GA

My testimony against Rep. Mendonca's sub-minimum wage bill

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What it looks like when I testify. Photo courtesy Sen. Jeanine Calkin

Just got back from the State House where I testified before the House Labor Committee on Rep. Ken Mendonca's bill H5594 which would freeze the minimum wage for those under 20 at $9.65/hr, no matter what the general assembly does this session. He complained that people were "lighting up his twitter feed," so if any of his Portsmouth constituents are inclined to tweet at @ElectKenRI and provide feedback, you definitely should.

Here's what I said to the committee this evening:

Chair Craven, members of the committee. I’m John McDaid, a retired parent of a 17-year-old from Portsmouth. I’ve worked since I was my son’s age, and a fair minimum wage is important to me and my neighbors in Island Park, an area that committee member Jay Edwards represents.

I speak in opposition to H5594, which would limit employees under 20 years of age to the current minimum wage, no matter what increases other workers receive. This is grossly unfair. I believe in equal pay for equal work. If a 19-year-old is doing the same work as someone just a year older, they deserve to be paid the same rate. I oppose H6052 for similar reasons. The narrow purpose these bills is to deny equal compensation based solely on age. If the general assembly decides to raise the minimum wage, why would it not extend young Rhode Islanders equal protection?

Representative Mendonca’s concern trolling about the impact on jobs is disingenuous. Anyone who has studied the data should know the correlation between minimum wage increases and job loss is tenuous and inconclusive. Included in my written testimony is a study conducted by the National Employment Law Project analyzing 75 years worth of data. Quote: “basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages.” I urge the committee to consider all the facts.

As a semi-senior-citizen, I also urge the committee to consider the impact on older workers. This bill tacitly encourages age discrimination. If employers are as motivated by the bottom line as Rep. Mendonca suggests, why wouldn’t they always choose younger workers to get a lower rate?

And as a parent of a child approaching college age, I can tell you I want my kid to get every penny he deserves at his jobs. This committee understands paying for college is no picnic. I want any member of the general assembly who supports for this bill to look my son in the eye and tell him “An hour of your life is worth less than an hour of mine. And I think that is fair.” If this bill passes out of committee, I promise to bring him back and introduce him to you all so you can tell him that personally.

Honestly, I am ashamed that a representative from Portsmouth sponsored this bill, and I urge this committee to treat it with the contempt it deserves. As my 17-year-old would say, “kill it with fire.”

References
National Employment Law Project Summary
National Employment Law ProjectFull report (pdf)

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Rep. Canario announces State House joins Hasbro ‘Good Night Lights’ tomorrow

canario.jpgRep. Dennis M. Canario (D-71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is pleased to announce that the Rhode Island State House will be participating in the “Good Night Lights” program this Wednesday night through Friday night. The program involves businesses, buildings, and groups within the sightline of Hasbro Children’s Hospital whom blink their lights on and off for one minute at 8:30 p.m. every night. Often, blinking room lights can be seen in the hospital as reciprocation to the nightly ritual.

“This is truly a heartwarming gesture that so many have become involved in over the past year and I would like to thank Governor Raimondo and her administration for allowing the State House to hopefully brighten the spirits of the children in Hasbro,” said Rep. Canario.

Representative Canario had written to Governor Raimondo and the Department of Administration about the possibility of the State House joining the other buildings, businesses, and groups who are in view of Hasbro Children’s Hospital and participate in the nightly gesture to the children residing in the hospital. The Department of Administration informed Representative Canario that the State House will be flashing its lights at the children in the hospital for three nights starting tomorrow, April 12.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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AIPC legislative forum rescheduled for April 27

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 12.27.46 PM.pngThe Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has rescheduled its 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum. Previously scheduled for March 15 but postponed due to weather, the event will be held Thursday, April 27, from 8:30 – 10 a.m.

The 2017 forum is AIPC’s second annual legislative forum and part of its ongoing “Smart Island” series of public events. The event is free and open to the public; however, space is limited and registration is required. Anyone registered for the original event date must re-register. Tickets are available through AIPC’s website, www.aquidneckplanning.org.

More info in prior post here.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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AIPC to host Aquidneck legislative forum March 15

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 12.27.46 PM.pngThe Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) has scheduled its 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum, to be held on Wednesday, March 15, from 8 – 10 a.m., in the auditorium of the Community College of Rhode Island in Newport, RI.

The 2017 forum is AIPC’s second annual legislative forum and part of its ongoing “Smart Island” series of public events. The event is free and open to the public; however, space is limited and registration is required. Tickets are available through AIPC’s website, www.aquidneckplanning.org

“We’re delighted to host this event for the second year in a row,” said AIPC’s Chairman, Richard P. “Dick” Adams. “It’s one of many ways that AIPC facilitates communication between state and local leaders, and members of the public here on Aquidneck Island.”

