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Legislative Alert


Superseding Local Zoning Authority Through RhodeMap RI - the Saga Continues. 

Last Thursday, the House Finance Committee heard testimony regarding the land use OPT-OUT legislation as it relates to RhodeMap RI and the Local Comprehensive Plans.  Like most hearings, it had supporters and detractors.  Supporters provided references to the facts they were presenting. Detractors referenced the impact to their planning jobs and rigorously played the "fairness" and "race" cards with little supporting evidence.


One detractor made false statements saying that RhodeMap RI does not have a HUD compliance requirement based on a municipality's census tracts. Yet, planning based on a municipality's individual census tracts is backed by HUD'S own documents as filed in the Federal Register as of March 2015.  RhodeMap RI's housing plan is HUD's housing plan. For example, the City of Newport has one affordable housing objective under state law but it has 8 separate HUD affordable housing mandates across 8 Newport census tracts under HUD's Livability Principles.  (These HUD requirements and references can be furnished upon request.)


Some Background on RhodeMap RI:

The RI Division of Planning signed an agreement with HUD in 2011, certifying that all 39 cities and towns will commit to HUD's Livability Principles. This certification, part of the application process for the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (note, not an application for an Economic Development Plan) became a significant part of RhodeMap RI's strategic housing plan.  It is believed by many in the General Assembly that this certification provides the link to newly publicized Federal HUD requirements, regardless of whether HUD money is accepted by a municipality or not.


Recognizing this potential risk, the Town of Barrington requested, in February, an opinion from State Planning (as did the House Oversight Committee) as to a municipality's legal liability resulting from RhodeMap RI.  None was provided to either elected body. There are also other unanswered questions posed by the House Oversight Committee to Division of Planning's, Kevin Flynn that have gone unanswered.


Because the risk is considered too great for many cities and towns, 14 municipalities either passed resolutions requesting the Division of Planning postpone adoption of RhodeMap or sent letters of inquiry to the Division of Planning.  That's over 1/3 of RI's municipalities.


The Division of Planning touts RhodeMap as an extreme example of collaboration amongst local governments, businesses and activist groups. In the end 1/3 of the original municipal consortium members who purportedly were part of the RhodeMap process, made an about face and passed a resolution or wrote a letter to the Division of Planning citing serious concerns with RhodeMap RI.  Activist groups in favor of RhodeMap RI included social equity groups, but no taxpayer groups.  Businesses that thought they were going to be part of the process found they were just audience members passively receiving information.


Unwilling to accept an unelected body creating a pathway to significant federal intervention over local zoning authority, a bipartisan slate of Senators and Representatives (listed below in Note 1) were very vocal in their opposition and many put their name on the OPT-OUT legislation.  Recognizing that RI state law currently mandates that Local Comprehensive Plans include the goals and policies dictated in the State Guide Plan (of which RhodeMap is an element), municipalities are beginning the process of passing resolutions in support of the OPT-OUT legislation.  East Greenwich was the first, followed by a full endorsement of the resolution from West Greenwich, along with a resolution from Little Compton.  Other municipalities are working on passing resolutions in support of this OPT-OUT legislation as we speak.


What the OPT-OUT Legislation Does and What It Doesn't Do. 

The OPT-OUT legislation would allow local municipalities to keep local control over their zoning in spite of the administration's adoption of RhodeMap RI.  However, it would not change the state law, passed by the General Assembly, requiring Low and Moderate Income Housing goals to be incorporated in Local Comprehensive planning.  While we believe the evidence supports the premise that a municipality will cede local zoning authority upon acceptance of new HUD money, it is the local municipality that will make that decision.  The OPT-OUT legislation is about protecting local authority and local sovereignty by providing the choice to commit to HUD money and the strings that are attached to it.


We urge you to call rather than write the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and your local Representative and Senator and tell them (or, more likely, leave a message) that you support H 6040, H6041, H 6042 and H 6043 along with S 820, S 818 and S 816 because you want your municipality to maintain local zoning authority.


And, In The Near-Bankrupt City of Providence…. 

