GA

Sen. Seveney intros drink-driving fine to support substance abuse programs

Portsmouth Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) has introduced legislation that would impose a substance abuse fine for those who drive under the influence or fail to submit to a breathalyzer test.

The legislation (2019-S 0238) would impose a $300 fine on any conviction of driving under the influence or a violation for refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer that would fund substance abuse programs.

Senator Seveney submitted the legislation after touring the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and discussing the need for increased funding for substance abuse prevention programs with Chief Magistrate Domenic DiSandro III.

“I’d like to thank Chief Magistrate DiSandro and Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey for their assistance in developing this alternative funding stream,” said Seveney. “This legislation will require those who drink and drive to fund important substance abuse programs, which in turn will help to mitigate the incidence of driving under the influence.”

Those funds would be allocated to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Development Disabilities and Hospitals and used to fund substance abuse programs and student assistance programs for youth.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators McCaffrey (D-29), Cynthia Coyne (D-32), Lou DiPalma (D-12) and Adam Satchell (D-9), has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation (2019-H 5293) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dennis Canario (D-71).

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

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Sen. Seveney appointed Finance subcommittee chair

Portsmouth Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11), a member of the RI Senate Finance Committee, has been appointed chair of the  Subcommittee on Public Safety and Transportation.

William J. Conley, Jr., Chair of Finance, appointed several members of the committee as subcommittee chairs. The subcommittee chairs will take the lead during budget hearings related to their subcommittee’s purview. Additionally, committee members with special expertise or interest in a particular subject matter will be asked to take a leading role when the committee considers those matters. In a process that is new this year, public postings of Finance Committee hearings will reflect the leadership roles of the members.

“Senate President Ruggerio and I discussed ways to draw upon the resident expertise of the outstanding membership of the Senate Finance Committee, and these appointments are a result of those discussions. We are fortunate to have their valuable leadership on the committee as we delve into the details of the state budget and other matters,” said Chairman Conley (D-18). “I look forward to working closely with the subcommittee chairs, the members of the committee, and all of my colleagues in the Senate as we undertake the hard work ahead.”

The following Senators were also appointed as subcommittee chairs:

  • Subcommittee on Municipal Finance: Senator Sandra Cano (D-8).
  • Subcommittee on Health & Human Services and General Government: Senator Lou DiPalma (D-12). Sen. DiPalma is also 1st Vice Chairman of the Committee.
  • Subcommittee on Veterans’ Affairs: Senator Walter Felag, Jr. (D -10). Sen, Felag is also 2nd Vice Chairman of the Committee.
  • Subcommittee on Education, Commerce: Senator Ryan Pearson (D-19). Sen. Pearson is also Secretary of the Committee.
  • Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and Energy: Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D-37).

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

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General assembly approves red flag and bump stock bills

With final approval in both chambers today, the General Assembly approved two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings: a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

Both bills were sponsored by Portsmouth legislators, and will now go to Gov. Gina Raimondo, who has planned to sign them in a ceremony tomorrow, Friday, June 1, at 11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the State House. 

The first bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and in the House by Rep. Dennis Canario, is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

“This legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they happen. Of course someone who has guns and is making serious threats to harm people with them should not be armed. Too often, after a mass shooting we learn about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they still had guns. But the truth is, there isn’t always a legal means to stop them. Our legislation provides a speedy but fair process to ensure that those who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed,” said Sen. Goodwin (D-1).

Said Rep. Canario (D-71), “As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of experience in the law enforcement field, recent tragic events have placed into focus the extreme dangers of having firearms in the hands of troubled individuals. I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and commitment to this public policy issue. This legislation seeks to take guns away from individuals with behavioral health problems so that our children and the public will remain safe.”

Under the bill (2018-S 2492A2018-H 7688Aaa), an extreme risk protective order would prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing guns, would require them to surrender guns in their possession and would invalidate any concealed carry permits they have. The order would be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and federal lists used for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have been prohibited from doing so. Violating such an order would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The order would be in place for one year, but could be renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to have them lifted.

