There are many issues that are in the news today that are not currently being addressed legislatively, but are of tremendous importance to our district and state. Rep Chippendale will attempt to cover some of the more "High-Profile" issues here and will offer his perspective. If there is an issue that is of importance to you that you do not see listed here, or if you have an issue that you would like to bring to the Rep's attention, please contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Topics that have been of concern to voters in recent months
Welfare Reform/Illegal Immigration - This year I co-sponsored a bill that would prevent holders of EBT cards from purchasing certain items with their cards such as alcohol, tobacco and many other items that are not appropriate for taxpayer money to be used to purchase. The House of Representatives agreed that this was a great idea and a bill was passed to do exactly that - but for reasons beyond my comprehension, the RI Senate killed the bill and refused to pass it. We will continue to submit bills like this, and I will always look for ways of protecting the RI taxpayers from fraud and abuse.
Gun Control - there have been several solid years of legislation proposed to allegedly "address" the problems we are seeing across the nation regarding the violence being perpetrated by individuals who are choosing firearms to spread their violence. Unfortunately nearly all of the legislation was guttural, emotionally based, and would have had no true impact on the criminals of RI using firearms. Thankfully there have been a few pieces of legislation that were submitted and supported by legislators who understand this is a "crime" issue and not a "2nd Amendment Issue". Because of the legislation submitted by certain legislators, a commission was formed to study the most prevalent element of the recent wave of violence - mental health. This commission - The Joint Commission on Behavior Health and Firearms worked all through the summer and fall of 2013 as well as the early part of 2014 to render decisions based on expert testimony from federal authorities and other leading experts in the area of judicial proceedings that involve mental health. There were 2 pieces of legislation that came from the work of this committee and it will mandate that RI submits criminal mental health records to the federal system "NICS" that is used to process all applications to purchase a firearm in RI. As a co-sponsor of this legislation I am hopeful that it will be considered by the leadership of the Legislature because it truly will fill a current void in RI's system of performing background checks.
We will post press releases containing information about the Representative and any initiatives that have been covered, or just general news about the House of Representatives.
The State of Rhode Island is facing tremendous financial difficulties. That seems like a very obvious statement, but unfortunately the actions - or lack of action, of the state's leaders don't really reflect this at the current time.
Social Issues will always exist - and they will always need to be dealt with because many impact our economy. However, our state really needs to take radical measures to pull ourselves out of the economic pit we are in, and it is my belief, and also one of the guiding principles of my legislative approach, is to focus on rebuilding our economic foundation. No matter how beautiful the "house" may be, if it's built on a faulty foundation, it will never stand the test time, and will crumble under its own weight.
Truck Tolls- Nationwide, the tolling of freeways has proven to be a tremendously successful way to generate a steady stream of revenue to support the upkeep and renewal of roadway/bridge infrastructure. However, Rhode Island is past the point of being able to toll freeways - federally we are only legally able to toll bridges. This makes for an extremely difficult situation if as a state we were to implement a statewide tolling plan. The tolls would need to be within and throughout our state - not just on the state borders as we see in other New England states. Furthermore, the burden of these tolls would have a devastating impact on our local economy in the sense that local companies that use trucks to move their product around the state would be paying a lot of extra money to do the same job they've been doing for years. This would make them less competitive, and be potentially devastating to certain businesses. Many businesses get their raw materials from the port of Quonset. If the tolls are put in place, they may decide to make their bulk purchases from out of state where the vendor will not have to drive over any "tolled bridges."
From the very beginning when the governor unleashed her plan in a very high profile press conference underneath one of the hundreds of crumbling bridges in RI she failed to properly represent what the actual details were about this plan. Whether by accident or not, those misrepresentations were major and did not even remotely resemble the plan her staff had put together. That makes me very concerned that what we're being told is in the plan may not actually be in the plan - and this is the same for "future versions" of the plan that may be released as well.
The current proposals have been said by many to be constructed in a manner that will certainly curry favor with two groups that the governor has ties to; Wall Street, which has made her financially successful and helped her to get elected in 2010 and again 2014 and arguably have been strong beneficiaries of her pension investments while Treasurer. And the labor unions who would get a short-term infusion of jobs and with whom she has had a stressed relationship due to her pension reform plan of 2011. I don't believe that public money should be used - especially without the public consent, to help one political figure continue to "climb the ladder" which all indicators are that she is not finished with her planned ascent.