….the Mayor has conceded that the high cost of public unions crowds out other city services. In an effort to reign in what is projected to be accumulated deficits of $85 million over the next 4 years, the Mayor has proposed following the lead of North Kingstown's elected officials when it comes to the cost of fire safety.  Moving from a 4 platoon to a 3 platoon structure is expected to save millions in overtime costs.  According to the US Dept. of Labor and Statistics, the 3 platoon structure is used in 2/3 of the fire departments across the nation.  It is not an untested idea.  


This new development in Providence will make it more difficult for Speaker Mattiello to support the fire bills that propose to mandate that the platoon/work schedule issue be negotiated in collective bargaining agreements and be subject to binding arbitration. It should be noted that last Thursday, the union sent 100 firefighters to the State House to make their point. Will the Speaker support the taxpayer or will he side with his renters on the issue?  With  Providence near bankrupt, would the Speaker pass legislation that further ties the hands of a municipality when it comes to financial authority?  We will be watching for H 5473 (and S 533) to come back to the labor committee as these bills have already been heard and held for further study for the time being.  Write to Speaker Matteillo and Senate President Paiva Weed and tell them not to bow to the political bullying tactics for which the fire unions have increasingly become so infamous.


And Speaking of Good Policy in Providence…..

 ….It is time to put to rest the concept of the $100 million trolley car system.  Providence (and the state for that matter) cannot continue with the "if we build it they will come" attitude towards economic development.  Take a look at the Wickford Train Station, the Interlink and even the oldies like the Convention Center!  Wasteful spending is not the answer.


Nor is it the answer when it comes to the Pawtucket Red Sox request. While there may be a road bump on the way to moving the Stadium deal along with the untimely passing of one of its owners, it is by no means off the table.  Even if the General Assembly doesn't get it through in this session, there is always the option of a special session, similar to the one they opened for the pension reform hearings. They need to remember that most sports economists agree (as we cited in last week's Alert) that minor league stadiums are not a win for the taxpayer.


While You Were Sleeping… 

…the Senate held hearings that were not posted at the time our Alert was distributed last Sunday. Those hearings included some important bills, all related to illegal alien benefits, that we think you should know about. Fortunately, they were all held for further study, but you should have had a chance to voice your concern.


S 259, sponsored by Senators Metts and Pichardo, is a bill to prohibit landlords from inquiring about immigration status of a prospective tenant. So the RI Senate wants to encourage Rhode Island landlords to not only break federal law in aiding and abetting illegal immigration, but to also put those landlords, mostly small businessmen, at risk for the activities that may accompany illegal aliens. 


S 391 and S 434 are bills to allow drivers' licenses to illegal aliens.  The sponsors include Senators Ciccone, Nesselbush, Pichardo, DaPonte, Jabour, Goldin, and Metts.  Please write to Chairman McCaffrey and explain that we do not want to provide increasing benefits to illegal aliens and that we would actually hope to stem the tide of the influx via the perennial E Verify bills like S 135 and the bi-partisan bill H 5589.  While you are at it, craft an email to Chairman Keable on the illegal drivers' license bill, H 6174, sponsored by Rep. Williams. That bill will be heard this Tuesday in House Judiciary.


What's Coming Up This Week in the General Assembly?


Continued Assault On School Choice. 

The assault by the public unions against improving the quality of education for our children heightens as H 5204 is being heard for a second time in committee.  Will the House Finance Committee, headed by Chairman Gallison, allow this bold attempt to burden the structure of the mayoral academies pass out of committee?  Sponsored primarily by public union Representatives (Fellela, Carnevale, Johnston and Hull), this bill would mandate that mayoral teachers and administrators participate in the financially strained state retirement system, thereby forcing these participants to help pick up the cost of the over generous benefits that the government can no longer afford.  Along with H 5204 there are a number of bills to be heard on Wednesday that aim to undermine the charter school system. Be sure to write Chairman McNamara and let him know our children deserve a choice for a better education. 


On The Brighter Side of Educational Choice. 

You should also write to Chairman McNamara in support of H 5790, a comprehensive bill that looks to significantly improve the educational choice for our parents and children. It is called the BRIGHT TODAY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM.  Scholarships that allow state monies to 'follow the children' allow more choice and can be a catalyst for education improvement in all public schools. The RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity has supporters in State Representative Ray Hull, who benefitted from educational choice as a youngster and Luis Vargas, who ran for State Representative in the last election, and also benefitted from educational choice. Stenhouse and Vargas, appeared on Dan Yorke's State of Mind (minute 12:30) in March.  And because the Center believes in the Truth In Numbers, you can read about the fiscal modeling tool that supports the claim of reduced costs under the program.


Jam Packed Hearings. 

The General Assembly has packed a lot of bills into this week's hearing schedule. Everyone jumped on the band wagon early this session to eliminate state income taxes on all retirement benefits or some types of retirement benefits. Those bills will be heard this week. There are also a number of bills to address the death tax in an effort to keep our elders with wealth here in the state. There are bills to deal with fraud like H 5104, which requires photo ID on EBT cards, and H 5720 which provides for a whistleblowing reward program in the Medicaid system.  H 5729 requires a review of companies receiving tax credits to ensure that state taxpayers are benefitting as originally intended.  H 5937 would allow the state to recover fraudulent payments in the Department of Labor and Training.


More Of The Welfare State. 

Of course there are the myriad bills that appear every year to increase the childcare subsidies over and above the $50 million that currently exist. There is also an extreme bill, H 5387 to implement socialized healthcare in this state, sponsored by liberal Representatives Regunberg, Tanzi, Handy, Maldonado and Amore. In addition to socializing healthcare, this bill also provides healthcare to all RI residents, which means it would include illegal aliens. It will be heard in House Finance on Tuesday.   


S 194 and H 5074 would increase the state's minimum wage for the fourth year in a row, up to $10.10, in a state where jobs are nowhere to be found.  That seems counterintuitive.


The Not-So Settled Pension Settlement. 

Judge Sara Taft Carter has been holding 'fairness hearings' for the past few days and they will continue into this week. But it looks like not many of the retirees think it is fair to settle the pension reform question. Did you know that only 1,110 of the 27,000 retirees voted to approve the pension settlement?  That leaves a lot of unhappy retirees who want their day in court.  How will Judge Taft Carter deal with that "fairness" issue? OSTPA friend, Bill Murphy, has requested a seat at the table. He has been invited to go before the Judge on Tuesday to determine if he can testify at the 'fairness hearing'.  Mr. Murphy encourages anyone who is interested to contact Judge Taft Carter's clerk, Brian Thompson, or call Providence Superior Court at 222-3250 and ask to testify at the pension settlement fairness hearing.


LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS 5/26/15 - 5/28/15




House Judiciary                                           Chairman Keable  

Room 101


H 6174  Drivers' license for illegal aliens.

Sponsors: Williams, Slater, Blazejewski, Regunberg and Maldonado


House Finance                                            Chairman Gallison  

Room 35, rise (4:30)


H 5387 Creates a new government agency to handle this new form of socialized healthcare - RICHIP.  It is for RI residents, including illegal aliens.  This will be funded by Medicare and Medicaid dollars as well as RICHIP premiums and potentially state subsidies.

Sponsors: Regunberg, Tanzi, Handy, Maldonado and Amore


H 5104 Requires photo ID on EBT cards, with certain exceptions.

Sponsors: Messier, McLaughlin, Serpa, Fellela and Marshall


H 5720 Provides for whistle blowing reward for fraud in the medical assistance program.

Sponsors: Filippi, Roberts, Morgan, Nardolillo and Costa


H 5347 Requires 80% school attendance rate for children in families receiving cash and medical assistance as a condition of eligibility.

Sponsors: Casey and Amore


More Subsidies For Childcare In Addition To The Current $50 Million Subsidy.


H 5348 Repeals the sunset clause for childcare subsidies to certain recipients, thereby increasing the cost of subsidized childcare, RI Works program.