Under the bill, a law enforcement agency could petition Superior Court for an extreme risk protection order if it believes the individual poses a significant danger of causing imminent injury to himself or others by having a firearm. The petitioner must state to the court the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by that individual, and must concurrently file for a search warrant to search for any weapons the individual possesses.

Upon the filing for an order, the court may issue temporary extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary restraining order, if the court finds probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat to others or himself if armed.

A judge would determine at a hearing whether to issue an extreme risk protection order, considering any recent acts or threats of violence with or without a firearm and patterns of such threats or acts in the previous year, and the individual’s mental health, substance abuse and criminal histories. The court would also consider any unlawful, threatening, or reckless use or brandishing of a firearm by the individual and evidence of any recent acquisition of a firearm.

Such legislation could have helped to prevent the Parkland, Fla., school shooting Feb. 14. Police say the alleged shooter carried out the attack with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon. Before the shooting, his mother had contacted law enforcement about his behavior on multiple occasions, but Florida did not have a red flag law. It has since passed one.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy group that supports the bill, a nationwide study of mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 showed that in least 42 percent of those incidents, there is documentation that the attacker exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.

Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington enacted red flag laws prior to this year, and since the Parkland shooting, so have Florida, Maryland and Vermont.

The other bill (2018-H 7075Aaa2018-S 2292A), sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven and Sen. James A. Seveney, would ban bump stocks, binary triggers and trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

In October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

“With the tragic and horrific event in Las Vegas demonstrating the powerful lethality that bump stocks can facilitate, we must make the law clear that Rhode Island will not tolerate these dangerous tools of death. Currently there is some ambiguity to whether or not applying a bump stock to one’s weapon is legal in Rhode Island, but it is still legal to purchase one. This bill will end that practice, making the sale and possession of bump stocks, even if they are not affixed to a weapon, illegal and punishable by the full extent of the law,” said Rep. Craven (D-32).

Said Sen. Seveney, (D-11), “While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986, the bump stock and other modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.” 

The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

Both bills have the support of Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the State Police, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (a part of Everytown) and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“I applaud the General Assembly for taking an important step to enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” said AG Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney, Dennis Canario

Seveney bump stock bill passes Senate

The Senate today approved two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings, a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

The bills will now go to the House, which has passed companion bills to each of them.

Senator Goodwin’s bill is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

Senator Seveney’s legislation (2018-S 2292A) would ban bump stocks, binary triggers or trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986,” explained Seveney, “the bump stock and other modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.” 

In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

The measure is cosponsored by Sens. Coyne, DiPalma, Pearson and Conley,. It now movesto the House, which has passed similar legislation (2018-H 7075Aaa) introduced by Rep. Robert Craven (D-32).

Both bills have the support of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

“I applaud the Senate for taking an important step to enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” said Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”

Editorial note: Written from a news release,

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Seveney mental health primary care parity bill passes Senate

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation introduced by Sen.  Jim Seveney (D-11) that would require health insurers to include behavioral health counseling as a primary care visit.

Under the provisions of the bill (2018-S 2540Aaa) behavioral health counseling visits and medication maintenance visits would be included as primary care visits for patient cost-sharing requirements under the provisions of a health plan.

“There are certain constraints on the health care system when it comes to mental health,” said Seveney. “This legislation looks to improve mental illness prevention and intervention by ensuring parity of cost sharing as it pertains to behavioral counseling visits.”

The legislation would also require the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to include in an annual report to the governor and General Assembly recommendations to ensure the health insurance coverage of behavioral health care under the same terms and conditions as other health care, and to integrate behavioral health parity requirements into the insurance oversight and health care transformation efforts.

“By making sure the foundation of mental health care is a solid one, we can build upon it to improve the health care needs of all Rhode Islanders,” said Seveney. “This is an important step in better integrating behavioral health and primary care.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2018-H 7806) has been introduced by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-11).

