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Budget Impasse Brings RI Legislative Session to Abrupt End

The 2017 RI Legislative Session came to an abrupt end on June 30 leaving scores of bills in limbo – including one of the American Heart Association’s top priorities. Our “healthy school marketing bill” had passed the House, but still needed Senate approval when work at the State House came to a halt. It is likely that we will have to reintroduce this bill next year.  

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Below is recap that was circulated earlier this month by our contract lobbyist at The Mayforth Group:

End of Session fireworks leaves Rhode Island without FY18 Budget (sent 7/10/17) 

It has been just over a week since Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello, abruptly recessed his chamber for the 2017 Legislative Session. An 11th hour budget amendment proposed and passed by the Senate created the impasse sparking a schism between the two leaders. The budget amendment of contention proposes a trigger a stop in the repeal of the car tax, if the state experienced any economic downturn and had to dip into the state’s rainy day fund to maintain the tax break.

Over the past week, both Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello took to the public airwaves to tell their side of the disagreement.  Speaker Mattiello stated, “[The Senate] broke it, they can pass the original budget it on their own and transmit it to the governor.” Asked if he had any plans on recalling his House membership to return this year, the Speaker indicated that he doesn’t expect the House to return until next January. While the Senate President “hopes cooler heads will prevail and that the House comes back soon and some kind of agreement is made.”

With neither of the Legislature leaders willing to blink, there is no indication as to when a resolution will be achieved. The Senate had previously stated that they will be coming back in the fall to debate both judgeship appointments and legislation regarding the financing of a Pawtucket Red Sox new stadium.

When pressed to comment on the budget impasse situation, Governor Raimondo asked the legislature to “do your job” and pass the budget. Without an agreed upon FY18 budget, the government will be operating at last fiscal year’s spending levels.

As an indirect result of the impromptu legislative recess, a significant percentage of pending legislation remains in limbo.  Some of the more notable legislative initiatives include earned sick leave and restrictions on gun ownership for those with convicted crimes related to domestic violence. Of the 2372 bills introduced only 98 public laws, 128 local acts, 355 resolutions and 3 joint resolutions have been currently passed into law. 

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