She's Making a Difference

2018

Explosives laws updated to include IEDs

STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to strengthen Rhode Island’s outdated law on bombs and other explosive devices has been signed into law

The new law closes loopholes that have hindered the filing of charges following incidents involving explosive devices, such as one in April when a pressure cooker bomb was discovered off Hopkins Hill Road in West Greenwich.

“Much has changed since our explosives law was written in 1957. Today, unfortunately, the threat comes from powerful improvised explosive devices, and law enforcement needs to be able to spring into action before a potentially lethal incident occurs. These updates are needed to protect Rhode Islanders from the threats that exist in today’s world,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “Rhode Island has struggled in recent years to prosecute some instances involving explosives, particularly IEDs. Our bill gives prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they need to respond to 21st century threats and prevent tragedies from occurring in our state,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

The legislation (2018-H 8156A, 2018-S 2952A) updated the law to protect against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in several ways. First, it expanded the definition of explosive devices to include any device intended to explode. Previously, the law applied only to traditional bombs and explosives, so police can’t use it to charge individuals with IEDs.

Second, the bill added possession of such devices to the law as an offense punishable by three to 20 years in prison and fines of $1,000 to $10,000. Previous law punished only those who actually place a bomb or explosive somewhere, so even if someone were caught heading somewhere with a backpack full of explosives, they could not be charged under the explosives law.

Additionally, the bill eliminated a part of the law that limited its application to devices placed “in any public or private building, or area where persons may lawfully assemble.” The language stood in the way of charges being brought for bombs placed in tents, sheds, vehicles and outdoors and other settings that might not fit that definition.

Finally, the bill allowed charges to be brought against those possessing the “readily converted” components of an explosive device. Under previous law, charges couldn’t be brought unless the device is fully assembled, so someone setting up an explosive device could escape charges any time before they’ve connected the final wire to the battery of the IED. The bill was carefully crafted to allow people to possess components for lawful purposes, since many of the components of IEDs are everyday objects such as nails and pressure cookers, as well as legal pyrotechnics and firearms items.

Before enactment of the bill, Rhode Island’s laws regarding explosives lagged those of neighboring states, such as Massachusetts, where pressure cooker IEDs were used to carry out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The legislation was supported by the Rhode Island State Police.

Cosponsors of the House bill include Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), House Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) and House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren). The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Governor signs legislation to introduce sexual consent education to school curriculum

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) that will lead to an increase in education on consent and sexual activity in secondary schools.

The law (2018-H 7044A, 2018-S 2264A) permits the teaching of sexual consent in the context of existing family life courses.

The law will allow existing curriculum to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the law and meaning of consent.

Rhode Island joins the state of California, which enacted a sexual consent law in 2015 and the commonwealth of Virginia, which passed a similar law last year.

Newly signed law requires hospitals to offer flu vaccines to patients 65 and over

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) that requires hospitals to offer influenza vaccinations to their inpatients who are 65 and over.

The law (2018-H 7569, 2018-S 2226aa) requires hospitals to offer the vaccinations unless the person has a condition that would not allow such vaccination or if the vaccine is in short supply.

“People 65 and older are the ones who are most adversely affected by influenza,” said Representative Ackerman. “75 to 81 percent of all flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 and over; between 64 and 70 percent of all seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among that same age group.”

The new law requires the policy to be in effect during flu season, between Oct. 1 and March 1 of each year. The vaccine will be offered unless contraindicated, and contingent upon the availability of the vaccine, in accordance with the latest recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This bill aims to reduce influenza-related illness and death,” said Senator Lynch Prata. “This has been an enormous issue this year, and this legislation will improve access to the flu vaccine among those who are most vulnerable to influenza.”

Sen. Lynch Prata and Rep. Ajello bill that bans restraints on pregnant prisoner transports signed into law

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Rep. Edith H. Ajello’s (D-Dist. 1, Providence) legislation (2018-S 2268A / 2018-H 7182A) that prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners known to be in their third trimester of pregnancy during transport to or from court proceedings was signed into law by the governor.

“There are potentially serious health consequences to not only the female prisoner, but also to her unborn child when restraints are used. This legislation will protect both the prisoner as well as her unborn child who has committed no crime,” said Senator Lynch Prata, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

“Genuine harm can result when pregnant women are shackled or restrained. The use of restraints on pregnant prisoners greatly increases the likelihood of the woman falling and injuring herself or the fetus. Sheriffs should be able to find other, less risky ways to secure pregnant incarcerated women, just as prison guards are able to secure these women safely when they are taken out of the prison to hospitals or medical appointments,” said Representative Ajello.

The legislation also requires the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety to submit annual reports to the General Assembly regarding the number of pregnant women in their third trimester transported or restrained at the Adult Correctional Institution.

