RI General Assembly Claims 2017 Successes
Saturday, September 30, 2017
GoLocalProv Political Team
The Rhode Island General Assembly is claiming legislative successes in 2017.
Here is what happened this year at the State House.
- Legislators set into motion a complete phase-out of the car tax over 6 years, with annual reporting on the fiscal impact.
- Lawmakers approved a 90-cent minimum wage hike over two years, making 2019 the sixth year out of seven that that the Assembly raised the minimum wage.
- The Assembly approved a new law requiring that companies of 18 or more employees provide a minimal amount of paid sick time, and allow similar amounts of unpaid sick time without reprisal for employees at smaller firms.
- Lawmakers passed legislation that will allow citizens to automatically register to vote when applying for a driver’s license, its renewal or a personal identification document.
- The Assembly passed a law requiring the Board of Elections to establish a post-election audit program to make sure that the equipment and procedures used to count votes during an election are all working properly.
- The General Assembly passed legislation to provide for the release of certain records pertaining to the investigation of 38 Studios.
PUBLIC SAFETY/ JUSTICE
- Lawmakers passed the Protect Rhode Island Families Act to prohibit gun possession by domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and those subject to court-issued final protective orders.
- The legislature outlawed the use of any non-hands-free personal wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle, except for public safety personnel or in emergency situations. The new law goes into effect June 1, 2018.
- The General Assembly passed several bills to overhaul Rhode Island’s prison and parole system by applying the “Justice Reinvestment” approach to relieve pressures from the correctional system while increasing public safety.
- The Assembly enacted numerous bills to alleviate the opioid epidemic, particularly targeting deadly fentanyl, making electronic prescriptions the standard and ensuring doctors discuss addiction risks with patients before prescribing opioids.
- Raises for state-subsidized home health care workers and those who serve the developmentally disabled were included in the budget bill.
- Legislators passed a bill requiring public places that hold 300 or more people to maintain an automated external defibrillator on site.
- The Assembly passed legislation to facilitate economic growth in plant-based industries and agriculture in Rhode Island.
- Lawmakers paved the way for Rhode Island to become an early adopter of 5th generation mobile networks (5G) – the next generation of wireless networks.
- The legislature passed a law to speed up the regulatory process for developments, reducing the time it takes for developers to get certifications, decision-making and recordings of decisions.
- The General Assembly, with passage of the FY 2018 state budget, fully funded the seventh year of the 10-year phase-in of the state education funding formula, increasing education aid by $46 million.
- Also within the FY 2018 budget, the legislature approved a four-year pilot program to provide two years’ free tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island, with requirements that students maintain a 2.5 GPA and stay in Rhode Island following graduation.
- Legislators passed a bill that requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to consider incorporating substance abuse and suicide prevention education into the health education curriculum.
- Children under 2 are now required to be in rear-facing car seats under a new law approved by the General Assembly.
- Lawmakers banned the use of conversion therapy on minors by licensed health-care providers. The discredited practice seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- A new law approved by the Assembly allows the Crime Victims Compensation Fund to be used to help child witnesses of homicide or domestic abuse.
- The General Assembly restored a program that provides no-fare Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) bus passes to low-income elderly and disabled people. The plan approved by lawmakers will fully fund the program for two years at the cost of $5 million per year.
- Legislation was passed that would allow anyone age 60 or older a three-day window in which to cancel any contract with a licensed contractor if that contract originated from in-home solicitation.
- The legislature approved legislation that gives veteran-owned small businesses a preference in the state purchasing process, akin to the benefit that is awarded women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
- Legislation that expands the eligibility for a special license plate for Gold Star Families to other family members was passed by the General Assembly.
- The General Assembly passed legislation that would grant in-state tuition status at state operated schools to active duty and reserve members stationed in Rhode Island.
- The Assembly passed a law to increase local renewable energy generation in Rhode Island by expanding the state’s remote net metering program to allow participation by educational institutions, hospitals and nonprofit organizations, including churches.
- Lawmakers paved the way for state agencies to create rules and regulations to formulate a statewide solar energy permit application.