Each year the House Republicans work collectively on an Economic "Pro-Growth" Agenda. The method behind determining what bills will be in our Agenda, we look at the leading economic impact studies as well as any study where Rhode Island ranks poorly (usually in the bottom 5 performers), and we seek to address these issues that are negatively impacting our residents. Our Agenda is based on facts and studies that demonstrate a true negative effect on Rhode Island. These are not "pet-bills" or special interest bills - they are based on data, they are aimed at correcting problems and they are extremely well researched before they are written.
We look at our approach as "finding a cure for the disease, rather than putting a band-aid on the symptoms." As a matter of policy we look at our neighboring states first and we work to make RI more competitive with our neighbors so that more people (both from RI, and from out of state) will want to spend their money in Rhode Island. We also want to create a business environment where businesses will want to either move to Rhode Island, start-up in Rhode Island and very importantly - stay in Rhode Island.
When our state is in an economic, taxation and regulatory position to draw companies into our state, or to grow in our state, we create jobs. The more jobs that are created, the greater the demand for workers and the lower our unemployment will be. In fact, if we can make ourselves MORE attractive than our neighbors, the businesses will come and grow, and RI will have a population of residents that will be able to find jobs, careers and entrepreneurial opportunities and that will make our state thrive! There will be less dependence on the social services which are a drain on our annual budget. There will be a higher retention of high school and college graduates who stay in Rhode Island to build their lives here. We will find out of state residents coming here to spend their money on vacations, durable goods and services and our state will start to grow.
That is the goal of the Republican Pro-Growth Agenda.
Below is a list of all bills outside of the "Pro-Growth Agenda" that I have submitted to date (February 1st 2015)
H-5488 - Bring Broadband Internet Access to ALL Foster Residents
- As I work on seeking a resolution through diplomacy rather than legislation, I have introduced this bill to raise awareness of the serious problem certain Ponaganset school students are struggling with.
- Foster is the only town in RI that does not have 100% coverage for broadband internet service for all residents. Cox provides service to our town center - the Police, Town Hall, Fire Department and library. Consequently, Cox agreed to offer cable/internet service to anyone who resided along the route of the lines that Cox strung up to get to the center of town.
- Some years later, Verizon came to Foster and offers FIOS - Fiber Optic Service, which provides most town residents with premier television service, phone service and most importantly - Broadband Internet Service. However, there are over 200 homes to which Verizon refuses to provide FIOS service. These homes are not all tucked away in a far away corner of the town - they are spread throughout the entire western part of town. In some cases there are houses across the road from one another and one will have service, and the other will not.
- I've submitted legislation for years to try to get the entire town connected to Broadband internet. Despite many of the opposition testimony, this is no longer a "luxury" issue about "getting onto facebook" - but it is now a necessity. It is the main manner in which people seek employment. It is often times the only way for people to communicate with loved ones in faraway places (perhaps serving in the armed forces), and as of the 2014 school year in the Ponaganset School District, the students now utilize Chromebooks, or "laptop" computers to do their class work and home work. The students who live in a home with no broadband internet are then left with no option but to go to another location where there is access like the library, or the home of a friend. This is just plain wrong. As of right now, only the 7th and 9th grade students are using the Chromebooks on a full time basis - but the usage of these devices is being phased in district wide and every student in the District will be using them before too long. Our children's education is now being harmed by the unwillingness of Verizon to provide access to those 200+ residents.
Recent Press Coverage of this issue;
(click link for story)
H-5060 - Special Legislative Commission to Study High Energy Costs in the State of RI (Co-Sponsor)
- Although I am not a fan of Legislative Commissions in most cases, a Commission of this nature is necessary in Rhode Island right now to officially review all of the cost drivers on the price of Energy in our State.
- Some of those "drivers" include the limitations that have been legislated over the "types" of fuels that can be used, the delivery methods for those fuels, and other various drivers. Another aspect which is only beginning to have an impact on the cost of energy is the rapid, broad-based infusion of policies that are compelling the transition from traditional to alternative energy sources.
- While I myself am a strong proponent of alternative energy options and a migration from certain fossil based fuels to less harmful renewable energy sources, the steps that the General Assembly have included goals for the amount of renewables, and the implementation timelines are too aggressive and are resulting in precipitously large increases in the cost of energy.
- A formal study and report from an objective commission can be used to help guide our future policies, and perhaps guide us toward "fixes" to some of the costly policies that have already been implemented.
