The 2018 Legislative Session seemed like it should be the year of #MeToo, but when the General Assembly adjourned at the end of June with an exhausting Saturday session (that almost went into Sunday) they failed to approve legislation ensuring equal pay for equal work, or any of the bills that emerged from a commission tasked with helping address sex harassment in the workplace.
Instead, they approved a proposal fought for years by the ACLU and media groups regarding sending sexually explicit images online, exacerbated the War on Drugs by passing legislation for drug-addicted Rhode Islanders to serve up to a life sentence for the death of someone with whom they use drugs, and provided financial incentives to school districts to put more police officers in schools.
It wasn't all bad news for civil liberties however: the General Assembly approved legislation limiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners, and a bill ensuring that people’s gender identity is respected on their death certificates has become law.
Perhaps our greatest successes this year were in beating back dangerous proposals that were on the verge of passing during a nail-biting end to the legislative session, including: an Attorney General bill designed to dismantle a cell phone location privacy law passed with the ACLU’s assistance only two years ago, a full-press effort to pass a bill allowing for the involuntary commitment of substance abusers, and clearly unconstitutional legislation aimed at restricting panhandling. These battles demonstrated clearly the important role the ACLU plays in being eternally vigilant.
As in past years, the ACLU of RI lobbied on over 300 bills, both good and bad. Below are some of the more prominent ones.
Good bills that passed:
- Our bill restricting the shackling of pregnant inmates to and from court
- A bill establishing guidelines for filling out death certificates for transgender individuals
- A bill limiting the use of school speed zone cameras
- A bill requiring drivers’ education curricula to include information about a driver’s rights during traffic stops.
- A bill providing continued driving privileges to DACA recipients.
Bad bills that passed:
- The Attorney General and Governor’s constitutionally dubious “revenge porn” bill
- The Attorney General’s “drug homicide” bill
- A bill requiring criminal record checks for mobile food vendors
- A bill expanding registration and community notification requirements for sex offenders
- A budget article providing financial incentives to school districts to hire school resource officers
- A bill banning people convicted of any offense against an animal from residing with any animals for years.
Some good bills that died:
- A bill providing for “net neutrality” in state contracts for Internet services
- A bill codifying Roe v. Wade into state law
- Bills strengthening the state’s laws against sexual harassment and for equal pay
- A bill requiring ability-to-pay hearings on traffic fine violations before suspending drivers’ licenses.
Some bad bills that died:
- An Attorney General bill weakening state law that limits police access to cell phone tracking information
- A bill authorizing the involuntary commitment of substance abusers
- A bill severely restricting panhandling
- A bill allowing physicians to breach the confidentiality of victims of drug overdoses
- A bill impacting the privacy of medical marijuana patients by requiring realtors to notify customers if property had been used for marijuana cultivation. (Vetoed by the Governor.)
To learn more about this year's session and read our testimony on these and other bills, visit the legislative section of our website. We also hope you’ll also come to our annual legislative wrap-up, which is at 6pm on Monday, July 23rd at the East Providence Weaver Library.