- The Assembly passed a law that creates an exemption to the land use change tax for farmlands that establish renewable energy systems.
- Lawmakers approved legislation to speed up the process of adoption for any animals that are abandoned or impounded.
- The legislature passed legislation that would make it a violation to keep any dog outside when the ambient temperature is beyond certain standards for the weather safety scale if the dog is showing signs of poor health due to the weather conditions.
- The Assembly approved legislation to add animal hoarding to the list of cruelty to animal offenses and allow courts to consider whether the defendant’s behavior might be the result of a mental disorder when sentencing.
Kate Coyne-McCoy - In baseball, they call them all around superstars - five tool athletes.
McCoy, who once ran for Congress, is a strong political organizer for EMILY’s List, a proven fundraiser for Raimondo’s PAC, strong with the media, and is a top lobbyist.
She is manages to balance being a partisan with her all-around effectiveness. McCoy can do it all.
Lenny Lopes - Whether you’re looking for someone to navigate the halls of the State House, manage your public relations image, or execute a contract, Lopes can do it all.
The affable and well-liked former Chief of Staff to then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch (and prior to that, Legal Counsel to Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty) had joined forces with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West before striking out on his own with The Victor Group, taking on such heavyweight clients as Lifespan and online gaming behemoths Fanduel and DraftKings, and more niche healthcare accounts — including the medical marijuana Rhode Island Growers Coalition.
Lopes was tapped this past spring following the tourism debacle by Havas PR to help navigate their way through the Rhode Island waters, and ultimately defend their performance and reputation to stave off their contract cancelation for now. If you’re hired to be a PR firm’s de facto PR brain, you must be on your game.
Two Coast Operative
Matt Lopes - With more than 20 different lobbying agreement Lopes has emerged as a premiere influencer in Rhode Island. His clients range from Dunkin’ Donuts to Amgen to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
While managing one of the biggest lobbying practices he is often on the West Coast -- he is a nationally recognized Special Master for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, overseeing prison reform and compliance.
He plays with the big boys on both coasts. Easy for a guy who was a star athlete in high school and at Dartmouth.
Don Sweitzer - IGT (formerly GTECH) super lobbyist plays the game at most every level, with big ties to the Clinton organization that go all the way back to Sweitzer playing a key role with Clinton-Gore in 1992.
Sweitzer’s contacts span the political spectrum - despite his Democratic pedigree, don’t count him out if Donald Trump wins the Presidency as Sweitzer worked for Paul Manafort back in the early 1990s.
Reportedly, Raimondo asked him to serve as her chief of staff - he gracefully declined.
Segal, Bell and Regunberg - These three young Brown grads are emerging as the leaders in progressive causes in Rhode Island and across the United States. David Segal, who served on the City Council in Providence and as a State Rep, failed in a 2010 effort for Congress losing to David Cicilline in the Democratic primary.
In 2016, Segal along with Aaron Regunberg emerged as a powerful force in trying to kill of the Super-Delegate structure in the Democratic primary.
Sam Bell is leading a major effort to re-calibrate the Democratic party to the left the election season. We will know just how good Bell is after September 13’s Democratic primary - Bell is overseeing more than a dozen progressive candidates' campaigns.
Goldberg, Walsh, Ryan and Murphy - These four veteran lobbyists know the pass codes to just about every private office in the State House. For decades they have been the go-to guys. Regardless of who is in power Bob Goldberg, Joe Walsh, Mike Ryan and Bill Murphy are always in vogue.
Only Ryan was not an elected official. Murphy ran the House for a decade, Goldberg had pulled off one of the greatest political coups when he lead a small band of GOP senators and split the Dems to take power, and Walsh was the almost Governor of Rhode Island in 1984.
Combined, they have the lion's share of premier clients and have collected the millions in fees to prove it.
Nicole Pollock - The new Chief-of-Staff for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza certainly has big shoes to fill, with the recent departure of both Chief Operating Officer Brett Smiley and outgoing Chief of Staff Tony Simon but Pollack has gotten off to a strong start. Following the recent summit on Kennedy Plaza co-hosted former Mayor Joe Paolino and Elorza, Paolino told GoLocal, “[Elorza’s] new Chief of Staff, I’m very impressed with.”