H-5081 - Wine Direct Shipper License (Co-Sponsor)
- As Rhode Island becomes a state with more and more wine producers and vineyards, this bill will create a means for licensed wine producers in Rhode Island to ship wine directly to buyers anywhere in the nation.
- This is an economic development bill that will help this new industry in RI spread its client base and create a virtual marketplace to showcase Rhode Island Wineries. When new industries form in Rhode Island, we need to be ready to support them in all ways possible to enable growth and success.
H-5105 & 5106 - Sales and Use tax Computation for Pickup Trucks (Lead Sponsor)
- In RI when you purchase a car and trade in your old car, the state takes the price you paid for your new car, subtracts the amount you received from your trade-in, and only charges sales tax on the difference.
- However, we do not do this with Pickup Trucks. The cost of the trade-in is not deducted from the purchase price and the buyer must pay sales tax on the entire cost of the Pickup. The difference in the two bills is that one uses the weight limit that defines a Pickup Truck as "commercial" and the other bill applies to any Pickup weighing less than the commercial threshold.
- With the popularity of Pickup trucks as primary vehicles skyrocketing over the decades to its highest point in history, our laws have not kept up and we still inequitably tax them at a higher rate.
H-5144 - Public Transit RIPTA Buses and Foster RI (Lead Sponsor)
- Foster is the only town in mainland RI that does not have at least 1 RIPTA bus or shuttle that comes to Foster at least once in the morning and once in the evening. The residents of Foster fund RIPTA with their payment of the gas tax just as every other citizen. In fact it could be argued that due to Foster's remote location, the residents spend MORE in gas tax because they have to drive longer to get anywhere.
- It is important to have at least one inbound and outbound bus available for people who do not drive, or cannot drive. In this economy there is an abundance of people who have lost their licenses and need to get to work. There are people who have suspended licenses or who had to drop the insurance or registration because they weren't working and couldn't afford it. They need to get to job interviews, doctor appointments etc.
- It's a simple matter of equity that the residents of the town of Foster have public transit available to them just like every other Rhode Island resident.
H-5237 - Sales and Use tax Computation for Motorcycles (Lead Sponsor)
- Motorcycles are taxed the same way as pickup trucks (as explained above in 5105/5106) and this bill seeks to instate tax equity for the owners of motorcycles.
H-5192 - Unlawful Interference with Highway Traffic (Co-Sponsor)
- This is not typically the "type" of legislation that I get involved with, but after watching the events in Boston where dozens of individuals were involved in shutting down the interstate in the middle of rush hour traffic by chaining themselves to 1,000 lb barrels of concrete in order to "protest" an issue that was national news.
- I take my oath to the Constitution very seriously and would not sign any bill that I believed was an infringement on anyone's civil rights, especially the 1st Amendment. However, the behavior that was demonstrated in Boston when the passage of traffic was nearly brought to a complete halt, was an extremely irresponsible act that endangered the lives of potentially thousands of people and I believe it crosses to the age-old threshold to the 1st Amendment of "Screaming FIRE in a crowded theater."
- Lawful protest is an American tradition, right and freedom. But if in doing so you directly endanger the safety of an entire city, you have abused that right and should be punished accordingly.
H-5196 - Blood and Urine tests for Drivers of Municipal Vehicles (Co-Sponsor)
- This bill simply seeks to create a policy for municipal employees who drive town, city or state vehicles allowing random drug and alcohol testing as a Condition of Employment.
- Anyone who drives a vehicle that is paid for with taxpayer funds while under the influence of intoxicating substances is endangering the public at large, and is exposing the municipality that owns the vehicle to extreme legal liability that could result in millions of dollars being awarded to victims of an auto collision.
H-5236 - Personal Income Tax (Co-Sponsor)
- Bill 5236 simply exempts the first $15,000 of Federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) that an individual draws from their retirement savings plan.
- This bill helps to keep more of the retiree's money in their own hands so that they can better afford living expenses, and it will also help create economic activity by introducing more money into the marketplace to be spent by retirees.
H-5237 - Sales Tax on Leased Motor Vehicles (Co-Sponsor)
- When an automobile is leased, the leasing company will take the monthly payment made by the lessor and apportion it to cover principal payment, property taxes, and in some instances auto insurance. This bill will prevent the state from charging sales tax on the portions of the payment that are used for things other than the principal - or the "tangible" portion of the lease.