Under The Dome – May 1, 2017

Governor Raimondo Holds RI Promise Conference Call

Governor Raimondo held a RI business community conference call with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam participating as her guest.  The state of Tennessee has a tuition program that is a little different than the RI proposal in that it only covers 2 years of free tuition at a community college.  Governor Raimondo began by talking about the necessity for individuals to earn a college education in order to be competitive in the economy.  Governor Haslam told those on the call that his state, in 2012, conducted a study which showed that by 2025, 55% of the jobs would need a college degree  At that time only 32% of TN individuals had degrees.  To address the problem, they needed to “shock the system” and “giving something for nothing” – 2 years free tuition and fees – would deliver a shock. The program only requires a person to graduate from high school and maintain the academic standard for enrollment in the community college.  TN did not include 4-year college tuition because it was more expensive, but it was discussed during the legislative debate.  TN, being a bigger state, has a number of community colleges to choose from, whereas RI is limited.   Early data from TN showed a 30% first-year increase in student enrollment in community colleges and technical schools meaning 33,000 students enrolled.  In the second year, TN experienced a 63% re-enrollment rate; and 70% of high school seniors filled out FASA forms in the last two years.  Student loan requests by TN students decreased by 17%.  Additionally, TN 4-year colleges did see a minimal downturn in “less selective” four year schools when the TN program went into effect.

Responding to a question, Governor Haslam acknowledged that the TN program was probably going to pay for the education of kids that will not stay in the state, but he said he was not concerned about it.  When asked about the cost of the program, the Governor stated that the costs were on target despite having more students than originally anticipated.  He said the difficult part was projecting what the needs of the new students might be and matching those needs with the teaching program required.  Governor Haslam wants to expand the TN program to all adults in the future, regardless of age. 

Governor Raimondo said, “…the RI Promise Program is my number one priority.”  The issue will continue to be debated as the budget process moves forward.


 Bill Requires Language Translation of Contracts

H.6139, An Act Relating to Businesses and Professions – Translation of Legal and Financing Documents, was filed on April 26th and has been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday May 2nd.  The bill requires the translation of contracts into Spanish or Japanese if the client speaks that language as their primary language, and if the contracts are related to the following business transactions: (1) automobile purchases and leases; (2) loans or other extensions of credit for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes, (except loans secured by real property); (3) consumer loans secured by real property, if arranged by a real estate loan broker, or made by a personal finance company; (4) contracts for the rental, lease or sublease of apartment, dwellings, motor vehicles and mobile homes for a period longer than one month; (5) reverse mortgages; and  (6) mortgage foreclosure consulting contracts.  The translation requirement does not apply if the customer negotiated the contract with the assistance of his/her own interpreter.  To view further details of the bill go to http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/HouseText17/H6139.pdf


Senate Committee Passes Carbon Study

 Last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture passed S.108 which calls upon the Climate Change Coordinating Council to study the “effectiveness of the state and/or multi-state carbon pricing program to incentivize institutions and industry to reduce carbon emissions. The study must include the effectiveness of allocating revenues generated from such carbon pricing program to fund enhanced incentives to institutions and industry for targeted efficiency measures; projected emissions reductions; economic impact to businesses; any economic benefits to Rhode Island and impacts to the state’s economic competitiveness if the program were implemented.” 


 Senate Labor Hears Testimony on Employee Liability Bill

H.773, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Unfair Employment Practices, would make employees of a defendant employer individually liable for unfair employment practices.  The bill seeks to respond to a RI Supreme Court decision that denied the ability to sue an employee who sexually harassed another employee on the job.  Unfortunately, the way the bill is written, it could allow an employee to sue another employee who is acting in the employer’s normal course of business, thus increasing litigation and giving plaintiffs more pockets to choose from for claims.  The Chamber offered to work with the sponsor to amend the bill.  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/SenateText17/S0773.pdf


The following new bills were filed:

House Bill No. 6139AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS — TRANSLATION OF LEGAL AND FINANCING DOCUMENTS (Requires many consumer contracts to be translated from English to Spanish or Japanese under some circumstances.)

House Bill No. 6141AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS — EMPLOYMENT APPLICATIONS (Gives the department of labor and training the jurisdiction to review claims alleging that employers had improperly inquired about an applicant’s criminal history on an employment application.)

House Bill No. 6143AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS — PARENTAL AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE (Grants unpaid pregnancy leave to part-time workers, clarifies their access to unpaid sick leave during their pregnancy, and provides additional protections for pregnant workers who work in the medical field.)

Senate Bill No. 815AN ACT RELATING TO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES – RETAIL LICENSES (Creates additional restrictions on the times for which caterers with a Class P license may serve alcohol and provides for the additional penalty of possible suspension or revocation of license for violations of this section.)


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.