Legislative News – Feb. 12: Banning vaping in public spaces; Extending SRO reimbursement program

02/12/2020Rep. Patricia Serpa;MEDIA ADVISORY: House Oversight Committee meeting canceled, rescheduled for March 3
02/12/2020Rep. William O’Brien;Rep. O’Brien introduces bill that extends SRO reimbursement program
02/12/2020Rep. Dennis Canario;Rep. Canario introduces bill which allows municipalities to ban vaping in public spaces

MEDIA ADVISORY: House Oversight Committee meeting canceled, rescheduled for March 3

STATE HOUSE — A meeting of the House Committee on Oversight to hear an update on the vendor that provides transportation to the elderly and Medicaid beneficiaries, which was scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, has been canceled. A new meeting has been scheduled in March.

The committee will meet Tuesday, March 3, at the rise of the House (about 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

Since Jan. 1, 2019, Missouri-based Medical Transportation Management has been responsible for coordinating transportation services for Medicaid beneficiaries and individuals over the age of 60 for non-emergency medical services. The transition has been a rocky one, with many complaints that the service has either been delayed or that drivers never showed up. Going into its second year, complaints continue and many problems have been left unresolved.

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The Oversight Committee met twice in February to review hundreds of complaints lodged against the vendor. During the hearings, it was revealed that the company would pay a $1-million penalty and agree to future monetary sanctions until all problems have been resolved. The committee met again in April, May and November to continue overseeing the improvements.

Last year, the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers investigated the company due to a complaint filed by a taxi company alleging that MTM conspired with taxi operators to operate outside of their authorized territories and charge illegal rates.

The House Oversight Committee is chaired by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Rep. O’Brien introduces bill that extends SRO reimbursement program

STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has introduced a bill (2020-H 7437) that would extend the reimbursement to school districts or municipalities for newly hired school resource officers.

The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

“As an educator, I have witnessed first-hand the immediate and beneficial effects that school resource officers have on our schools and students.  In the wake of school shooting after school shooting, it is imperative that we protect our students and staff and having SRO’s in our schools is necessary part of ensuring safety.  I applaud the Town of North Providence for taking advantage of this important cost-sharing program that will protect our community’s most-vital asset – our children,” said Representative O’Brien.

The FY 2019 budget item in Article 9 established a voluntary three-year pilot program to fund school resource officers at half the costs associated with employing new officers at public middle and high schools.  The state reimburses 50 percent of the cost, while municipalities share the rest of the cost.
In order to qualify for reimbursement, the new school resource officer must have been hired after June 30, 2019 and the officer must not be replacing a school resource officer who has since retired.

North Providence has hired several new school resource officers due to the program.

“The safety and security of our students, staff, and visitors in our schools is paramount and school resource officers are the best equipped and trained to deal with security situations.  This is an important program that will keep our schools safer, it’s as simple as that,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

Rep. Canario introduces bill which allows municipalities to ban vaping in public spaces

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) has introduced legislation (2020-H 7488) which authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances restricting vaping in public places and areas near schools, day cares and hospitals.

The bill has been referred to the House Municipal Government Committee.

“As we have done in the past with cigarettes, there are public places where second-hand smoke from vaping devices is not appropriate and this bill will allow our cities and towns to determine their own rules and regulations for public vaping.  As the science behind vaping is still being studied and our children are being enticed by this addictive new device, it is imperative that we protect individuals in public spaces that have no interest in vaping or breathing in vaping byproducts,” said Representative Canario.

The ordinances, regulations, or restrictions on vaping products and nicotine vaping products that municipalities may establish could include the restriction of using these products in public areas, sidewalks and enclosures, areas around schools, day care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals.

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