Rep. Vella-Wilkinson Bills Would Keep People, Businesses Empowered During Declared Emergencies

            

STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on State Government and Elections heard testimony this week on legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) that would empower people during declared emergencies as well as aid businesses financially.

The first bill (2021-H 5287) would establish a joint General Assembly Emergency Council, which would be activated 90 days after the governor declares a state of emergency. The council, which would consist of 10 members, would determine if the state of emergency has ended and address the restoration of the state’s economy, if necessary.

“One of the biggest issues we have struggled with during the COVID pandemic is the lack of representative government during an emergency,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Emergency declarations were established to give the governor broad powers when action needs to be taken quickly and decisively during an emergency, but it’s quite a different matter when that emergency gets drawn out for an extended period of time. When that happens, it’s imperative that the General Assembly stand up and provide oversight to make the decisions that need to be made legislatively on behalf of the people.”

The second bill (2021-H 5288) would aid small businesses by establishing a restricted receipt account within the Commerce Corporation for all fines collected from individuals and businesses violating policies or procedures during a state of emergency. Those funds would be kept for distribution to small businesses in the form of forgivable loans or grants by the corporation. 

“COVID-19 has spurred an ongoing economic crisis, and small businesses have borne the brunt of it,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “While it may be necessary to fine businesses that shirk their responsibilities to the public health, at the same time we should be doing all we can to help small businesses financially. This legislation would ensure that the money collected in fines would be used only to help those small businesses.”

 

The Senate is in a standoff over unemployment benefits in the coronavirus relief package. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spent hours grappling over dueling amendments for the weekly benefits that expire later this month. Both proposals change how long they would be extended for and reduce the number to 300-dollars, less than the 400-dollars the House approved.       The Biden administration is reportedly opening back up facilities that house migrant children to pre-coronavirus levels. CNN obtained an HHS memo citing extraordinary circumstances because of an influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. It's estimated there are nearly eight-thousand unaccompanied migrant children in border facilities.       The FDA is approving the first at-home coronavirus molecular test. The test doesn't require a prescription and provides results in 20 minutes. The FDA says it correctly diagnosed 96-percent of samples from those with symptoms.       One House Democrat is suing former President Trump over the Capitol attack on January 6th. California's Eric Swalwell has filed a civil suit accusing Trump of inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol. Swalwell argued the attack was an effort by angry Trump supporters to stop congressional ratification of the presidential election.        A lengthy investigation into sexual assault complaints at Louisiana State University shows the school intentionally made it complicated to report abuse. LSU President Tom Galligan called the report "painful" after it was made public today. The report found emails show LSU's athletic director wanted to fire former football coach Les Miles three years earlier than it did, over "inappropriate behavior" with student employees.       Twitter is considering adding an "undo send" option for paying users. It would give users a short window in which they could decide to withdraw a tweet before it posts. A Twitter spokesperson says it's part of a larger exploration into paid subscription models.