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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Senate passes Seveney bill to fund drug prevention efforts

The Rhode Island Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) that would change the way drug awareness programs are approved and funded.

The bill (2018-S 2025Aaa) would amend the Rhode Island Student Assistance High School/ Junior High/Middle School Act to regulate and update the administration of the programs.

“Currently, there is little to no state money that’s allocated to substance abuse prevention in Rhode Island outside of the annual federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant,” said Seveney. “With passage of this bill, we’ll fix the flaws in the existing law and ensure that the programs are administered effectively.”

The legislation would place approval of drug awareness programs for minors charged with civil marijuana offenses in the discretion of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). It would also redirect funds from certain civil fines imposed to the general revenue fund to be expended by BHDDH to fund substance abuse and student assistance programs for youth.

“There’s supposed to be a fee on every moving violation that the Traffic Tribunal processes to go partly into a restricted receipt account and partly into the general fund to be managed by BHDDH,” said Seveney. “That money could amount to something approaching $1 million. Currently, we do not collect it. With passage of this legislation, we will. It also assesses 50 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana fines that the Traffic Tribunal processes and puts it into the same fund.”

The act would also mandate that BHDDH establish funding criteria for distribution of funds and require that municipalities that receive the funds file annual reports verifying that the funds are being used for substance abuse prevention programs. It would also make high schools eligible for the program; currently the law mentions only junior high and middle schools.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation (2018-H 7221) has been introduced by House Majority Whip Jay Edwards (D-70).

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

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Rep. Ruggiero OpEd: Play Ball! But Where?

By Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-74)

ruggiero_oped.jpgI love it when my constituents provide input on issues. The PawSox stadium has brought many emails and calls from both sides of the bench. Many have argued about the economic importance of the PawSox to our state. I’ve sat through many, many hours of testimony in the House Finance Committee and asked many questions. Now that the bill has been sent to the House, my committee will have more hearings, during which I’m confident we can continue to improve the proposal and make it a better deal for taxpayers.

My first question was “Can Pawtucket afford this?” If they default, the taxpayers of the state are the back stop. Their fiscal analysis shows they can support the $18 million in bonds to pay back. Also, part of the deal includes PawSox developing 50,000 square feet for retail in Pawtucket, so the city will see tax incremental funding as well.

I would like to see the PawSox backstop the city of Pawtucket in the event that they default. The Pawsox could put $18 million in escrow, as security, in the event that the city of Pawtucket defaults on its notes. Each year that the city of Pawtucket meets its financial obligations (without taxpayer help), that portion of the security deposit is returned. Make sense? The owners are multimillionaires, and they can afford to have more skin in the game. Besides, staying in Pawtucket benefits them, because it would cost them significantly, probably millions, to rebrand themselves in New England as the WorSox (home team to Worcester, Mass.)

I don't know if people realize that the $45 million that the PawSox are putting in for this deal (including buying the land) is 54 percent -- the most of any Triple A deal in the country; most Triple A teams have put in 25-30 percent of the public/private partnership.

Then I asked, “Would the debt service be too much for the state?” Rhode Island currently gets about $2.1 million in revenues from McCoy today (with 400,000 attendees in 2016, and that’s the lowest since 1992!) The state’s debt service under the new deal is $1.6 million a year-- well below the annual income that the state already yields.

This is NOT 38 Studios. Curt Schilling was an amateur businessman with an unreleased video game who was over his skis compared with a Triple A team with over 40 years of history in the state. It is public/private money for a public use with public benefits. And to ensure 38 Studios never happened again, the legislature passed a statute limiting any state funds to no more than $25 million. Someone once said, “There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror.”

Finally, looking to the future, I wondered if the state were to not authorize this public/private partnership with PawSox and the city of Pawtucket, would Pawtucket suffer extensive blight and an economic downturn in 4 or 5 years? Pawtucket has already lost Memorial Hospital and the Gamm Theatre, and Hasbro is considering a move. On the other side, there are some pretty cool local breweries in Pawtucket attracting a young, professional clientele.

