Spotlight on the Statehouse: March 13, 2014

Metro Editor
Thursday, March 13, 2014

In proposed resolutions and legislation this week, the General Assembly targeted childhood education, renewable energy and health care delivery.

Kindergarten program

The Senate Education Committee considered a joint resolution Wednesday to study the feasibility of creating full-day kindergarten programs in all Rhode Island school districts, according a General Assembly press release. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston and West Warwick, chair of the committee, would establish a 12-member commission comprising senators, representatives, members of statewide education and teaching organizations and the director of the Rhode Island Schools Superintendents Association. The bill calls for the commission to examine the need for full-day programs, as well as their costs, merits and potential curricula.


Expanded power generation grid

Sen. Susan Sosnowski, D-New Shoreham and South Kingston, introduced a bill to gradually expand a pilot power generation program from producing 40 megawatts of energy over four years to 160 megawatts over five years, according to a General Assembly press release. The current program — introduced in 2011 and set to expire this year — provides small-scale energy producers the opportunity to sell their energy to the National Grid, thereby generating power for areas outside the state’s small number of large power plants. The program is designed to encourage more renewable and clean energy projects, create jobs and incentivize lower energy prices in the state.  Companion legislation has been introduced in the House, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown and Middletown, according to the press release.


Insurance exchanges

Legislation to strengthen Rhode Island health care by promoting the state’s health exchange market was introduced in the Senate and House by Sen. Gayle Goldin, D-Providence, and Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, according to a General Assembly news release.  The bill would help the state compete for the 2017 State Innovation Waiver, a federal program that includes a grant, by making the new health insurance exchange — HealthSourceRI ­— “the sole hub for securing insurance or health services coverage.” The waiver’s financial component would go toward making the state’s health system more affordable and efficient, according to the press release. The bills call for the creation of a state health care authority, the introduction of more options for employer private insurance plans, the establishment of new minimum standards for beneficiaries and the formation of a planning council to develop a five-year plan for improving statewide health.

Affordable Housing

Rep. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, introduced legislation to reform the current zoning requirements for affordable housing, according to a General Assembly press release. The bill stipulates that towns and cities must offer incentives to developers who apply for zoning ordinances to build affordable housing units.

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