Driving Privileges for People Not in State Legally on Rhode Island Lawmakers' Agenda

Issuing driving privilege cards for people who are not in the U.S. legally and legalizing recreational pot are a couple of things expected to be addressed on Rhode Island lawmakers' agenda as they head into a new legislative session at the State House on Tuesday.

Both items are considered unfinished business from the previous legislative session.

A bill would permit the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles "to issue a driver privilege card and/or driver privilege permit" to an applicant who can show they have "reported income and deductions from Rhode Island sources," according to The Providence Journal.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in the state, but possession can still lead to a civil violation, the Visit Rhode Island website reported. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2006, and has around 20,000 registered users, according to Norml.org.

During this upcoming session, lawmakers are planning to spend $119 million of the state's federal pandemic relief money. Rhode Island received over $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan fund but hasn't spent any of it yet.

Last month, legislative leaders released a plan on how to spend approximately 10 percent of the money on helping small businesses affected by COVID, supporting children, families, and the child care industry, promoting affordable housing, aiding homeless people, and assisting tourism, hospitality, and event industries.

Democratic Governor Dan McKee had suggested spending $113 million. He called it a down payment towards the state's economic recovery, the Associated Press reported. There is an additional $6 million to help increasing child care needs.

Rhode Island Lawmakers, 2022 Legislative Session
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said that child care necessities is a main priority for the Senate, as “we can’t get people back to work if we don’t have affordable childcare,” according to The Associated Press. In this photo is the Rhode Island State House, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., circa 1960. Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Both chambers are scheduled to vote on spending the $119 million Tuesday as a pending matter from the 2021 legislative session before Democratic House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio gavel in the 2022 session in their respective chambers.

Lawmakers also plan to consider overriding two vetoes by the governor from last year. McKee vetoed a bill to create a statewide registry for short-term rental properties listed on websites such as Airbnb and VRBO, saying it would create an additional burden for property owners. Lawmakers from shoreline areas had worked to get the bill passed, saying their communities were being overwhelmed by short-term rentals.

McKee also vetoed legislation regarding auto body insurance claims that he said would ultimately burden consumers.

Shekarchi's top priority remains addressing a lack of affordable housing in the state, while Ruggerio wants to accelerate the pace to provide universal pre-K. McKee will unveil his budget proposal in about two weeks.

Due to space limitations and pandemic protocols, members of the public are currently not allowed to attend the House and Senate sessions in person. Both will be broadcast by Capitol Television and online. Both chambers plan to meet less frequently in January to limit gatherings during the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.