When you come into Rhode Island from Boston, the gateway to our state is Pawtucket and that old Apex building! Would Rhode Islanders regret and become resentful if the PawSox became the WorSox? Has Brooklyn ever gotten over losing the Dodgers?

The House Finance Committee will work to make the Senate bill a better bill for Rhode Island taxpayers. I suspect there will be more change-ups in this saga, but the first pitch will be thrown in 2020. The question is where?

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, chairwoman of House Committee on Small Business, serves on House Finance and represents Jamestown and Middletown in District 74. She can be reached at rep-ruggiero@rilegislature.gov or 423-0444.

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Sen. Seveney intros bill to ban ‘bump stocks’ on semi-automatic weapons

Jim_campaign_medium.jpgSen. James A. Seveney (D-11) has introduced legislation that would ban ‘bump stocks’ on semi-automatic firearms.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986,” said Seveney, “The bump stock does not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”

In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando Nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

The legislation would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to five years, or a fine up to $15,000, or both.

Editorial note: From a state house news release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

OpEd: Manufacturing is REAL in Rhode Island

ruggiero.jpgBy Deborah Ruggiero

Manufacturing in Rhode Island is alive and well, but not the manufacturing from the days of our grandparents. Technology has changed how we do business today and how we live.

Today’s manufacturing requires knowledge in technology, math, ladder logic, G-code, lean manufacturing principles and CAD programs. Manufacturing represents 15 percent of the state’s economy with over 1,600 manufacturers in Rhode Island ranging from sole proprietors to companies with over 100 employees.

The number one challenge I hear from manufacturers is finding qualified candidates to expand their business. The biggest asset of any company is its people. And let’s be real, because not every high school student is going to college. That’s why the Governor’s Manufacturing Initiative in this year’s budget is so important. The General Assembly approved $3.65 million to upgrade Davies Career and Technical High School to create a state-of-the art Advanced Manufacturing Center.

Investing in manufacturing to train high school students exposes them to careers that will help them in the future. It also helps manufacturers —from craft breweries to precision manufacturers — employ a skilled and qualified workforce to meet the demand of their customers.

Many young people don’t know what opportunity looks like today. The new manufacturing in Rhode Island is in defense, marine and infrastructure technology and cybersecurity. Rhode Island is a defense and undersea technology leader not just in New England but throughout the country.

Everyone starts somewhere. So start by talking with Dave Chenevert at Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and enroll in its apprentice program called WE MAKE RI. It has a 95-percent graduation rate and RIMA gets its apprentices jobs. (www.WeMakeRI.com)

More young people should tour Taylor Box in Warren and talk to Dan Shedd, owner of a third-generation family business. He’s survived recessions, expanded his manufacturing facility, and continues to look for good talent for his growing business in this new economy.

Let’s drive economic growth by creating a skilled workforce while expanding manufacturing in Rhode Island. It’s the future. It’s the new economy. It’s good-paying jobs and in our own backyard.

Rep.Deborah Ruggiero, (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown) is chairwoman of the Small Business Committee and serves on the House Finance Committee.

Editorial note: OpEd provided by State House news bureau.

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Seveney to host constituent meeting July 16

Jim_campaign_medium.jpgSen. Jim Seveney (D-11) will host a constituent meeting next Sunday, July 16 at Foodworks Restaurant, 2461 East Main Rd. in Portsmouth from 1:30-3pm, according to an e-mail sent this afternoon. Sen. Seveney's district includes all of Portsmouth, southern Bristol, and an area of Tiverton near the bridge.

Seveney says in the e-mail, "Needless to say, some major pieces of legislation, including the FY 2018 state budget, are in limbo and awaiting final completion. Hopefully we'll reconvene soon to finish the work left undone on Friday, June 30th.

"Come anytime between 1:30 - 3:00pm to discuss issues, expectations and the latest status on legislation of interest. I'll also share my experiences and insights gained as a first term state senator. I invite you to stop by and let me know what you're thinking."

Meeting is free and open to the public. Coffee and light snacks will be available.

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

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