2015 Assembly Session Underway

The 2015 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly began last month on the same day that Gov. Gina Raimondo and the other General Officers took the oath of office.

Eighteen new legislators - 15 in the House and 3 in the Senate – took their places in a legislature that remains overwhelmingly Democratic.  The 75 member House includes 63 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent while the 38 member Senate has 32 Democrats, five Republicans and one independent.

The consensus top priority for lawmakers this year is to work to improve the Rhode Island economy.  To that end, the R.I. Society of CPAs is a charter member of the Rhode Island Business Coalition, founded in 2013.  Joining the Society in the effort to improve the economy is a broad array of business groups listed at the bottom of this piece.  The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), a member of the group, provides indispensable policy support for the effort.

This year’s initiatives fall into five broad categories:

  • Workforce development
  • Access to Capital
  • The Cost-of-Doing Business in Rhode Island
  • Regulatory Reform
  • Fiscal Stability and Economic Development Policy

Workforce Development

Improving Rhode Island’s workforce development efforts has focused the attention of policymakers in recent years. This year, attention is being focused on implementing the 2014 career and technical education (CTE) legislation.  This re-created a Board of Trustees for CTE, and established a non-profit 501(c)3 entity aimed at streamlining and coordinating CTE funding, among other steps.

Access to Capital

One proposal is for the establishment of “one-stop-shop” centers where business owners can meet with trained personnel to learn about licensing, regulations, financing, taxes and other factors in running a business, with a focus on low income communities.

The Cost-of-Doing Business in Rhode Island

Building on the Coalition’s successful 2014 effort to increase the estate exemption, the group will explore other reforms, including the possibility of estate tax exemptions for small family-owned businesses.

Regulatory Reform

The Coalition has consistently supported the work of the Office of Regulatory Reform, and has urged that its twelve major recommendations be acted on in a timely manner.  These are:

  • Map the regulatory environment;
  • Eliminate statutory exemptions;
  • Improve accessibility to regulations;
  • Remove duplicative regulations and non-regulations;
  • Rejoin separated regulation;
  • Reform the audit, inspection and enforcement process;
  • Promote lawmaker and small business participation in reform;
  • Support improved cost-benefit analysis;
  • Promote continuous process improvement;
  • Push reform efforts beyond current performance levels;
  • Adjust the administrative procedures act; and
  • Promote performance-based regulatory approaches.

Fiscal Stability and Economic Development Policy

The Coalition supports efforts to improve the planning and delivery of Rhode Island’s municipal and state government services through increased efficiencies and coordination, and an elevation of economic development policy.

Here’s a list of all Coalition members, and their leadership -

  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Rhode Island- Robert J. Boisselle, President
  • Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce-Laurie White, President
  • National Federation of Independent Businesses- Bill Vernon, State Director
  • Oil Heat Institute of Rhode Island- Julie Gill, Executive Director
  • Rhode Island Builders Association- John V. Marcantonio, Executive Director
  • Rhode Island Hospitality Association- Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO
  • Rhode Island Independent Contractors & Associates- Matthew R. Olson, President
  • Rhode Island Lumber and Building Materials Dealer Association- Jeff Keller, Manager of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
  • Rhode Island Manufacturers Association- William McCourt, Executive Director
  • Rhode Island Mortgage Bankers Association- Deborah A. Imondi, President
  • Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit- Gary Ezovski, Regulations Committee Chairman
  • Rhode Island Small Business Economic Summit- Grafton Willey, Tax and Budget Committee Chairman
  • Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants- Robert A. Mancini, Executive Director
  • Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE)- Philip M. Papoojian, Chairman
  • Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance – Molly Donohue Magee, Executive Director
  • Utility Contractors Association of Rhode Island- Robert E. Lafleur, Executive Director

Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition Members:

  • Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce- Lauren E.I. Slocum, President/CEO
  • Greater Cranston Chamber of Commerce – Stephen Boyle, Executive Director
  • East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce- Stephen M. Lombardi, Executive Director
  • East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce- Laura A. McNamara, Executive Director
  • East Bay Chamber of Commerce- Mark G. DeVine, Chairman
  • Greater Westerly/Pawcatuck Area- Lisa Konicki, Executive Director
  • Newport County Chamber of Commerce- Jody Sullivan, Executive Director
  • North Central Chamber of Commerce- Deborah J. Ramos, President
  • North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce- Martha Pughe, Executive Director
  • Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce- John C. Gregory, President/CEO
  • Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce- Elizabeth Berman, Director of Mission Development