- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s Senate passed an amended $9.2 billion state budget plan Friday night that had no chance of passing the House, because that chamber’s members had been sent home earlier by Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

Mattiello says he ended the session when learned the Senate planned to make a last-minute change to the budget, which would block further increases in reimbursement to towns for lost car-tax revenue if state revenue drops.

The Senate voted 30-5 to pass the amended budget, which was supposed to go into effect at midnight.

Mattiello had urged the Senate to pass the original budget plan, which had already passed the House and said he has no plans to call the House back into session this summer.

No piece of legislation can be sent to the governor to be signed into law until it’s approved by both chambers.

Mattiello made his move as the session began Friday, and wished his colleagues a happy Fourth of July.

A Senate spokesman said there was significant concern in the Senate about whether Matiello’s plan to cut car taxes, which is contained in the budget, is sustainable.

Among other bills pending were a measure to take guns away from people who have domestic restraining orders and one to outlaw the use of cellphones while driving. Both the House and Senate had passed bills to mandate paid time off for workers who call in sick, but with some differences.

A look at some of the key pieces of pending legislation:

- Budget: The proposed six-year phase-out of municipal car taxes would cost the state $26 million in the upcoming fiscal year. If the state follows through with the full elimination of the taxes, it would cost an estimated $221 million a year after 2023. The budget also begins a pilot program for tuition-free community college.

- Paid Sick Days: The House on Thursday night passed a revised version of a proposal to mandate paid time off for workers who call in sick. The Senate has passed its own version of the measure. The chambers have to reconcile the differences between the two bills before legislation could be sent to the governor.

- Disarming Domestic Abusers: Under the legislation, anyone on a domestic protective order issued by a court after Saturday would have to surrender guns and wouldn’t be able to get them back while the order is in effect. The House passed the bill Monday after a lengthy debate. It was scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee on Friday and could move to the full Senate for consideration.

- No Phones While Driving: Lawmakers had been expected to approve a proposal that would outlaw the use of cellphones while driving. The full House voted in favor of the proposed ban Thursday, sending it to the Senate. The Senate passed similar legislation previously.

- Automatic Voter Registration: The Senate on Thursday passed its version of the bill to automatically register qualified voters. It had been expected to pass the House version, sending it to the governor’s desk for her consideration.

- Highway Surveillance Bill: A bill that would create a highway surveillance system to scan license plates was awaiting action in the Senate. The proposed system would be run by a private company and allow the state to use the information to fine people who don’t have car insurance. It’s raised privacy concerns.

- Disability Pensions: The full House had been expected to consider a bill that would expand the eligibility for disability pensions for firefighters by adding categories of illnesses, though not high blood pressure as originally proposed. A Senate version was scheduled for a committee hearing.

- Awaiting a Signature: Bills already sent to the governor for her signature include a measure to allow law enforcement access to an electronic database of prescription painkillers, a measure to prohibit keeping dogs outside in extreme temperatures and a measure to make it a felony to attack a food delivery driver.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide