Overtime Pay Law, Surprise Medical Billing: This Week at the State House
Sunday, March 12, 2017
GoLocalProv Political Team
A bill to overtime pay law, legislation going after surprise medical billing and more. This week at the State House.
Sen. Calkin, Rep. Donovan bill would overhaul overtime pay law
Sen. Jeanine Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Susan Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol) have submitted legislation in their respective chambers that would change the current overtime exemption law. As it stands now, executive, administrative, and professional employees are exempted from overtime pay if they are salaried at more than $200 per week. The new law would raise that number to $1,036.
Sen. Archambault legislation targets surprise medical billing
Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) has introduced legislation that would curb surprise medical billing by providing for a dispute resolution process for emergency services and surprise bills for medical services performed by nonparticipating (out-of-network) health care providers.
Sen. Goldin introduces fair pay, paid family leave legislation
Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) has introduced two bills aimed at fair pay and paid family leave. The first bill would not only provide protections against wage differentials based on sex, but would require employers to justify any differentials that do exist based on bona fide factors other than sex. The second bill would expand Rhode Island’s family and medical leave insurance.
Rep. Shekarchi seeks to expand support for children who witness violent crime
House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner are seeking to expand Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP) to include support for minors who witness homicides or domestic violence. The bill would allow parents and guardians to apply to Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program for reimbursement for expenses related to psychiatric care and mental health counseling for underage witnesses.
Rep. Morgan legislation would create child abuse/animal abuse cross reporting
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-Dist. 26, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) has introduced a resolution requesting that the state of Rhode Island adopt a mandatory child abuse/domestic violence and animal abuse cross reporting system. The resolution asks that all child protection and domestic violence case workers must report suspected animal abuse to animal control/humane officer agencies and all animal control and humane officers must report suspected child abuse or domestic violence to child protection/domestic violence agencies.
Rep. Casimiro seeks to return more unclaimed property to Rhode Islanders
Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), in cooperation with General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, has introduced legislation which will make it easier for the Treasury to return unclaimed property to Rhode Islanders through more efficient communication between state agencies. In addition to helping to return more Unclaimed Property, the legislation also allows the Treasury, and the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island to collaborate with other state departments where data sharing can provide additional or more updated information on individuals already in the Treasury’s databases.
House panel OKs Rep. Corvese bill outlining punishment for fentanyl possession
The House Committee on Judiciary has passed Rep. Arthur J. Corvese’s (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) legislation that amends the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act to include penalties for fentanyl possession. The legislation now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
Rep. McNamara introduces package of bills to ease tax burden on seniors
Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced a package of legislation designed to assist Rhode Island’s senior citizens by easing their tax burden. The first bill would increase the exemption for retirement income from state income tax from $15,000 to $30,000 starting in 2018.
The second bill would establish a 100 percent tax credit for seniors relating to any costs in the modification of a motor vehicle. The third bill would provide a tax credit for taxpayers who purchase new residences or retrofit residences which meet or are modified to meet standards that make the residences more accessible for elderly and disabled persons.
Sen. Coyne, Rep. Maldonado, Sen. Morgan submit bills on human trafficking
Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) has introduced legislation that would establish penalties and remedies and would make human trafficking and human trafficking for purposes of sexual servitude, forced labor, and commercial sexual activity felonies punishable by imprisonment and fines. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls). Sen. Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), has introduced legislation that would require contact information for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center be posted at truck stops and other targeted establishments.
Sen. Nesselbush, Rep. Hearn host International Women’s Day at State House
Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) hosted a state celebration of the United Nations-recognized International Women’s Day. The gathering honored senior female firefighters in each local fire department as well as honoring newly-appointed State Police Superintendent Col. Ann Assumpico.
Criminal Justice Reform
Per recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, the Governor is proposing nearly $1 million in investments such as the public defender mental health program ($185,000), improved mental health services at the ACI ($410,000), recovery housing ($200,000) and domestic violence intervention, in her FY18 budget.
