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PSN on July 7, 2008 - 8:39am
The Rhode Island General Assembly adjourned after lawmakers reached agreement on a $6.9 billion state budget
which, among other things, closes a $422 million deficit for the next
fiscal year. Overall the Rhode Island legislative session ended in
mix results, with Governor Carcieri vetoing some important foreclosure
and environmental legislation. In fact, over a four-day period last
week the Republican Governor vetoed 49 of the bills
approved late last month before the Democrat-dominated Assembly
adjourned. The legislature may, if they choose, hold a special session
before January to rescue the swath of bills.
Foreclosure Relief: Lawmakers’ introduced dozens or more foreclosure-related bills this session, aimed at cracking down on giant out-of-state banks and mortgage companies.
The Mortgage Foreclosure and Sale Act (S2057) ensures that municipalities get the money they are owed for property taxes and utilities on foreclosed properties. The act requires the foreclosure deed, which legally transfers the property, must be filed within 45 days of a foreclosure auction or sale. That way, cities and towns are not delayed in collecting property taxes, water charges or other fees owed because of delays in filing the foreclosure deed. Additionally, to ease the burden of foreclosures on condominium associations, legislators approved an amendment to the condo law (H7512) which allows condo associations to recoup foreclosure costs through a six-month priority lien.
Environment: The General Assembly has approved a four-bill package containing major recycling initiatives that will increase environmental quality in the state.
- H8297 moves the state towards providing a sustainable method for collecting beverage containers for recycling.
- S2797 requires, beginning July 1, 2012, that every city or town that enters into a contract with the Rhode Island resource recovery corporation to dispose of solid waste, recycle a minimum of thirty-five percent (35%) and divert a minimum of fifty percent (50%) of its solid waste. The bill also requires commercial establishments with 50 or more employees to contract for recycling services.
- The “Electronic Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling Act”? (S2631) would expand the provisions governing the disposal of electronic products in the state.
- While S2853 would require the Rhode Island resource recovery corporation to recycle yard waste materials at the highest and best use. It would also ban the disposal of yard waste at the central landfill as of Jan. 1, 2009.
Clean Energy: Additionally, Rhode Island legislators introduced important renewable energy legislation.
- The Renewable Energy Investment Coordination Act (H7806 / S2852) would coordinate all of the state’s policies, priorities and investments to promote the development of renewable energy.
- S2851 addresses net-metering, or the off setting of utility costs of small energy producers by the amount of energy that they produce.
- S2850 requires existing state buildings to purchase a percentage of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Health Care: S2484 is one of eight bills that compromised Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts Healthy Rhode Island Reform Act of 2008. The bill would establish a 5-year strategic plan for the reform and development of initiatives to enhance the systems of chronic care management, primary care, patient self-management, health system technology, and the development and use of outcome measures, reporting requirements and reimbursement systems in Rhode Island””with the goal of statewide participation by 2010.
Budget Reform: S2661 will promote greater public disclosure and transparency for certain tax credits, requiring businesses receiving tax credits or other financial incentives to prove through detailed reporting that they are living up to their job creation promises.
Miscellaneous: Under S2881, the Department of Administration will set up a committee on state employee transportation. The committee’s goal is to develop a plan that gives state employees incentives to reduce vehicle miles driven to work. The committee will consider the implementation of carpool, telecommuting, guaranteed-ride-home, bike-to-work and walk-to-work programs.
S2450 establishes the Community College of Rhode Island 21st Century Workforce Commission. The Commission will recommend specific actions to strengthen CCRI’s position as a key institution in Rhode Island’s effort to create a 21st century workforce prepared for the high-wage job opportunities created by knowledge economy companies.
Blocked Bills: S2059 which would have established annual increases in the state’s minimum wage, every January 1, and tie those hikes to the Consumer Price Index, passed the Senate but did not make it out of the House.
In addition, Governor Carcieri vetoed a number of important bills:
- The Rhode Island Foreclosed Property Upkeep Act (H7327) would have required that any financial institution that purchases a foreclosed property post a bond with the municipality for 25 percent of the property’s assessed value to correct any code violations if the owner fails to do so.
- S2849 was a key part of a multi-bill package designed to encourage development of renewable energy projects in Rhode Island. The bill would have helped to promote private financing of large renewable energy projects through a long-term commitment that the energy output be purchased by National Grid. It would have been privately managed, with state oversight by the Public Utilities Commission to ensure ratepayer protection.
- S3014 would have required the dismissal of any probation violation that is based on a new criminal charge for which the defendant is not convicted within a reasonable period of time. People serving probation or suspended sentences would have no longer be sent to prison for violations for which they are not convicted.
- S2112 would have committed Rhode Island to the National Popular Vote compact that would assign participating states electoral votes in the Presidential race to the winner of the popular vote nationwide.