2017-10-12 / News

State: Planning officials must study climate change

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law last Thursday requiring planning commissioners to study the effects of climate change.

“As sea level rises and we experience more severe weather events, Rhode Island communities must engage in thoughtful, careful planning,” said Rep. Lauren Carson, a Newport Democrat who sponsored the bill’s House version.

The action was recommended in a 2016 report by a legislative commission that studied the economic risks posed to Rhode Island by flooding. Under the law, all volunteer planners on municipal boards will require an hour of training annually on the hazards of urban development in flood plains. The free curriculum has been created by the University of Rhode Island.

The law applies to every Rhode Island municipality, not just coastal communities, because flooding also occurs along inland rivers and water bodies. This will become more drastic as sea level rises, Carson said.

The measure passed the House overwhelmingly in May, 60-10, including approval from Jamestown Rep. Deb Ruggiero. It didn’t reach the Senate floor, however, until the one-day Sept. 19 session. Sen. Dawn Euer, who was elected in August to Teresa Paiva Weed’s vacated seat, was among the 32 senators who unanimously passed the measure. Lisa Bryer, the town planner of Jamestown, also has supported this measure.

Also signed into law by Raimondo following approval during the rare fall session were:

Legislation introduced by Ruggiero that prohibits gun possession from Rhode Islanders who have been convicted of misdemeanors related to domestic violence. The so-called Protect Rhode Island Families Act also requires gun owners to surrender their firearms if they are named in a court-issued restraining order.

Federal law already bans guns from felony domestic abusers.

A bill co-sponsored by Ruggiero that bans e-cigarettes from school grounds and requires childproof packaging of the products. This measure, she said, is in response to nicotine companies that are targeting children by marketing fruity flavors with bright packaging.

Legislation that will establish the Rhode Island Sailing Events Commission, a panel tasked with attracting international regattas to Narragansett Bay. The commission will brainstorm ways to lure sailing events, along with the dollars they attract, to the Ocean State. Ruggiero and Euer both supported the measure.

A bill requiring defibrillators at public places that are capable of hosting more than 300 people. The law also mandates an onsite certified worker to administer the device, which analyzes heartbeats and delivers an electrical shock to the heart to establish an effective rhythm. Ruggiero voted for the measure. Town Administrator Andy Nota said certain sites will be affected by the law, including Fort Getty. Potentially, the town also will have to supply a defibrillator during special events, including the Christmas tree lighting, East Ferry concerts, parades, fireworks, the financial town meeting and soccer games at Eldred Field.

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