April 9, 2023 Letter

Dear Neighbors:

For those of you who observe Holy Week or Passover, I hope you find meaning and fulfillment during these holidays. They mark our change of seasons to springtime’s renewal, which can brighten and inspire all of us. In this week’s letter, I will describe the public bills I introduced as lead sponsor in this year’s legislative session. I have grouped the bills by subject matter:

A.       Education

Bill S-190 would require collective bargaining agreements entered into by the Providence School Department during the State takeover to be publicly vetted and approved by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Bill No. S-481 would restore to the Providence School Board, during the State takeover, oversight authority with regard to senior administrative appointments and the establishment of policy.

B.       Environment

Bill No. S-465 would direct the Public Utilities Commission to open a proceeding to establish tariff rates for microgrid services. (In other jurisdictions, electricity consumers can combine to form microgrids, a community that is largely self-sufficient in its electricity use.)

Bill No. S-467 would require the Department of Environmental Management to develop rules and regulations to limit the sale (by January 1, 2025) and use (by January 1, 2028) of zero-emission lawn care devices, coupled with a rebate program to offset some of the expense of conversion..

Bill No. S-513 would authorize the appropriation of $1.5 million to the Office of Energy Resources to fund grants for solar carport (i.e. arrays of solar cells placed in a structure above a parking lot).

Bill No. S-515 would authorize the appropriation of $100,000 to the Public Utilities Commission to provide technical support for the development of a microgrid tariff (as proposed in Bill No. S-465 above).  

Bill No. S-520 would authorize an appropriation of $1 million to the Office of Energy Resources to fund a rebate program for any municipality that enacts a local ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers.

C.       Public Safety

Bill S-361 would establish a set of civil penalties (and, for repeat offenders, a criminal misdemeanor) for people who ride ATV’s illegally on city streets.

Bill No. S-363 would authorize municipalities to enact ordinances to regulate the use of firearms, where these local ordinances supplemented (and did not reduce) the state’s current regulatory program.

Bill No. S-509 would clarify the authority of municipalities to regulate, through their zoning ordinance, the location of short-term rental housing through a hosting platform, such as that offered through AirBnB.

D.       Transportation

Bill No. S-785 would appropriate 15% of gasoline tax revenues to public works departments of cities and towns, based on a formula developed by the Department of Transportation.

Bill No. S-807 would grant the automobile dealer registration board authority, after finding misconduct by a licensed dealer, to award the customer harmed by the dealer additional compensation beyond restitution.

E.       Other Policy Areas

Bill S-271 would authorize an appropriation of $1 million to the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities to fund grants to Rhode Island community cultural organizations.

Bill S-362 would authorize medical researchers to gain access to de-identified treatment records of patients provided that the researchers follow the protocols defined in federal regulations.

Bill No. S-767 would require the public posting of financial information related to the expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act funds by school districts and municipal governments.  

In addition to these public bills, I have introduced legislation in the form of (1) resolutions to provide public recognition to people who passed away, (2) local matters at the request of the City Council and (3) bills requested by State agencies.  

If you have questions about a particular bill, please send me an email, and I will be happy to discuss further.

The General Assembly will out of session next week, so I do not expect to send you a letter next Sunday. Instead, I expect to send my next letter on Sunday, April 23. In the meantime, I wish you all the best.