Week of May 21: What’s Happening at the Capitol
Posted: May 21, 2018|
This week is poised to be a busy one at the State House as the General Assembly considers a number of bills affecting civil liberties - some good, some bad. Here is a brief explanation of what to expect at the Capitol this week:
On the Floor:
Driver's Education Curriculum
On Tuesday, the House is voting on H-7194, a bill sponsored by Rep. Joseph McNamara, which aims to integrate into driver's education curriculum teaching drivers about their rights during a traffic stop. Read our testimony of support for this bill here.
Shackling of Pregnant Inmates
On Wednesday, the Senate is voting on S-2268A, sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, which will improve protections for pregnant inmates at the ACI by prohibiting shackling them to or from a court proceeding during their third trimester. Read our testimony of support for this bill here.
Drug Dealer Life Sentence
On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on S-2279A, which would impose up to a life sentence on any person who provides an unlawful controlled substance to a person, which results in that person’s death. The ACLU, along with dozens of organizations and medical professionals, is opposing this bill for undermining the state's efforts to deal with the opioid crisis. Read our testimony of opposition to this bill here.
Ability to Pay Hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate is voting on S-2433, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardi, which will allow drivers to receive a hearing to prove their inability to pay traffic fines, and authorize payment plans or reductions in the fines, before their license is suspended. This will help break the vicious cycle affecting some people who lose their licenses because they're too poor to pay fines, and then lose their jobs because they can't drive to work, making it even harder for them to pay their fines.
DACA Driver's Licenses
On Wednesday, the Senate is voting on S-2678A, sponsored by Sen. Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, which will allow current and former DACA recipients to retain their right to drive in the state. Read our testimony in support of this bill here.
While the above bills appear poised to move on, others still remain to be heard or scheduled for a vote. This week, a few important bills have been scheduled for committee consideration. When bills are voted out of their respective committee, that is when they are placed on the floor for a vote, as the bills above have been. The following are some notable bills affecting civil liberties being considered in committees this week.
Cell Phone Tracking
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Judiciary is considering S-2291, a troubling Attorney General bill that would amend a 2016 law that required law enforcement to obtain a warrant before requesting call phone location information, barring emergency situations. S-2291 will make additional exceptions to when a warrant is needed, and dilute the provisions of that 2016 law that was designed to protect cell phone users' privacy.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Judiciary is considering S-2581A, a problematic Senate bill that would make it a crime to electronically transmit nude or sexually explicit images without the person’s consent, regardless of the sender’s intent. H-7452A, the House version, is being considered in the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Thursday. The ACLU has opposed this bill since it will chill the media from publishing some newsworthy pictures. By its terms, it would potentially criminalize, for example, publishing some of the photos from Abu Ghraib. Read our full testimony on this bill here.
Adult Immunization Records
The Senate Committee on Health & Human Services is considering S-2530, which would require that all adult immunization medical information be included in a DOH database unless the person opts out, creating yet another trove of private information that Rhode Islanders have no reseason to believe will remain private given the DOH's recent pattern of disregard for patient confidentiality. Read our full testimony in opposition to this bill here.
While this is a small selection of bills with action being taken on them this week, we have an extensive and regularly updated list of current legislation affecting civil liberties, along with the status of the bills, on our website here.