RI lawmakers end 2010 session

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The Rhode Island General Assembly has concluded its annual session.

The House and Senate adjourned at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday after passing more than 100 pieces of legislation.

One was the homeless bill of rights, which aims to prevent discrimination against the homeless.

House lawmakers passed the so-called homeless bill of rights Tuesday night by a vote of 60-5. The Senate also passed the bill as well.   

The measure would prohibit police, healthcare workers, landlords or employers from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status.
    
Homeless advocate John Joyce says the bill of rights will combat the discrimination faced by homeless people every day.
    
The proposal was revised slightly after some lawmakers worried that it could burden local governments and police departments.
    
While some discrimination against the homeless is already prohibited, no state has passed such comprehensive legislation.

Lawmakers left without authorizing a property tax increase for Woonsocket. City leaders had asked for legislative permission to impose the tax to help close a $10 million deficit.

The bill stalled in the House Wednesday morning before the General Assembly adjourned.

State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly says the failure to authorize the tax could prompt sharp cuts to services or municipal layoffs in the struggling city.

The Woonsocket City Council asked the General Assembly to approve a 13 percent supplemental tax to help close a $10 million budget shortfall.

Lawmakers from Woonsocket blocked the tax but on Tuesday said they would support a smaller tax increase. Negotiations with Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s administration broke down Wednesday morning.

Another bill that would have capped interest rates charged by payday lenders also foundered on the final day.

The end of the session comes after lawmakers passed an $8.1 billion state budget that imposes new taxes on pet grooming, taxi fares and clothing items costing $250 or more.

The session began in January.

 

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