Sen. Paul Jabour, sponsor of a bill which would criminalize indoor prostitution, in the Senate chamber.
A Senate vote on a bill to strengthen the law against sex-trafficking of minors was postponed Wednesday night as lawmakers tried to negotiate last-minute changes.
Senate spokesman Greg Pare said that senators needed more time to amend the bill (S-605 A) introduced by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, to include language that would reference a separate bill aimed at making indoor prostitution illegal.
Meanwhile, Sen. Paul V. Jabour, D-Providence, said he was waiting for an amended version of his bill to be drafted so the Senate Judiciary Committee could vote it out in time to reach the Senate floor Wednesday night.
Adoption-records bill shelved
A Senate committee, after a brief hearing Wednesday, decided to hold for further study a bill that would allow adult adoptees to obtain copies of their birth certificates if their birth parents approve.
The measure, introduced by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, a Providence Democrat, originally would have granted adoptees, at age 21, unfettered access to their birth certificates. But it was amended later to require the birth parents’ approval for releasing any information.
At least eight states, among them Maine and New Hampshire, open birth information to adoptees.
But in Rhode Island, adoption records are sealed and can be opened only by court order.
The Rhode Island Adoption Coalition for Equality (TRACE) has long championed such legislation, but it does not support this bill as amended
“Even if it’s only two percent of adoptees that don’t get access to their birth records because of this amendment, what do you say to those two percent? How can you tell one adoptee they can have this information, but that another can’t?” said John Green, of TRACE.
At the hearing held by the Health and Human Services Committee, which Perry chairs, no one testified for the measure and three members of TRACE spoke against it.
Stiffer DUI penalties
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill, introduced by Democrat Leonidas P. Raptakis of Coventry, that would stiffen penalties for drunken driving. The measure now goes to the House, which is already considering a slightly different version.
Driving under the influence, death resulting, would bring a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and $20,000 in fines; the current maximum is 20 years and $20,000.
Driving under the influence, serious bodily injury resulting, would carry a maximum of 20 years and $10,000; currently the maximum is 10 years and $5,000.
Driving under the influence, personal injury resulting, could bring two years in prison; currently there is no maximum penalty prescribed.
3-knockdown rule is KO’d
The Senate on Wednesday voted to repeal a law that requires a boxing referee to end the match if one of the contenders suffers three knockdowns in a single round. The measure now goes to the governor. Only Rhode Island and Arkansas still impose the three-knockdown rule, according to Sen. Francis J. Maher Jr., R-Charlestown, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
Mixed martial arts OK’d
Mixed martial arts fighting moved one step closer to becoming a state-approved sport after the state Senate approved legislation on Wednesday regulating the increasingly popular form of hand-to-hand combat that combines elements of wrestling, boxing and street fighting. The measure now goes to the governor.
The bill, The Senate version of which was sponsored by Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-Providence, designates the Department of Business Regulation’s Division of Racing and Athletics as the regulatory agency for the sport, which is already legal in Massachusetts.
Also known as ultimate fighting or “cage fighting,” mixed martial arts grew in popularity beginning in the 1990s. Critics have condemned it as “human cockfighting.”
Said Sen. Edward J. O’Neill, I-Lincoln: “I find it interesting that you put two dogs in a cage, and it’s illegal. But you put two people in a cage and it’s legal in some states.”
Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, responded: “It’s not as vicious as it might sound.”
Bill on judge-screening panel fails
The Senate, after heated debate on Wednesday, rejected a proposal to require that Judicial Nominating Commission members step down immediately after their four-year terms expire.
The measure was sponsored by Sen. James C. Sheehan, D-Narragansett. While the nine members of the board — which recommends judgeship candidates to the governor — are restricted to one term, Sheehan said many are serving well past the end of their terms because the governor has not appointed successors. The lack of new members, he argued, has contributed to delays in vacancies in the state judiciary.
But other senators said Sheehan’s proposal would run afoul of the state Constitution, which stipulates that officials — elected or appointed — serve until replaced.
Roberti confirmed for PUC
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Governor Carcieri’s appointment of Paul J. Roberti, a former assistant attorney general, to the Public Utilities Commission.
Roberti, former chief of the attorney general’s Public Utilities Regulatory Unit, succeeds Robert Holbrook, who did not seek another six-year term on the PUC.
Carcieri, in nominating Roberti, said he would “bring a stronger advocacy and representation of the interests of ratepayers and citizens.”
These General Assembly news items were compiled by staff writers Philip Marcelo and Lynne Arditi.