Sponsors: Ruggiero, Regunberg, Hearn, Handy and Shekarchi


H 5399 Increases subsidies for childcare through the RI Works program, which already receives $50 million a year.

Sponsors: Casey, Phillips, Amore, Blazejewski and Kazarian


H 5543 Creates a system of tiered reimbursement for child care subsidies through the RI Works Program.

Sponsors: Diaz, Slater, Ruggiero, Tanzi and Maldonado


H 5544 Increases childcare subsidies through the RI Works Program, which already receives $50 million.

Sponsors: Diaz, Slater, Tanzi and Maldonado


H 5926 Expands the eligibility for parents receiving daycare subsidies.

Sponsors: Maldonado, Diaz, Kazarian, Hull and Carson



Senate Finance                                           Chairman DaPonte  

Room 211, rise (4:30)


S 99 Extends child care subsidies by removing the sunset provision.

Sponsors: Goldin, Pearson, Ottiano, DiPalma and Pichardo


S 222 Provides for tax credits to incentivize job creation.

Sponsors: Sheehan, Felag, McCaffrey, Walaska and Picard


S 257 Provides that state contracts be awarded to companies with specified maximum pay of executives which goes against free market economies.

Sponsors: Conley, Goldin, McCaffrey, Ruggerio and Goodwin


S 306 Mandates that the GA appropriate $12.5 million in 2016 for affordable housing.  Also mandates that, beginning in 2016 and going forward, the GA appropriate $2.17 million to support the housing resource commission.

Sponsor: Crowley


Senate Judiciary                                          Chairman McCaffrey  

Room 313, rise (4:30)


S 622 Specifies that "public use" shall not include the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or for increasing tax revenue except as allowed by eminent domain.

Sponsors: Cote, Lombardo, Archambault, Lombardi and McCaffrey





House Finance                                            Chairman Gallison   

Room 35, rise (4:30)


H 5790 Provides for school choice via a program called Bright Today.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Hull, Chippendale, Malik and Corvese


H 5083 Allows municipalities to reduce the implementation of state mandates in certain circumstances.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Edwards, Newberry and Canario


H 5086 Creates the "Stay Invested In RI Tax Credit" program.  Provides a tax credit for students living and working in RI, for up to 10 years.

Sponsors: Blazejewski, Maldonado, Solomon, Kazarian and Regunberg


H 5226 Creates the "Get On Your Feet Loan Foregiveness Program". Provides for student loan forgiveness in certain instances.

Sponsors: Shekarchi, Kennedy, Regunberg, Tanzi and Ruggiero


Assaults On Alternatives For School Choice:


H 5204 Mandates that mayoral academy teachers and administrators participate in the state retirement system.

Sponsors: Fellela, Carnevale, Messier, Johnston and Hull


H 5794 Removes the mandate that school districts pay for students opting to attend charter schools.

Sponsors: Barros, Johnston, Coughlin, Almeida and Blazejewski


H 5795 Places an indefinite moratorium on new charter schools.

Sponsors: Barros, Johnston, Coughlin, Solomon and Almeida


H 5834 Amends the calculation of state aid to charter schools.

Sponsors: Malik, Tobon, Slater, Hull and Ackerman


Senate Labor                                                Chairman Fogarty  

Room 212, rise (4:30)


S 194 Increases the minimum wage again, to $10.10.

Sponsors: Lynch, Pichardo, Miller, Goodwin and Ruggerio




House Finance                                            Chairman Gallison 

Room 35, rise (4:30)


H 5328 Increases the maximum tax from 8% to 12% of gross scheduled rents on low income housing.

Sponsors: Phillips, Morin and Casey


State Tax Incentives to Create New Jobs:


H 5116 Provides tax incentives to create new jobs.

Sponsors: Shekarchi,  Ruggiero, Trillo, Ackerman and Marshall


H 6225 Provides tax incentives to create new jobs.

Sponsors: Shekarchi, Ackerman, Ruggiero, Marshall and Trillo


H 5729 Provides for review of companies receiving tax credits to ensure the tax credit is providing a benefit for the state.

