The laundry list of bills headed for final consideration on Smith Hill is mounting as lawmakers march toward a recess of the six-month legislative session as soon as next week. After swiftly passing the $8.7-billion budget unanimously Tuesday night, the House of Representatives turned its attention Wednesday to everything from electronic voter registration to powdered alcohol and chickens. That’s right, chickens. One bill that passed the House specifically requires that hens have at least 216 square inches of usable floor space in their cages. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday quickly approved the state’s spending plan for the year beginning July 1 with little discussion. It will head to the full Senate for a vote Tuesday.
Plenty of other issues are awaiting final legislative judgment, including a significantly altered version of Governor Raimondo’s plan to charge large trucks for traveling the state’s highways. Also pending are proposals to ban new charter schools, legalize the growth of hemp, increase the minimum wage for tipped workers and provide tax-increment financing for developers of the former I-195 land in Providence.
No issue on the House’s 42-bill calendar saw more discussion than a proposal to allow electronic voter registration. Twenty-eight other states already allow individuals to register to vote or update their voting records online, but that didn’t stop lengthy debate over whether an online system might open the door to voter fraud and clear the way for illegal immigrants to vote.