Governor signs bill to prohibit animal mistreatment — failing to provide water, shelter, care

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) that prohibits mistreatment of animals — specifically the failure to provide adequate water, shelter or veterinary care.

The law (2018-H 7045B, 2018-S 2055A) also prevents exposure for a period of more than 15 minutes whenever a weather advisory or warning has been issued.

“I have received several phone calls from people who are concerned about the welfare of dogs during deep freezes like the one we had earlier this year,” said Representative Serpa. “They and I want to guarantee that these animals will be protected. This legislation specifically address animal mistreatment by neglect and gives them better protections under the law.”

Representative Serpa filed the legislation in the wake of an incident in Warwick that garnered national attention. According to news reports, the owner of several pit bulls came under public protest for keeping the dogs tethered outside in order to acclimate them to cold temperatures.

The current law, which the General Assembly enacted last year, makes it illegal to keep any dog outside when the ambient temperature is above or below the industry standard for the weather safety scale as set forth in the most recent adopted version of the Tufts Animal Care and Condition Weather Safety Scale. However, the law makes an exemption for any person raising or training a gun dog or hunting dog.

“This bill removes the exception to the law and more specifically spells out protections for dogs in cold weather,” said Senator Lynch Prata. “It also spells out the definition of ‘adequate shelter’ as one that provides sufficient space for the dog to maintain comfortable rest, normal posture and range of movement.”

Exposing any dog to adverse weather conditions strictly for the purpose of conditioning would be prohibited under the legislation. While the legislation would allow for certain hunting dogs, dogs guarding livestock or sled dogs to stay outside, such action would require written authorization from an animal control officer. The written authorization would have to be renewed annually.

Governor signs bill to give Superior Court jurisdiction over child cruelty cases

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) that gives the Superior Court jurisdiction over cases involving child cruelty.

The law (2018-H 7652, 2018-S 2691), which was filed on behalf of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, transfers jurisdiction of offenses involving cruelty to or neglect of a child from the Rhode Island Family Court to the Rhode Island Superior Court.

“Cases involving cruelty to a child are extremely serious,” said Representative Ackerman, who filed the legislation. “Oftentimes these cases involve abandonment, malnourishment or other forms of heinous cruelty.”

Senator Lynch Prata, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added, “The Superior Court is far more equipped to deal with these serious offenses and jury trials than Family Court.”

Assembly updates explosives laws to include IEDs

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to strengthen Rhode Island’s outdated law on bombs and other explosive devices.

The legislation, which will now be sent to the governor, addresses loopholes that have hindered the filing of charges following incidents involving explosive devices, such as one in April when a pressure cooker bomb was discovered off Hopkins Hill Road in West Greenwich.

“Much has changed since our explosives law was written in 1957. Today, unfortunately, the threat comes from powerful improvised explosive devices, and law enforcement needs to be able to spring into action before a potentially lethal incident occurs. These updates are needed to protect Rhode Islanders from the threats that exist in today’s world,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “Rhode Island has struggled in recent years to prosecute some instances involving explosives, particularly IEDs. Our bill gives prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they need to respond to 21st century threats and prevent tragedies from occurring in our state,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

The bill (2018-H 8156A, 2018-S 2952) updates the existing law to protect against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in several ways. First, it expands the definition of explosive devices to include any device intended to explode. Current law applies only to traditional bombs and explosives, so police can’t use it to charge individuals with IEDs.

Second, the bill adds possession of such devices to the law as an offense punishable by three to 20 years in prison and fines of $1,000 to $10,000. Current law punishes only those who actually place a bomb or explosive somewhere, so even if someone is caught heading somewhere with a backpack full of explosives, they cannot be charged under the current explosives law.

Additionally, the bill eliminates a part of the law that limits its application to devices placed “in any public or private building, or area where persons may lawfully assemble.” The language could stand in the way of charges being brought for bombs placed in tents, sheds, vehicles and outdoors and other settings that might not fit that definition.

Finally, the bill allows charges to be brought against those possessing the “readily converted” components of an explosive device. Under current law, charges can’t be brought unless the device is fully assembled, so someone setting up an explosive device could escape charges any time before they’ve connected the final wire to the battery of the IED. The bill is carefully crafted to allow people to possess components for lawful purposes, since many of the components of IEDs are everyday objects such as nails and pressure cookers, as well as legal pyrotechnics and firearms items.

Rhode Island’s laws regarding explosives lag those of neighboring states, such as Massachusetts, where pressure cooker IEDs were used to carry out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The legislation is supported by the Rhode Island State Police.

Cosponsors of the House bill include Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), House Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) and House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren). The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Sen. Lynch Prata's bill that bans restraints on pregnant prisoner transports passes the General Assembly

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Rep. Edith H. Ajello’s (D-Dist. 1, Providence) legislation (2018-S 2268A / 2018-H 7182A) that prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners known to be in their third trimester of pregnancy during transport to or from court proceedings passed the General Assembly tonight.

