Under The Dome – April 17, 2017

An Update from the State House

 Last week ended “phase two” of the legislative session. Most bills are filed, a majority of the legislation has received a first hearing, and the General Assembly is now out for the week on April vacation break.  Session will resume April 25th; and “phase three” will begin.  The May Revenue Estimating Conference is usually held the first week of May.  This is when all three branches of government will meet, debate and reach a conclusion as to how much money the state has in revenue, as well as how much the program caseloads are costing the state.  Once those numbers are determined, the budget negotiations begin and the fight for passage of individual bills heightens.  Because the legislature is on legislative break this week, “Under the Dome” will not be published next week.


Paid Sick Leave Bill Gets Senate Hearing – Your Action Needed

Last Wednesday, the Senate Labor Committee heard testimony from proponents and opponents of the paid sick leave bill – S.290 which requires every employer to provide paid sick and family leave to employees.  While members of the business community, including the Chamber, pointed out the broad-reaching aspects of the bill’s language, there were only a couple senators that expressed concerns over potential harm to the business community.  Please contact your state senator to let them know you oppose the passage of S.290.  The leave accrues at 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to a yearly maximum of 56 hours.  The leave can be taken after the employee completes 90 days on the job.  The leave can be used for the employee’s illness, illness of a parent, child, sibling, or anyone the employee has “an affinity” to which could mean friend.  Leave can also be used for preventative care or domestic abuse issues – including stalking.  An employee should notify the employer if it is reasonably possible, but employers cannot ask for proof of illness or domestic violence issues until the employee has been absent for 72 consecutive hours.  The employer must hold the employee’s job for those three days.  This is sometimes referred to as “No call, no show, no problem.” 


Marijuana Discussion Continues

 The House Judiciary Committee endured another very long night listening to advocates and opponents of the legalization of marijuana.  H.5555 legalizes recreational marijuana and establishes a system of marijuana growing, processing, and distribution.  H.5551 creates a 15 member commission to review and make recommendations on the effects of legalizing marijuana to the General Assembly by March 1, 2018.  Both bills were held for further study which keeps them alive through the remainder of the session.  According to testimony, about 17,000 Rhode Islanders already have medical marijuana cards.  The police chiefs association submitted a document over 30 pages long that detailed specific cases where marijuana use has resulted in direct harm, sometimes death.  Advocates pointed to medical benefits from the use of the drug, the higher arrest rate of minorities for marijuana use and the similarities between marijuana and alcohol.  The Chamber testified against H.5555 citing a lack of protections for employers concerning workers’ compensation protection, lack of language ensuring employees cannot collect unemployment if terminated for use of the drug, dram shop issues, and liability for employees driving while high.   


New Bill Takes on Temp Agency/Customer Relationship…And Others

Senator Calkin (D-Warwick) filed a new bill – S.771, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Wages (see link below).  This bill appears to pierce the relationship between temporary employment agencies and their customers, but also affects subcontractors and general contractors.  S.771 creates a definition for “Labor contractor” to include any person or entity that provides another company with “employees, independent contractors, subcontractors or workers of any kind to perform labor or services.”  No written contract is required to establish this relationship to the Labor contractor.  S.771 then defines “Lead entity” as a person or entity that accepts labor or services from someone through a “Lead contractor.”  The real crux of the bill is the following:  “A lead entity shall share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor for any violation of title 28.” Title 28 covers most RI labor laws i.e. wages, hours, holidays, etc.  In addition “the president and treasurer of a corporation and any officers or agents having the management of such corporation shall also be deemed civilly liable for a violation of title 28.” 


The following new bills were filed:

House Bill No. 6106AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS – FROZEN DESSERTS (Eliminates multiple fees for frozen dessert processors licensed as food service establishments.)

House Bill No. 6111AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS – UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Prohibits an employer from inquiring about a prospective employee wage and salary history before an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated.)

House Bill No. 6125AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT — RHODE ISLAND RETIREMENT SECURITY PROGRAM (Establishes a private employer IRA program allowing employees to contribute at least five percent (5%) of their payroll period wages into the IRA program, with oversight by the Rhode Island retirement security board.)

House Bill No. 6128AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT – COMMERCE CORPORATION (Prohibits the commerce corporation, without general assembly approval or resolution, from providing leases, loan guarantees, grants or any other financial assistance, for any baseball park, recreational facility or any ancillary facility development.)

House Bill No. 6129AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES (Amends provisions of the tax increment financing act in order to encourage municipalities to use tax increment financing to facilitate economic development.)

Senate Bill No. 746AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS – LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED RAW AND PACKAGED FOOD PRODUCTS (Requires that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in this state have a label disclosing that the food is genetically engineered food upon the occurrence of 4 other states adopting similar labeling laws as specified in this act.)

Senate Bill No. 747AN ACT RELATING TO FOOD AND DRUGS – LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED RAW AND PACKAGED FOOD PRODUCTS (Requires that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in this state contain a label with the disclosure that the food is genetically engineered food.)

Senate Bill No. 756AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT – ENERGY FACILITY SITING ACT (Prevents the energy facility siting board from proceeding to final hearing or issuing a final decision if one or more of the designated agencies inform the siting board that they are unable to form an advisory opinion due the conduct of the applicant.)

Senate Bill No. 758AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS — LABOR AND PAYMENT OF DEBTS BY CONTRACTORS (Adds to the protection afforded to subcontractors on public work contracts, and provides for the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.)

Senate Bill No. 771AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS – WAGES (Defines and recognizes the existence and potential liability of lead entities concerning the payment of wages.)

Senate Bill No. 773AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS – UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Amends the fair employment practices act by clearly establishing that employees of a defendant employer may be individually liable for unfair employment practices.)



The Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition is the voice of business at the Rhode Island State House. We advocate for and against issues of importance to our members. If you have any concerns, questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact the Chamber of Commerce Coalition coordinator and lobbyist at (401) 334-1000 or by email at advocacy@nrichamber.com

The Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition is coordinated by the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.