PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island lawmakers passed dozens of bills Tuesday, including legislation to mandate paid time off for workers who call in sick and to require anyone subject to a domestic protective order issued by a court to surrender guns.
The bills were caught in legislative limbo when the General Assembly abruptly adjourned in June amid a budget dispute. Here’s a look at what happened during the rare fall session:
PAID SICK DAYS
Both chambers passed a bill to mandate paid time off for workers who call in sick. Democratic Rep. Aaron Regunberg, the House sponsor, said it signals that the state is willing to put the needs of “regular working people front and center.” Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has called the issue a top priority.
Republican lawmakers opposed it, saying it’ll hurt businesses and the state’s economy. Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said the bill balances interests and has been “highly negotiated with the business community.” Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, the Senate sponsor, said it would enable about 100,000 workers to take sick days.
DISARMING DOMESTIC ABUSERS
The House of Representatives passed a bill previously passed by the Senate to require anyone subject to a domestic protective order issued by a court to surrender guns. The bill will be sent to the governor, who has said she supports the measure.
Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi, the House sponsor, said no law will prevent every homicide in the state, but the bill strikes a reasonable balance between protecting families and maintaining the integrity of Rhode Island’s gun laws.
Supporters of the bill attended the session and cheered when it passed. House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan opposed the bill. She said it takes a person’s constitutional right to bear arms away for a misdemeanor.
PROBATION AND PAROLE REFORM
The House passed a package of bills designed to save money and make communities safer by offering such services as drug treatment in place of incarceration. The package already has passed the Senate and has support from the governor. But Attorney General Peter Kilmartin calls it “feel-good legislation” that could hurt victims and risk public safety.
The Senate recessed without acting on a highly contested bill to create a privately run highway surveillance system to scan license plates. The bill already passed the House. It would allow the state to fine out-of-state drivers who don’t have car insurance.
Civil liberties groups and others have expressed concerns about the legislation. Democratic Rep. Robert Jacquard, who sponsored the bill, said it would help the state increase revenues, and the data would be erased if the car is insured.
The bill was on the Senate’s calendar for a vote Tuesday night.
The House passed legislation that would allow the Board of Elections to perform postelection audits of paper ballots to ensure voting machines have not been hacked. The proposal had already passed the Senate and the measure now heads to the governor. Common Cause Rhode Island called it “important legislation to increase security of Rhode Island elections and ensure the accuracy of vote counts.”
The House passed a Senate bill to provide for the release of records pertaining to the investigation of 38 Studios, sending it to the governor. Lawmakers have long sought to find out more about what happened in the state’s failed $75 million deal with the video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
A court in June issued a temporary order that blocked the release of 38 Studios documents at the state attorney general’s request.