A Hummel Report Investigation
The early part of this year’s General Assembly session was consumed by the truck toll legislation. With that in the rear-view mirror, lawmakers can now focus on more than 1,500 other bills filed since January. This week Jim Hummel takes a closer look at some of the more bizarre bills - from a proposal to move Rhode Island into the Atlantic Time Zone to a bill that would decriminalize shoplifting.
Now that the bridge toll brouhaha is behind us - for now anyway - the legislature can get down to considering some of the 1,500 plus bills filed since January alone. Among them: making it criminal to be a cat hoarder or giving schools the option of not having fire drills during winter months. We pored through all of the bills - so you wouldn’t have to - and picked out some of our favorites.
The Chairman of the House Finance has proposed a law requiring the state budget office to produce a citizens guide to the state budget that is quote: `easily readable and understandable by the general public.’ A great idea, but the real question is: how many lawmakers do you think understand the $9 billion budget they’ll vote on later this session?
Another bill would require the state DOT to establish a toll-free pothole hotline, presumably to report potholes on state roads - the bill doesn’t say anything about actually getting them fixed. It even suggests a number - 1-800- or 1-888-POTHOLE. We all know the way these things go. How about 1-800 DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH?
Here’s another beauty: crackdown on one variation of what drivers around here fondly refer to as The Rhode Island Slide. One lawmaker actually filed a bill that would prohibit motorists from moving into the intersection at a light waiting to turn. It carries up to a $1,000 for a third violation. The question is: who’s keeping track of all this?
There is good news for shoplifters. One veteran representative thinks it’s a good idea to reclassify shoplifting from a crime to just a violation for a first offense. But a second violation would bump it up to a misdemeanor, with only a fine and no chance of prison.
But there’s bad news if you have to go to court to fight that second shoplifting violation or any other potential criminal charge. A proposed law would impose a so-called `occupational tax’ on any out of state attorney appearing in a Rhode Island court, even if they’ve been given permission to do so. Just expect that to get tacked on to you legal bill.