Spotlight on the State House: Vol. IX

You might have been soaking up the sun on Spring Break last week, but Rhode Island’s part-time legislators weren’t so lucky. Braving the state’s unpredictable winter-spring transition, lawmakers still served up legislation cracking down on animal cruelty and bringing all the excitement of C-SPAN to RI PBS.

This week, the saga continues…

As national politicians struggle to come up with a budget before a deadline they’ve known about for weeks (they’ve clearly never run a newspaper!), state legislators are hashing out the details of the budget Gov. Lincoln Chafee proposed last month. The House Finance Committee will hold hearings this week on budget issues like reducing the state’s corporate tax rate and letting schools transport children in “small vans” instead of buses to save money.

Lawmakers voted Tuesday to set up a state health care exchange, a marketplace for individuals and businesses to purchase coverage, in preparation for when the reform law goes into full effect in 2014. One problem — they unknowingly included language that would prevent women from purchasing a full plan that covers abortion under the exchange, making the bill more restrictive than the federal reform law, which bars using federal funds to pay for abortions. Legislators thought the provision was “simply a restatement of what exists in federal law” when it was introduced at the last minute, Brown’s own state Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, told The Providence Journal. Oops!  

Just another thing to add to our under-21 woes. Sen. Frank Lombardo, D-Johnston, wants to ban cell phone use by drivers under 21. Lombardo said he set the age limit at 21 “because I believe it is obvious that cell phones and other communication devices are more prevalent among the young. They have essentially grown up with these devices, to the extent that many seem unable to function without them.” Fighting words, Lombardo.

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