finance Committee, I will be advocating for this funding to be included in the state budget.  We live in a dangerous world that is not getting any more safe, so a one-time cost of $400,000 is a worth-while expenditure to ensure the safety and well-being of anyone who steps on a public campus,” said Representative O’Brien.

“Although it is utterly disturbing to acknowledge, active shooter situations are not going away in our society, and most often, targets of these vile crimes are schools.  It is because of this that I believe police officers at both RIC and CCRI should be allowed to carry firearms in order to protect students, faculty, staff and the public,” said Representative O’Brien.  “This is not a political or philosophical argument, but a realization of the troubling times our country currently faces.  Total safety of the campuses is my only concern,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

Mattiello, Ruggerio to file bill on compassion center expansion

Bill addresses separation of powers issues, clarifying regulators’ authority

STATE HOUSE – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio plan to file legislation today to address separations of powers issues connected to compassion center licensing statutes and regulations.

The legislation, which both legislative leaders plan to file this afternoon, addresses the lawsuit filed by the executive branch this summer over its contention that language contained in the budget bill passed by legislators in June to expand the number of compassion centers violated separation of powers doctrine by giving legislators the power to veto related regulations created by the executive branch.

It also addresses legislative leaders’ assertion that the regulations that were subsequently proposed by the executive branch in fact constitute a separate breach of separation of powers by overstepping the authority granted to regulators under the law.

“The legislation introduced today fulfills the General Assembly’s pledge to repeal language contained in FY 2020 budget which required legislators to approve rules and regulations relating to the expansion of compassion center licenses. The General Assembly has done what it promised to do,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “However, the fact remains that the Department of Business Regulations’ proposed regulations, which must comply with the legislation, represent a blatant overreach by the executive branch. Our bill clarifies the regulatory powers granted to the executive branch regarding the expansion of compassion center licenses.”

Said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “The proposed regulations would implement limits on compassion centers, some of which were initially proposed by the administration in legislation last year, were thoroughly vetted by the Assembly, and were rejected on their merits. We didn’t punt those decisions to regulators; we decided, after due consideration, they did not create the kind of fair and appropriate system Rhode Islanders deserve. The attempt to implement these limits via regulations represents an end-run around the legislature — a separation of powers violation even as the administration had filed a lawsuit accusing the Assembly of the same thing. Our bill will put an end to all of it, making it clear where legislators have set the parameters, and letting the regulators regulate within them.”

The new legislation amends the law passed last year to allow the licensing of six new compassion centers and increase the licensing fee to $500,000 each, removing a provision that required the Assembly to approve resulting regulations developed by the executive branch.

It adds four provisions clarifying intended regulatory limits. Under the legislation, regulators would not be allowed to:

  • limit centers based on geographical zones;
  • prevent any center from growing its own supply of medical marijuana or limit by regulation the number of plants, seedlings or marijuana it may have;
  • require a market demand for new compassion centers to cultivate;
  • lower the limit on the number of patients that licensed primary caregivers are allowed to assist.

The legislative leaders said the bill is not intended to open up a debate on the merits of those specific limits, because they were already specifically discussed at length during legislative hearings. The legislation is aimed more broadly at addressing the separation-of-powers issues that have arisen in the course of implementing last year’s law.

The bill, which was developed with the consultation of Lauren E. Jones, the attorney representing the General Assembly in the lawsuit filed in Superior Court by the administration, will be given consideration by legislators early in the session, Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio said.

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