Governor signs bill for disclosure in political spending:
Legislation signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee on June 28 and sponsored by Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Juan A. Pichardo is intended to help provide information to voters about who is behind political messages, a move that is aimed at requiring disclosure by “super-PACs.”
The Transparency in Political Spending Act (TIPS) requires individuals and organizations that engage in “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” to report donors and expenditures to the Rhode Island State Board of Elections and to include disclaimers on media and Internet advertising. The legislation (2012-H 7859B, 2012-S 2569A) is aimed at the “super-PACs” that formed following the Supreme Court Citizens United decision that ruled that the First Amendment protects corporations’ and unions’ right to fund independent political messages.
“Without infringing on anyone’s right to express their views, this legislation provides the public with information about whose message it is that they’re hearing. We now have a situation where corporations and other outside groups can pour unlimited funding into advertising in elections, and voters wouldn’t even necessarily know the source and its interest in the outcome of the election. This doesn’t say they can’t spread their message; it just says they have to identify themselves to the public,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
The legislation, which was submitted on behalf of Chafee, was developed in collaboration with Common Cause Rhode Island and was cosponsored by House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed, would require that any group (as defined under the act) that spends more than $1,000 in Rhode Island to support a candidate or a political issue must report that expense to the Board of Elections. It also requires groups that engage in electioneering communications to report all donors who have contributed $1,000 or more in the previous year.
Open records law changes become law:
With the governor’s signature on June 26, legislation that makes significant changes to the Access to Public Records Act (open records law) including make public various records that were not previously public, such as employment contracts, is now law.
Under previous law, all documents identifiable to an individual, subject to a few exceptions, were not public. The legislation (2012-H 7555Aaa, 2012-S 2652Aaa), sponsored by Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston) and Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), will apply a balancing test by providing that all records of this nature would be public unless disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The amended law mirrors the Federal Freedom of Information Act.
As an example, the names of individuals who have applied for a judgeship or school superintendent post, for instance, would not be public unless or until they are finalists for those positions, under the proposition that the public interest outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.
Underage tanning bill passes into law:
On June 25, a bill approved by both chambers of the General Assembly to require more parental permission for teen tanning became law without Chafee's signature.
Under the legislation, no minor shall be allowed to use indoor tanning facilities unless he or she presents a prescription from a licensed physician for UV radiation treatment or the child’s parent or guardian, in the presence of an employee of the tanning facility, signs a written consent form every second time the minor tans.
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