Pollock had joined the administration in February 2015 as Chief Innovation Officer and then served as Chief of Policy and Innovation for the administration before being tapped for the top post. Pollock had previously served in a policy and communications role for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. A graduate of Brown University, Pollock currently serves on the Board of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Plan.
The city has no shortage of pressing issues to tackle, from devising a plan to handle the ongoing panhandling, homelessness, and drug use issues in Kennedy Plaza, to the ever-looming issue of the protracted legal battle with the Providence Firefighters that could have monumental financial implications for the city, depending on the outcome.
Matt Bucci - The up-and-comer on Governor Raimondo’s staff was in the mix for Chief of Staff or another promotion this summer, but may chose to take his skills and join the world of lobbying or grab another private sector position.
Made news when he was tied to Governor Raimondo’s ill fated and ultimately canceled trip to Davos Switzerland. Raimondo was going to spend a weekend with the beautiful people and raided the non-profit URI Foundation’s scholarship dollars to fund the trip.
The former staffer to Senator Jack Reed is widely respected. Look for news about Bucci in the near future. Too talented to not make a leap soon.
Chris Hunter - The strategy wunderkind has morphed into a well-established operative in his own right in veteran lobbyist Frank McMahon’s public affairs shop, Advocacy Solutions.
The long-time government and public relations manager for the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance, Hunter is equally adept at the State House, having snagged emerging industry client Lyft and engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that comes with lobbying for the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.
Election seasons in particular are where Hunter’s know-how comes in handy, having managed a number of successful bond referendum in the state. Hunter is a constant presence networking around town, whether it’s hobnobbing with the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations or serving on host committees for key candidates - he’s the combination of both “who you know” and “what you know."
Nick Hemond - None may be more unabashedly and relentlessly ambitious than Hemond, who landed as an associate at powerhouse DarrowEverett in 2014.
The President of the Providence School Board lobbies at City Hall for high-profile real estate clients including Buff Chace and High Rock Management (i.e. the ownership of the Superman Building) and at the State House for labor interests (RI FOP, RI Carpenters Local Union 94), Big Health (the Hospital Association of Rhode Island) and rounding it out with such interests as AAA, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and infrastructure firm AECOM.
If that doesn’t sound like a full load, toss in a slew of crisis communications clients in the way of bars and clubs in varying degrees of trouble (read: stabbings, shootings) before the Providence Board of Licenses. Having so many fingers in so many pies (and some of which could appear somewhat conflicting) has raised eyebrows, but in the meantime if Hemond is winning, the checks keep coming.
Leo Skenyon - The seasoned political operative is the man behind the man. Serving as Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Skenyon helped navigate a more than treacherous legislative session which saw Finance Chair Representative Ray Gallison resign, Representative John Carnevale found ineligible to run at his purported address in Providence, and a slew of financial and ethics issues for a number of Democrats.
The Speaker however emerged from the session having tackled the thorny issue of community service grants, and what had seemed up until this year a nearly impossible task, putting ethics reform — and oversight of the Assembly by the Ethics Commission — before voters this November.
Skenyon has weathered many a political season before, having been the former Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, and then a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell. Now, his boss faces both a Republican and Independent challenger in the general election in November.
Joe Shekarchi - The Chair of the House Labor Committee is running unopposed this year in District 23 in Warwick, marking just the third election season for the powerful politician-lawyer, who first won in 2012.
Given his fundraising prowess, however, one would think that Shekarchi accrued his war chest over a longer tenure, with over $528,000 cash on hand as of the second quarter of 2016, making him far and away the most flush General Assembly member (by way of comparison, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello reported just over $365,000 cash on hand for the same period; Governor Gina Raimondo had $1.4 million.)
It was managing money that helped establish him on the map as a seasoned statewide political operative — he was the campaign manager for statewide operations for Raimondo when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010. With a number of successes in business and on the Hill, keep an eye on Shekarchi's future plans.