GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS


A quick dispatch from the State House

The State received some good budget news when it was determined last week that general revenues are approximately $106.8 million higher than what was projected last November. These numbers reduce the pressure to make politically difficult budget cuts.

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Since the Assembly session began in January, just there have been 1,204 bills introduced in the House, and 911 bills introduced in the Senate.

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One piece of legislation that has garnered broad interest, and support, is Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi’s job-creation bill.  The proposal would provide corporate tax credits or cash incentives to businesses that hire a set number of new employees.  This bill gives tax credits to companies that create full-time jobs at the median hourly wage, or higher.  Companies would also be allowed to redeem tax credits for cash.  House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Governor Raimondo recently attended an event to express their support for the bill.

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A brewing controversy in the Assembly surrounds House bill 5473.  The legislation would amend state law to include platoon structure and shift schedules in the collective bargaining process for firefighters.  Currently, those matters are considered to be “management rights” and under the discretion of municipalities or fire districts.

This legislation would overturn a recent State Supreme Court ruling in Town of North Kingstown v. International Association of Firefighters, Local 1651 AFL-CIO, et al. where the Court determined that the platoon structure of a fire department is a management right of the municipality and not subject to the collective bargaining process.

The Court rested on a large body of existing case law to reach their decision, including Rhode Island legal precedent, federal case law and decisions reached in similar cases in other states. Business groups consider overturning the Court’s decision by enacting H. 5473 to be an unprecedented narrowing of management rights, and a step that would only increase budget pressures and property taxes.