More than half of the state’s Newport County delegation will participate in the forum, including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, Sen. James A. Seveney, Rep. Marvin Abney, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, Rep. Lauren Carson, and Rep. Susan R. Donovan. The event is expected to draw 150-200 people, and will provide an opportunity for questions from the public.

The event will be moderated this year by Neil Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, the state’s largest charitable foundation. “Community engagement is a positive force for change. State lawmakers, the Planning Commission and local stakeholders deserve credit for coming together to share their vision for moving the area forward,” said Steinberg.

2017 is shaping up to be an active legislative session, while the state faces added uncertainty presented by the new administration in Washington. The forum will provide an opportunity to discuss how new state initiatives may affect Aquidneck Island.

For more information about AIPC and the 2017 Newport County Legislative Forum, see www.aquidneckplanning.org

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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RI State Sen. Jim Seveney gets committee assignments

President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-13, Newport, Jamestown) has appointed Sen. James A. Seveney (D-11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) to serve on the Senate Finance, Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs, and Education committees for the 2017-18 legislative session, according to a release distributed today.

The Finance Committee handles all matters relating to revenue, appropriations and taxes, while the Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs Committee considers legislation on matters relating to veterans’ affairs, constitutional amendments, liquor laws, gaming issues, laws relating to domestic animals, license plates, and commissions and resolutions.

The Senate Education Committee is responsible for oversight of all matters pertaining to public education.

Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.

He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

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LTE: Rhode Islanders are "doers," says Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

The Rhode Islanders I know are doers—successful business owners, technology entrepreneurs, community advocates, and passionate educators. They know technology is part of our everyday life—online banking, GPS, email, Skype, search engines, even online dating. Every business, large or small, has a website, email, and a digital footprint. It’s how we do business.

Over the past three years, jobs have been unfolding in Rhode Island in technology, advanced manufacturing, Information Technology, nursing, healthcare, digital graphics, and computer science. These are STEAM jobs (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

In five years, Rhode Island will have more than 4,000 jobs in computer science alone. So, let’s get our kids excited about jobs in the digital world. Rhode Island is the only state in the country to fund computer science (CS4RI) classes in grades K-12.

SENEDIA (Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance) is doing it. They’ve partnered with Real Jobs RI to develop internship programs for cybersecurity and undersea technology. They’ve developed an intensive cybersecurity training program with CCRI in Newport and this is an on-ramp to in-demand jobs in cybersecurity.

As co-chair of the Defense Economy Planning Commission, I’ll continue to support the Defense Sector. It generates $105 million in tax revenues for the state every year. In fact, the Defense Industry is the highest paying sector, with jobs averaging $94,000- $110,000. Recently, a public-private partnership at URI, Johnson & Wales, RIC and Bryant launched web development minors to prepare students for high paying jobs in software development.

Not every son or daughter is going to go to college. We also need electricians, plumbers and contractors to build things and get it done—on time and on budget. That’s why the PTECH (Pathways in Technology) pilot programs are so innovative pairing classroom work with real-world experience to succeed in a specific industry. On Aquidneck Island, SENEDIA (Defense Industry Trade Association) partners with Rogers High School on cybersecurity. In Westerly, Electric Boat teaches high school students to be welders and boat builders. EB has 1,000 jobs each year for the next several as Rhode Island builds submarines for the US Navy.

Let’s continue to educate and train our workforce so they can cash those paychecks earned (and spent) here in Rhode Island. Johnson & Johnson, a Fortune 25 company specializing in information technology and data analytics, plans to open its new health technology center in Rhode Island with 75 high-skilled positions. Wexford Innovation Center is creating jobs in our state from construction to computer science. Virgin Pulse, which recently bought a Rhode Island company ShapeUp, is expanding its operations in Rhode Island creating 300 jobs.

Rhode Island has always been, and will continue to be, a state of innovators and doers—from the spinning wheels at Slater Mill to the spinning turbines off Block Island. This country’s first off-shore wind farm, the Block Island Wind Farm, is a powerful example of the state’s long-standing commitment to innovation and getting things done.

Rhode Island is home to world-class beaches, parks, and trails, but Rhode Island must also be home for innovators, entrepreneurs, and just plain doers. So, let’s get it done.

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Representative Deborah Ruggiero- District 74 Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Small Business and serves on House Finance.

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Sen. Jim Seveney sworn in as General Assembly convenes

RI State Senator James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 3, as the 2017-18 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Seveney was one of 4 new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 38 Senate members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with a program of activities that included the re-election of Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in January 2009, President Paiva Weed began her fifth two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.

Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.

