2022 – A Different General Assembly
The Rhode Island General Assembly opened the session on January 4, 2022. The legislative calendar has been released and the last date for House and Senate Public Bill Introduction is Friday, February 10, 2022. The initial last day of House bill hearing is April 12, 2022. The House adopted a new rule last year that is now in effect. This new rule allows each representative to designate three of his/her 2021 bills to remain alive in 2022, i.e. carryover bills. The bill will be given a new 2022 number with a reference to the 2021 bill number. Any such bill that had a hearing in 2021 but was never voted on by the Committee can be brought up by the committee for a vote with 48 hours posting notice. No additional bill hearing is required.
The Senate did not adopt the rule such that all Senate bills must be introduced and receive a hearing. Unfortunately, the Senate has a habit to pass bills the very day of hearing, especially for bills that passed a Senate Committee the previous year. The last day of Senate consideration of Senate bills is February 14, 2022.
Bill introductions have been slow but legislation surely has not been in the forefront. What has, for the present, taken over is “plain old fashioned politics.” As you all know, in 2021 Governor Daniel McKee was elevated from Lt. Governor to Governor by virtue of the resignation of former Governor Gina Raimondo who was named Secretary of Commerce by President Joseph Biden. A number of Democrats have now publicly stated they intend to run for Governor. This list includes Governor McKee, former Secretary of State Matt Brown, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former CVS Health Corporate Executive Helena B. Foukles, and Dr. Luis Daniel Munoz. This race could get ugly. Potential declared Republican candidates include David Darlington, former RI Turnpike & Bridge Authority Chairman, and possibly former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. There will probably be others. If the Republicans can get behind one candidate and avoid the likely nasty Democratic primary and post primary sore losers then it could get interesting.
In addition, Congressman James Langevin, who has represented the state’s second congressional district since 2001 in the wake of his bombshell announcement and surprised most Rhode Islanders, including elected officials, stated he will not be running for reelection in 2022. Now, there will be yet another down and out brawl as several Democrats have already declared or have said they are considering running for his seat. This includes present State Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D), Robert Walsh (D), State Senator Joshua Miller (D), Ed Pacheco (D) and possibly Dr. Nichole Alexander Scott, outgoing Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Potential Republican candidates include Bob Lancia, State Senator Jessica de la Cruz (R), and Allan Fung.
The key issue will be how the state deals with the numerous demands for a piece of the bundles of federal cash together with a state surplus of $618 million. The proposed budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 is $12.8 billion.
Governor McKee’s budget targets COVID recovery and an avoidance in tax or fee hikes. This will not deter the Progressives from filing legislation to tax high earners. It will also permit cities and towns to reduce the tangible personal property tax imposed on business without having to get General Assembly approval; a good idea!
Businesses will also lobby to include estate tax relief and address the current requirement that employees receive “Sunday and holiday” premium pay. More important is protecting the business sector from the continuous onslaught of unfair and unnecessary mandates that contribute to the yearly increase in health care costs or further place more legal liability for “allegations on workplace bullying”; very loosely defined.
Other major issues are redistricting, legalization of recreational marijuana (a priority), affordable housing, and gun control. Lastly, for once our state is awash with federal funds (a state budget surplus of $618 million; America’s Rescue Plans Act (ARPA)), Recovery Funds ($1.13 billion), and several million more including the federal public infrastructure dollars and monies not previously spent much of which is discretionary in application.
Simply said Rhode Island is flush with cash and the key is not to spend it like “a drunken sailor.” This is a onetime funding to invest in housing, education, economic and workplace development, public health, climate, children and families, and behavioral health, i.e. to wisely invest in our state’s future. Let’s get it done!