2006-04-27 / Front Page

Legislators usher bills through chambers

By Donna K. Drago

As the state legislative session moves beyond its halfway mark, and the deadline to introduce bills has passed, local lawmakers are busily scrambling to get bills out of committee and on to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed (DJamestown, Newport) said Tuesday that there were currently four bills that she has been working on that will have a direct impact on Jamestown. Rep. Bruce Long (RJamestown, Middletown) said in each case the bills are "companion bills," having been jointly worked on and introduced to the respective chambers by both him and Paiva Weed.

A measure that would allow the state Department of Environmental Management to look at the cumulative effects of adjacent lots before issuing a septic system permit passed the Senate committee two weeks ago and will soon be sent to the full senate for a vote, Paiva Weed said.

The bill is important to Jamestown, especially in areas like the Jamestown Shores where septic systems and wells are installed on very small lots, and one system can impact abutting properties, Paiva Weed said. Previously, the DEM only had to consider the boundaries of a single lot to determine whether they would issue a septic system permit.

Rep. Long said the bill was the single "most important piece of legislation impacting Jamestown" in the current session.

"It will protect Jamestown from overdevelopment," Long said, noting that the bill had passed the House Environment Committee and will be taken up by the full House in the next couple of weeks.

Another bill involving the DEM involves the new state NoDischarge laws.

Long said that the original starting date of the laws enacted in a prior legislative session, was June 1, 2006, but an amendment gave towns a one-year extension to gear up for the new regulations regarding boating waste. Also amended to the laws is that the word "shall" was changed to the word "may," as in the harbormaster may withhold a mooring permit if a boater is in violation of the laws. "It gives towns some flexibility" to either issue a citation or deny a permit, Long noted.

While a bill enabling Jamestown to create a municipal court was passed by both the Senate and House in recent weeks, Paiva Weed said an amendment was sent in by the Jamestown town solicitor to prevent the court from having to process traffic violations.

The amendment will have to be added to the enabling legislation and voted on in both chambers again, Paiva Weed said.

Long added that while the town did not have to include language about specific violations in the municipal court enabling legislation, the council "wanted to send a message that they don't want to be a traffic court," Long said.

Paiva Weed said she is continuing to push through legislation to get the state to help towns lower the costs to bus private and parochial students out of their school districts.

New legislation that was scheduled for a vote yesterday by the Senate Education Committee asks the state to create a statewide system of transportation for both general education and special needs students that would reduce costs, by eliminating "duplication of costs and routes" to get special education students to their various schools, and to "eliminate the need for each school district to contract for and provide" separate bus services. Under the legislation, each district would pay for bus service on a "fee-for-service" basis, Paiva Weed said.

The legislation was scheduled for a vote yesterday.

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