He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

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Portsmouth police station bond passes House

16may11_canario.jpgRep. Dennis Canario’s (D-71) legislation (H 7793) that authorizes the Town of Portsmouth to issue $10,000,000 of general obligation bonds and/or notes in order to design, construct, equip and furnish a new police station passed the House of Representatives last night, according to a state house news release. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“The current police station was built in the 1970’s and it was built for the 70’s. So there was no female officer locker room, crucial technology systems are housed in inadequate non-cooled rooms, officers must store their gear in boiler rooms, there is no public space for events such as the citizens’ police academy, and in today’s climate, and the layout of station is below standards for the public and the officers. These are among the many reasons a new station is needed,” said Representative Canario. “If approved by the voters, these bonds will allow the town to build a police station that everyone can be proud of and one that would be able to serve the citizens in the most effective and state-of-the-art way possible.”

The act would take effect upon approval by the voters of Portsmouth.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

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Rep. Canario school bus driver training legislation passes House

16may11_canario.jpgPortsmouth Rep. Dennis Canario’s legislation (H8082) that requires school bus drivers’ annual training include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s school bus driver in-service training series was passed by the House of Representatives tonight, according to a state house news release. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“There is nothing more important to Rhode Island’s parents than the safety of their children on our state’s school buses. This legislation ensures that our bus drivers are trained with the most up to date safety procedures and protocols that are available,” said Representative Canario (D-71). “The passage of this bill keeps our kids safer, it keeps our roads safer, and it makes sure that our state’s school bus drivers will always have the most current national safety training and do their jobs in the safest manner possible.”

The series includes training on driver attitude; student management; highway and rail grade crossing safety; vehicle training; knowing your route; loading and unloading; driving under adverse weather conditions; emergency evacuation; and transporting students with special needs. If the legislation becomes law, school bus drivers would need to receive the training annually.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

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LTE: R.I. must build smarter now to adapt to already-rising sea levels

By Rep. Lauren H. Carson

16may16_carson.jpgIn recent years, it has become common to walk out my front door near Newport’s waterfront in the historic Point neighborhood during a storm and see several inches of water surging up the road. For some, the challenges caused by sea rise and flooding still seem hypothetical, but for me and the hundreds of other neighbors and businesses in my district, the issue is on our doorsteps — sometimes over them.

While Rhode Island possesses the research and intellectual capital to tackle sea-level rise, I witnessed a communication divide between those studying the issue, stakeholders affected by it and leaders capable of addressing it. For that reason, one of my first priorities upon my election to the House was to sponsor the creation of a commission to study and bring attention to the economic risks that sea rise and flooding pose to our state.

The commission, whose members hail from real estate, hospitality and tourism, academia, science and public policy, worked for six months, conducting case studies on the Providence Port, the Newport waterfront and the Westerly beachfront, and listening to municipal, state, and regional experts.

What we found was that businesses from beachside restaurants in Westerly to marine shipping corporations in Providence are beginning to understand the threat of sea level rise and conceptualize solutions, but we still have much work to do to ensure the Ocean State adequately adapts. In the end, the state must adopt a philosophical approach to meeting adaptation goals that embrace the broader aim of protecting Rhode Island’s overall economy from flooding and rising waters.

Toward that end, I have introduced legislation requiring continuing training on sea rise and flooding for all local zoning and planning boards, to ensure that those who have the front-line duties of determining whether, where and how we build our communities have the information and tools to ensure new development and redevelopment is built with an eye toward protecting assets from rising sea levels, which also affect inland and riverene municipalities. This is quite possibly one of the most critically important things we can do to protect public and private assets, as well as lives and livelihoods, from flooding. Empowering local planners to recognize future risks and require that future development protect against them will do more than protect their investments; it will also help keep insurance costs for all Rhode Island properties from rising rapidly, since high replacement costs and recurring disasters increase insurers’ costs, and property-holders’ rates. The insurance industry should embrace my efforts to prepare for future risk.

I am also working to design a flood audit program similar to the existing free energy audit program offered by RISE Engineering through National Grid. While this legislation may not be ready in time for passage this session, helping businesses and residential property owners in the flood plain understand and mitigate their own risks was one of the recommendations of our commission.

At the commission’s request, the Department of Business Regulation is also considering regulatory training for real estate agents on sea rise and flooding as part of their continuing education requirements as a means for making improvements to existing properties when they hit the market to ensure their protection from flooding, and helping agents protect Rhode Island buyers from making risky investments.

Our study commission learned many important things about our fragile coast, but mainly we learned that there is a high cost to doing nothing. A do-nothing approach will likely cause insurance premiums to increase and homes and businesses to flood near and far from our 400 miles of coastline.

It is cheaper to act now.

Rhode Island is prepared to do that because of well-defined regulations, strong risk-assessment tools, and effective cooperation between the government, academia and the private sector.
We can project Rhode Island as a leader in the region for taking steps to ensure minimal property damage and business interruption costs and loss of value due to sea rise, sea surge and flooding.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is chairwoman of the Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise.

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