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Spotlight on the Statehouse: Feb. 14, 2013

Teacher tenure

The House Labor Committee reviewed legislation this week to revise employment policies for Rhode Island’s public schools. Rep. Scott Guthrie, D-Coventry, introduced the bill, which suggests a system of seniority through which teachers would be “suspended” from schools when student populations decrease.

Under this policy, teachers would be suspended “in the inverse order of their employment unless it is necessary to retain certain teachers of technical subjects,” according to the bill.

When student figures return to stable levels, teachers will be reinstated in the order in which they were notified of suspension.

Guthrie’s bill also stipulates that schools may not hire new teachers while there are teachers waiting to be reinstated.


‘Ban the box’

Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, and Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, introduced legislation in the General Assembly this week to “ban the box” on job applications that questions applicants on their criminal histories for private R.I. businesses.

Providence is currently one of the 40 cities across the nation that already has similar laws in place for the public sector.

If passed, the legislation would give residents seeking employment in the private sector a “chance to be considered on their qualifications, not immediately rejected from consideration because of a wrong decision in their past for which they have paid their debt to society,” Slater said in a General Assembly press release.

The legislation would also prevent employers from requesting criminal background checks from prospective applicants. But this bill would not supersede current laws prohibiting individuals convicted of certain crimes from working with those specific groups of society to whom they pose a risk, such as children or the elderly, according to the GA release.

“Individuals who have done wrong and paid for their mistakes should not be haunted for the rest of their lives,” Metts said, according to the release. “People coming out of prison need jobs to feed their families, pay rent, move on with their lives.”


Sandy Aid

Approximately two months after the R.I. congressional delegation pressured Republicans to pass an aid package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is receiving $15 million of federal aid to facilitate reconstruction of state infrastructure. Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Jim Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline, all D-RI, jointly announced the appropriation earlier this week.

Rhode Island has now received approximately $48 million of federal aid to rebuild after the storm, according to a press release from the delegation.

This most recent aid package results from the Superstorm Sandy Supplemental Appropriations bill, which was signed into law by President Obama at the end of January.




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