Under the Radar
More than 1,500 bills have already been filed in the several months of the 2013 General Assembly session. This week Jim Hummel emerges from a mind-numbing review of all of them to bring you some of the legislation flying under the public's radar: bills that will have you scratching your head and grateful that they have a long shot of ever seeing the light of day.
Close to 1,500 bills have been filed so far in the House and Senate in the first two months of the session. Oh, you'll hear plenty about gay marriage and elimination of the sales tax over the next couple of months. But this week - we're bringing you once again bills flying under the public radar. And my conclusion: it's probably a good thing that most of them will never see the light of day.
This year there are the perennial conflict of interest bills that would require all reps and senators to disclose any interest they may in a businesses that has legislation before the Assembly. Another bill would limit to $200 the amount lobbyists could contribute to lawmakers they appear before. But how about this one? A bill that would ban lobbyists from making any political contributions from January to July - the height of fundraising season. You think that one will make it out of committee?
Are you tired of having your car devoured by a pothole this time of year? or maybe a bridge that's been closed for year while the state tries to figure out how to finance the repairs. Well one state rep has come up with an idea that sounds way too practical: it would mandate that all monies allotted for bridge and road repair actually go for bridge and road repair - instead of into that big Black Hole known as The General Fund.
And think about this one next time it snows: a bill is pending that would allow DOT plow drivers to rake in as much overtime as they can - even if they called in sick earlier in week. It's funny how a cash windfall can make you feel a whole lot better...quickly.
Speaking of roads - you may have heard how hundreds of manhole covers were stolen last year in Providence alone. One senator has introduced a bill that would make it a felony. While a House bill would classify manhole covers as ``protected precious metals'' - along with bullion, coins and medallions - subject to a 14-day hold if somebody tries to sell them to a dealer. What is it that tells me the thieves are going to find a way around this one?
We all know the drill when it comes to an emergency, pull over while a fire truck or rescue vehicle whizzes by. One House bill we found would exempt the drivers of emergency vehicles from having to wear a seatbelt - just the people you want flying around unrestrained well above the speed limit.
Impersonating a public official or a police officer is a pretty serious offense. But one law would make it illegal to impersonate Rhode Island's attorney general. Which raises the question has anybody even seen the attorney general, or know what he looks like?
Finally five earnest House members have filed legislation that would create a commission to look at streamlining government - now that's never been talked about before, has it?. But let's think about it - one more group of people looking at whether we need fewer people to look at.
Fortunately there no bills have been filed this year to make Rhode Island a full-time legislature.
Not yet, anyway.
For the Hummel Report, I'm Jim Hummel.