English Language Learners
Under the heading of “promoting 3rd grade reading,” Raimondo proposed adding $2.5 million to make English Language Learning (ELL) K-12 funding permanent. The Governor’s office points out that RI is one of four states that doesn’t have permanent funding.
The suggestion was one made by the Funding Formula Working Group in January 2016, who said that “in the event that Rhode Island chooses to make an additional investment in ELLs, the funding should be calculated to be responsive to the number of ELLs in the system and based on reliable data, and include reasonable restrictions to ensure that the money is used to benefit ELLs — and promote the appropriate exiting of ELL students from services.”
Car Owners - and Drivers
Governor Raimondo wants to reduce assessed motor vehicle values by 30% - a change that would reduce total car tax bills by about $58 million in calendar year 2018. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, however, has indicated that he might want to go further in its repeal.
In her budget proposal, Raimondo also put forth adding 8 staffers to the the Department of Motor Vehicles to "address wait times."
The “Air Services Development Fund” would get an influx of $500,000 to “provide incentives to airlines interested in launching new routes or increasing service to T.F. Green Airport.” The Commerce Corporation set the criteria at the end of 2016 for how to grant money through the new (at the time $1.5 million fund).
Also getting a shot in the arm is the I-195 development fund, which would receive $10.1 million from debt-service savings to “resupply” the Fund to “catalyze development & attract anchor employers.”
Minimum Wage Increase
An increase in the state minimum wage is part of Raimondo’s proposal, which would see it go from $9.60 an hour to $10.50 an hour. Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort in 2016 to bring it up to $10.10 — it was June 2015 that she signed legislation into law that last raised Rhode Island’s minimum wage, from $9 to 9.60.
The state's minimum hourly wage has gone up from $6.75 in January 2004 to $7.75 in 2013, $8 in 2014, and $9 on Jan. 1, 2015. Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business however have historically been against such measures, citing a hamper on job creation.
Like the minimum wage, Raimondo is looking for an increase - in this instance, the cigarette tax, and revenue to state coffers. Raimondo was unsuccessful in her effort to go from a tax of $3.75 to $4 last year. Now she is looking for an increase to $4.25 per pack, which the administration says would equate to $8.7 million in general revenue — and go in part towards outdoor recreation and smoking cessation programs.
The National Federation of Independent Business and other trade groups have historically been against such an increase, saying it will hurt small businesses - i.e. convenience stores. And clearly, if you’re a smoker, you’re likely to place this squarely in the loser category instead.
As often happens in the state budget, winner one year, loser the next. As GoLocal reported in 2016, “the Rhode Island Hospital Association immediately lauded the budget following its introduction, and addressed that while it is facing some reductions, that it "applauds" this years budget after landing on the "loser" list last year.”
This year, it falls back on the loser list, with a Medicaid rate freeze to hospitals, nursing homes, providers, and payers — at FY 2017 levels, with a 1% rate cut come January 1, 2018.
The taxman cometh — maybe. Raimondo proposed an “Internet Sales Tax Initiative” — which would purportedly equate to $34.7 million in revenues.
"Online sales and the fact that online sellers do not collect sales tax has created a structural problem for Rhode Island's budget — our sales taxes have been flat," said Director of Administration Michael DiBiase, of the tax that Amazon collects in 33 states, but not Rhode Island. "We think mostly due to online sales, we’re able to capture the growth. The revenue number is $35 million dollars — it improves our structural deficit problem. It’s an important fiscal development."
Long Term Care Funding
The Governor’s proposal recommends “redesigning the nature” of the State’s Integrated Care Initiative, by transferring long-term stay nursing home members from Neighborhood Health to Medicaid Fee-for-Service and repurposing a portion of the anticipated savings (from reduced administrative payments to Neighborhood Health) for “enhanced services in the community.” “The investments in home- and community-based care will help achieve the goal of rebalancing the long-term care system," states the Administration.
Cutting that program is tagged at saving $12.2 million; cuts and “restructuring” at Health and Human Services is slated to save $46.3 million.