From voting rights, healthcare and housing to minimum wage, several new laws from the State House went into effect on Jan. 1. Here’s a summary of the legislation and how they will impact Rhode Islander in the new year.
Voting rights: S0035A
S0035A expands voting eligibility for primary elections to any individual under the age of 18 who will be 18 by the time of the general elections and are registered to vote.
“This legislation is especially pertinent today with the country witnessing so many young people actively involving themselves in the political discussion,” said Secretary of State Gregg Amore in a press release. “These students deserve to have their voices heard in the electoral process because it is their futures that will be affected by these elections.”
Healthcare: S0563A and H5283A
Introduced in March 2023, S0563A aims to improve the state’s healthcare sector. The bill requires insurance companies to cover both pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis treatments for HIV — better known as PrEP and PEP, respectively — provided they are administered by in-network professionals.
The bill also mandates that health insurers cover this treatment from out-of-network providers if none exist in-network that can provide treatment.
In 2022, only 36% of people who could benefit from these treatments were actually prescribed them, according to the CDC. There are “significant barriers that continue to hinder PrEP uptake, including lack of knowledge and lack of trusted or easily accessible PrEP providers in many communities,” the CDC website reads.
Introduced in February 2023, H5283A also expands insurance responsibility and mandates coverage for medically-necessary breast cancer screenings. This includes “magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound (and) molecular breast imaging” for patients with dense breast tissue.
Representative Kathleen Fogarty (D-South Kingstown), one of the sponsors of the bill, said in press release that patients with dense breast tissue “have a higher risk of developing breast cancer and often need supplemental screenings to a mammogram.”
“Anything that can be done to mitigate the risks and add to early detection is invaluable in women’s health care,” Fogarty said.
Housing: S0311A and H5108A
S0311A prohibits landlords from charging prospective tenants rental application fees. But if applicants do not have valid criminal background checks or credit reports, landlords can still ask them for compensation to conduct the checks.
“The bill is aimed at eliminating a barrier that makes it yet more difficult for renters to secure an apartment in Rhode Island’s tight housing market,” according to a press release from the Rhode Island General Assembly.
Bill H5108A further amends the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act so that tenants can deduct an aggregate of $500 per year — increased from $125 — from their rent payments for repairs.
Introduced in January 2021 by Representative David Bennett (D-Cranston, Warwick), H5130A raises the minimum wage from a baseline of $11.50 through incremental yearly increases targeting $15 per hour by 2025. This year, the bill brings the minimum wage to $14.
In a press release from the Rhode Island General Assembly Bennet said that “minimum wage increases … help employees without putting their companies at a competitive disadvantage.”
S0129 allows the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue state identification cards to individuals who are “unable to establish legal presence in the United States,” but can provide other documentation to establish proof of identity, proof of residence and a personal income tax return.
S0988 requires parking spaces and charging stations for electric vehicles in parking lots that are new or expanded by at least 50%.
Avani Ghosh is a Metro Editor covering politics & justice and community & activism. She is a sophomore from Ohio studying Health & Human Biology and International & Public Affairs. She is an avid earl grey enthusiast and can be found making tea in her free time.