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RI Legislature Passes Budget, Hands-Free Phone Law; Firearm Forfeiture Law to be voted on in September

August 4, 2017

After a nearly two-week stand-off by leadership in the RI Senate, the General Assembly has passed a multi-billion dollar budget, that the Governor has signed into law.

The budget, coming in at 9.2 billion dollars, includes a controversial provision to reimburse Rhode Island residents over $26 million in car taxes over the next fiscal year, and continuing, which is expected to cost the state nearly $225 million each year for six years.  Read more at Rhode Island Public Radio. 

But when the Senate reconvenes on September 19, it will take up even more controversial legislation:  one bill will work to remove domestic violence abusers from their guns, and another bill will introduce a series of criminal justice reform measures that have been championed by many stakeholders for the last two legislative sessions.

The House bill, The Protect Rhode Island Families Act, 2017-H 5510B, would bring Rhode Island into alignment with federal law and prevent those convicted of certain domestic violence crimes to surrender their firearms, and be prevented from acquiring more firearms.  The bill would also apply to defendants who are subject of court protective orders to stay away from their victims.  This bill is supported by domestic violence prevention advocates, and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who has said that he has spoken with police officers also in support of the legislation.

Another controversial bill that was signed and passed into law prior to the end of the July session, is a bill aimed at putting an end to distracted driving on Rhode Island roads.  The General Assembly has toughened the state’s texting while driving laws to require drivers to operate their phones with “hands-free” technology while making a cellular telephone call.  The bill, S 0175, provides for a $100 fine if a motor vehicle operator is cited for holding a mobile phone to make a call, even if the operator is not holding the phone in direct physical contact to his or her ear.  The law goes into effect on June 1, 2018.  There is a rebuttable presumption that if a person is speaking into the phone, that it is for the purpose of making a call.  Lawmakers passed, and the Governor signed this law in light of the fact that in 2015 alone, over 3,000 people were killed as a result of distracted driving.

To learn how this legislation might affect you, contact Brett Beaubien today.

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