RI State Report: Gay Marriage, Stress + Tax-Free Liquor Days
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Senate approves same-sex marriage bill
On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation allowing gay marriage, putting Rhode Island on track to becoming the 10th state in country to legalize same-sex marriage. The measure, which passed by a 26-12 margin, will now make its way to the House for a procedural vote before going to Gov. Lincoln Chafe, who supports the bill.
“The eyes of the nation were upon us, and 26 senators cast a historic vote to join the force for marriage equality that is sweeping our nation. I thank my colleagues at this proud moment in Rhode Island history,” said Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, the primary sponsor of the Senate bill. “President Obama stated that our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated equally under the law, and each day, we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America which ends with the promise of liberty and justice for all…The bill moves us forward toward those ideals.”
Rep. Arthur Handy, who has introduced the legislation in the House each of the last 11 years commented: “For the many Rhode Islanders who have been waiting all their lives for equality and recognition that they deserve the same rights and responsibilities as their neighbors, today is a great relief; at last, marriage equality is going to happen.”
Under the bill, gender-specific language would be removed from the section of general laws that governs marriage eligibility. It instead inserts language allowing any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender.
The legislation, which would take effect Aug. 1, contains a provision allowing couples that have entered into civil unions in Rhode Island to convert those unions into marriages. Said couples would be required to apply to the clerk in the municipality where the civil union was recorded to have it recorded as a marriage.
Additionally, the bill includes language that guarantees freedom for religious institutions to establish their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith.
Once enacted, Rhode Island would become the last remaining New England state to allow same-sex marriage. Nine states and Washington, D.C. currently permit same-sex couples to marry.
Blazejewski introduces bill to help small business
Rep. Christopher Blazejewski has introduced legislation looking to help small businesses in Rhode Island’s budding science and technology sector.
Known as the Innovate RI Small Business Program, Blazejewski’s bill would help small businesses apply for federal funds pertaining to research and innovation. Under the bill, the state would also match some or all the awarded federal funds. Furthermore, it would establish a bioscience internship program modeled after a similar program in Massachusetts.
“This program is a little push that will help small businesses with good ideas gain access to other funding to help them turn those ideas into marketable technologies that will help propel our economy forward,” said Blazejewski. “It’s a matter of planting a seed that brings more money to help grow a business and, in turn, bring much more to our economy.”
According to Blazejewski, the bill is a crucial step in ensuring that Rhode Island gains traction in the burgeoning technology sector.
“If we’re serious about Rhode Island getting a foothold in new sectors, we need to get creative about ways to foster growth in innovative new businesses,” said Blazejewski. “This is a way we can encourage growth by start-ups and entrepreneurs who will employ Rhode Islanders in new sectors that can flourish here.”
The legislation has been assigned to the House Finance Committee.
Carnevale proposes tax holidays for liquor sales
With Memorial Day less than a month away, Rep. John M. Carnevale is proposing that the state celebrate with a tax holiday on alcoholic beverages.
“Especially in Rhode Island, it is easy to go out-of-state to buy food and drinks if the taxes are favorable elsewhere,” Carnevale said. “I want to make sure that Rhode Island can compete with our neighbors during the big holiday seasons, because it would give our small businesses some much-needed support.”
The bill would establish five inclusive periods where there would be no sales tax on alcoholic beverages. The legislation applies to locations where liquor is sold, but not consumed, such as a liquor store. This excludes bars, pubs and restaurants where alcohol is sold. Any alcohol purchase over $2,500 on behalf of a corporation would be subject to sales tax, according to the proposal.
Here are the five periods:
· Memorial Day – May 21 through May 28 this year, and the Tuesday before through the Tuesday after Memorial Day in future years.
· Fourth of July – June 22 through July 2 this year, and June 23 through July 3 in future years.
· Labor Day – August 20 to September 3 this year, and the Tuesday before through the Tuesday after Labor Day in future years.
· Thanksgiving – November 19 to November 29 this year, and nine days before Thanksgiving through the Friday after Thanksgiving in future years.
· Winter Holidays – December 10 to December 31 this year, and December 11 through December 31 in future years.
The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Finance.
Senate approves ‘Kelsey Smith Act’
On Tuesday, the Senate approved legislation that provides police the means to more quickly locate missing or kidnapped individuals.
Named in memory of an 18-year-old Kansas woman who abducted and later found sexually abused and murdered, the “Kelsey Smith Act” requires that telecommunications carriers immediately provide law enforcement with the call location information of an individual if requested by police in an emergency situation.
“When the lives of individuals, especially children, are at stake, we must ensure that law enforcement has all the tools available at their disposal to find or save that person,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. James E. Doyle. “Waiting several days for critical information because a cell phone company is concerned about liability is just unacceptable. When a life is in the balance, time is of the essence, and this legislation gives law enforcement, immediately, the information they need to save lives.”
The “Kelsey Smith Act” has been adopted in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Hawaii and Missouri.
Doyle’s bill will now head to the House for consideration.
Rhode Island among most-stressed states
Rhode Island is the second most-stressed state in the country, this according to a new Gallup poll released on Wednesday. The state follows only West Virginia, with roughly 46 percent of Rhode Islanders reporting feeling stressed.
Rhode Island topped the list when it came to residents experiencing the least enjoyment. Rhode Islanders were the least likely to report feeling enjoyment, at 80.4 percent.
Conversely, the poll concluded that Hawaii residents were the least stressed in the nation and experienced the most enjoyment. It marks the fifth straight year that Hawaii has ranked as the least-stressed state.
Gallup polled over 350,000 adults via phone for the study. Participants were asked about their stress and enjoyment levels during the day prior to being questioned.
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