This week at the Rhode Island General Assembly

Here are the highlights of the news and events that took place at the Rhode Island General Assembly this week.

§ Senate approves bill enforcing right to “just, equitable, and meaningful” education
The Senate passed legislation (2022-S 2095) sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) to ask a question prompting voters at the next statewide ballot to amend the state constitution to provide a just, fair, and meaningful education for every child. Such a constitutional provision would be legally enforceable and would ensure that failing school systems are addressed. A similar constitutional provision has made Massachusetts’ educational system one of the best in the nation. The bill now goes to the house.

§ House agrees to McNamara bill to allow chronically ill to use experimental drugs
The House of Representatives passed the Neil Fachon Terminally Ill Patients Right to Try Act of 2022 (2022-H 7393), introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), allowing access for chronically ill patients would include experimental drugs that are not yet federally approved but may be in the final stages of FDA testing. The measure will now go to the Senate for review.

§ House approves Vella-Wilkinson bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control
The House of Representatives passed legislation (2022-H 7346A), introduced by Rep. Camille FJ Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), that would authorize a pharmacist to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptives, provided the pharmacist has training completed program approved by the State Board of Pharmacy. The measure now goes to the Senate, where similar legislation (2022-S 2330) was introduced by Sen. Kendra Anderson (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

§ House approves measure to combat bird flu
The House of Representatives passed legislation (2022-H 7785) sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) to control outbreaks of avian influenza and other animal diseases through quarantine measures. The bill, now going to the Senate, was proposed by the Department of Environmental Management to help the state respond to an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu that has been spreading across the country since January and has been identified in neighboring states.

§ Senate approves your environmental justice area designation bill
The Senate approved legislation (2022-S 2087), sponsored by Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), to require the Department of Statewide Planning to Identify population-based environmental justice focus areas statewide that would have additional protections from new proposals that would have additional adverse environmental impacts. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

§ Pedal vehicles for multiple passengers could travel on RI streets under a bill passed by House
The House of Representatives passed legislation (2022-H 6636A), sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), to make four-wheel passenger vehicles — four-wheel vehicles driven by multiple passengers and controlled by an operator — to be allowed on Rhode Island roads in communities that wish to allow it.

§ House Passes Rep. Baginski Polling Place Standards Bill
The House of Representatives approved legislation (2022-H 7429A) introduced by Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) that would increase the number of voters a polling station can accommodate and also establish other polling station standards. The bill would increase the maximum number of voters a polling station can hold from 3,000 to 3,500 voters and also provides factors to consider when determining polling stations. The measure now goes to the Senate, where similar legislation (2022-S 2253) was introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston).

§ Senators present bills to strengthen early childhood care and education systems
The Senate introduced a legislative package aimed at expanding and strengthening the state’s early childhood care and education system. The cornerstone of the package, the Rhode Island Prekindergarten Act (2022-S 2680), introduced by Senator Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), would set a new goal for universal access to preschool through June 30, 2028. Senator Gallo also introduced legislation (2022-S 2678) to create a new Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning. Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) introduced the Child Care is Essential Act (2022-S 2681), which expands eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program with increased income thresholds and co-payment caps. Senator Cano also introduced the Early Educator Investment Act (2022-S 2235), which directs the state children’s cabinet to establish a target pay scale for early educators and to identify strategies to increase pay. Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) introduced legislation (2022-S 2679) to create five Early Learning Hubs throughout Rhode Island. The hubs will connect providers to a range of resources and services.

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