“There are potentially serious health consequences to not only the female prisoner, but also to her unborn child when restraints are used. This legislation will protect both the prisoner as well as her unborn child who has committed no crime,” said Senator Lynch Prata, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

“Genuine harm can result when pregnant women are shackled or restrained. The use of restraints on pregnant prisoners greatly increases the likelihood of the woman falling and injuring herself or the fetus. Sheriffs should be able to find other, less risky ways to secure pregnant incarcerated women, just as prison guards are able to secure these women safely when they are taken out of the prison to hospitals or medical appointments,” said Representative Ajello.

The legislation also requires the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety to submit annual reports to the General Assembly regarding the number of pregnant women in their third trimester transported or restrained at the Adult Correctional Institution.

The bill now heads to the governor for consideration.

Governor signs bill allowing for certificates of title for recreational vehicles

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) that will allow the Department of Transportation to issue certificates of title for recreational vehicles.

The law (2018-H 7605, 2018-S 2488) permits the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue a certificate of title to certain types of trailers, including a travel trailer, a fifth wheel trailer, and a park trailer.

The legislation makes a small change in the definition of RV, differentiating between them and trailers designed to carry loads, which do not need to be titled under law. Banks require a title on these vehicles as part of the loan process, but state law currently does not. While the DMV used to issue the titles, it ceased the practice when the agency installed a new computer system last year.

Sen. Lynch Prata’s revenge porn and sextortion legislation signed into law

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) legislation (2018-H 7452A / 2018-S 2581A) that criminalizes revenge porn and sextortion was signed into law by Governor Gina M. Raimondo.

The legislation is a compromise between the General Assembly, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Governor Gina Raimondo after similar legislation was passed in 2016 but was vetoed by Governor Raimondo for First Amendment concerns.

“Revenge porn is nothing less than digital domestic assault and it has no place in our society to be tolerated,” said Representative Craven, Chairman of the House Committee on Labor. “Posting such material comes with a lifelong impact to the victim because nothing ever truly disappears once it goes online. Severe repercussions need to be in place for these digital abusers and this legislation establishes these long overdue punishments. This bill is constitutionally sound and will protect so many of our residents from becoming victims of this disgusting practice.”

“It is vitally important that we address this new kind of virtual assault, which disproportionately targets women. Once it is law, it is my hope that it will make those posting these kinds of images think twice before invading someone’s privacy in such a degrading and damaging manner,” said Senator Lynch Prata, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary. “I am thankful that a compromise was reached between all parties so that we can begin the process of granting justice to the victims of these heinous crimes.”

Revenge porn is sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual. Revenge porn is uploaded by former lovers or hackers for the purpose of humiliation and exploitation. The images or videos are often accompanied by personal information, including the pictured individual's full name and links to their social media profiles.

The statute applies to those who knew that the image was created under circumstances where a reasonable person would know or understand that the image is to remain private and explicitly exempts material that “relates to a matter of public concern and dissemination serves a lawful purpose.” The legislation includes language that requires intent to harm the victim must be established during prosecution.

The legislation also explicitly exempts when dissemination of such serves a lawful purpose; when the dissemination is made in the course of a lawful public proceeding; when the dissemination involves voluntary nudity or sexual conduct in public or commercial settings or in a place where a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy; and when the dissemination is made in the public interest, including the reporting of unlawful conduct, or lawful and common practice of law enforcement, criminal reporting, corrections, legal proceedings, medical activities, scientific activities, or educational activities.

The legislation also creates criminal penalties for those who engage in “sextortion,” a relatively new and very disturbing cybercrime that occurs when offenders use personal images – often stolen or obtained by hacking – to force victims to engage in sending more sexually explicit photos or videos under threat the images will be made public. In addition, victims are often extorted into paying money or providing personal identifying information for the images not to be posted or revealed to others.

Warwick to get more money from Airport Corp. under Sen. Lynch Prata bill

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick) has introduced legislation (2018-S 2064) that would increase the amount of money that the City of Warwick would receive from the Rhode Island Airport Corporation in exchange for municipal services to T.F. Green Airport. The annual amount would increase from $750,000 to $1,400,000, which is generated through parking revenue at the airport.

“There is no question that the success of T.F. Green Airport has an enormous impact on Rhode Island’s well-being and the City of Warwick is proud to host this bustling transportation center. But, in order to keep the airport functioning properly for the betterment of all its travelers, the City of Warwick does contribute a large share of municipal services to the airport’s operations. As costs rise, it is only fair that Warwick is properly compensated for its contributions and this bill will ensure just that,” said Senator Lynch Prata, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Sen. Jeanine Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick)