Rhode Island Legislative Session Concludes

American Heart Association celebrates success and reflects on challenges of 2018 Legislative Session.

hero_image_alt_text===Rhode Island State House.

That’s a wrap! The 2018 Legislative Session concluded in late-June. Overall, it was a good year at the State House and we celebrated several victories that will build healthier lives in the Ocean State. Below is a quick recap:

• Following a multi-year campaign, our bill that will eliminate junk food and sugary drink advertising/marketing on school property was overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Raimondo. The new law will take effect on September 1, 2018.
• The Green Economy & Clean Water Bond was included in the budget. The Bond allocates $5 million for bikeways and $5 million for Local Recreation Grants. The American Heart Association was excited to support the bond initiative and see a focus on physical activity. The bond will now go on the November Ballot for voter approval.
• The Governor’s proposed 25-cent cigarette tax increase was defeated (we are happy about this because it was too low to have a public health impact and it was just a money grab with no money dedicated to prevention & cessation).
• The Governor’s proposed Medicaid copays (including the ER copay) were eliminated.
• 911 funding was increased by $1 million.
• Our #Tobacco21RI campaign really took off this year! We continued to build support among legislators for raising the tobacco sale age (including electronic cigarettes) from 18 to 21. This will be a top priority for 2019.
• We started laying a foundation for a physical education appropriations campaign that is aimed at ensuring school districts and PE teachers (especially in high-needs districts) have the tools, resources, and support they need to provide effective PE programs. This will be another priority for 2019.

While there was much to celebrate, we also hit some bumps in the road:

• Legislation was enacted that prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems in enclosed workplaces and public places. We were very pleased to see the state’s smokefree law updated to include electronic devices, BUT…the new law provides an exemption for vape bars/lounges that is a serious concern. We will look for opportunities to tighten this provision in the future. See related article in this issue of the Advocacy Pulse.
• We also have some work to do on our campaign to reduce sugary drink consumption. Our bills that would ensure healthy beverages are the default choice for restaurant kids’ meals – and impose a tax on sugary drinks with revenue dedicated to a Children’s Health Promotion Fund – were heard in committee but did not advance.

Planning is now underway for the 2019 Legislative Session. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months.

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