Sponsors: Lima, Costantino and Handy


Government Choses Winners and Losers:


H 5851 Extends historical tax credits through 2022.

Sponsors: Regunberg, Palangio, Carson, Ajello and Carnevale


H 5852 Extends the motion picture production credits through 2025.

Sponsors: Regunberg, Palangio, Carson, Ajello and Carnevale


Legislation To Discourage The Exodus of RI's Wealth:


H 5209 Increases the RI estate tax exemption to be comparable to the federal exemption.

Sponsors: Ucci, Winfield, Costantino, Marshall and Corvese


H 5279 Allows $5 million exemption on value of estates used in conduct of a trade or business.

Sponsors: Morgan, Roberts, Lancia, Chippendale and Price


H 5735 Exempts the value of small businesses, up to $5,000,000, from RI estate taxes.

Sponsors: Morgan, Reilly, Price, Chippendale and Nardolillo


H 5737 Gradually increases the estate tax exemption to $3 million.

Sponsors: Giarrusso, Morgan, Trillo, Reilly and Nardolillo


H 5000 Exempts all retirement income from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Craven, Casey, Morin, Azzinaro and Keable


H 5055 Exempts all retirement income from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors:  Giarrusso, Price, Nardolillo, Roberts and Newberry


H 5056 Exempts all retirement income from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Morgan, Lancia, Roberts, Filippi and Price


H 5057 Exempts social security from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Costa, Lancia, Nardolillo, Filippi and Reilly


H 5203 Exempts retirement income from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Serpa, Ackerman, Fellela, Shekarchi and Canario


H 5207 Exempts retirement income from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Trillo, Costa, Morgan, Giarrusso and Reilly


H 5391 Exempts military pension from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Lancia, Roberts, Marshall, Abney and Newberry


H 5447 Exempts social security from RI personal income tax.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Lancia, Shekarchi, Newberry, Giarrusso and Chippendale


Legislation To Reduce The Cost Of Business In RI:


H 5009 Provides that the federal deduction for domestic production be included as a deduction for RI state income tax.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Carnevale, McKiernan, Marshall, Costantino and Trillo


H 5058 Eliminates $500 minimum business corporate tax for first 3 years.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Ruggiero, Serpa, Trillo, Costantino and Phillips


H 5231 Reduces the minimum business corporation tax to $50 from $500.

Sponsors: Ucci, Winfield, Lombardi and Corvese


H 5433 Phases out the $500 minimum business corporate tax.

Sponsors: Marcello, Hearn, Nunes, Fellela and Serpa


H 5549 Eliminates $500 minimum business corporate tax for employers with less than 50 employees.

Sponsors: Nardolillo, Chippendale, Filippi, Costa and Lancia


House Labor                                     Chairman Shekarchi  

Room 203, 3:30 (cont'd at the rise if needed)


H 5074 Increases minimum wage again, to $10.10 an hour.

Sponsors: Bennett, McNamara, Lima, Hull and McLaughlin


H 5937 Allows DOL to recover overpayments made due to fraud committed by a claimant.

Sponsors: Canario, Edwards, Gallison, Ruggiero and Shekarchi


H 6049 Allows that a full board need not be in attendance for a teacher dismissal hearing of appeal, but a decision requires a majority vote of the board.  This is a second hearing.

Sponsors: Ruggiero, Hearn, McNamara, Shekarchi and Hull



Note 1

Bill sponsors:

Senators Cote (D), Picard (D), Raptakis (D), Fogarty (D), Lombardo (D), Representatives Costa (R), Roberts (R), Price (R), Chippendale (R) , Nardolillo (R), Filippi (I), Lancia (R), Giarrusso (R), Reilly (R) and Corvese (D)


Additionally, Representatives Canario (D), Morgan (R) and Senator Gee (along with other bill sponsors) wrote a letter to the Division of Planning citing serious concerns over RhodeMap RI.

Representative McLaughlin (D) testified in support of the legislation.



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