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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, June 23, 2022

RI General Assembly approves driving permits for unauthorized immigrants

Patrick Anderson Katherine Gregg The Providence Journal SKIP All Rhode Islanders will be able to drive, regardless of immigration status, after lawmakers on Wednesday voted to create new driving privilege permits for people who are in the country illegally. The legislation, which the House approved on a 54-15 vote, now heads to Gov. Dan McKee's desk, and he is expected to sign it. The Senate passed the bill last month. To get one of the new driving cards, residents will have to have filed a Rhode Island tax return or be a dependent of someone who filed a tax return. The permits could not be used to vote, register to vote, get on an airplane or get inside a federal building. Rep. Karen Alzate, a Pawtucket Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said her father was detained by federal immigration officials while she was in high school and could not drive for six years before he was deported. ADVERTISING RI gun-control:McKee signs 3 gun-control bills into law, including high-capacity magazine ban "This really helps children like me, American-born citizens with undocumented parents who really just want to give their children a better life and pay the bills." Beyond the ideological questions about immigration, critics of the bill had questions about how poll workers will know the new driving cards cannot be used as identification to vote. The legislation says the cards "shall be identical in appearance to a driver's license or permit." House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Craven said the new driving permits will not have the bar code that regular licenses have that is scanned at the polls. "I'm telling you the use of that word, the word identical, is misinterpreted by you to say somehow this is a permit that you can show and pass it off to be something other than exactly what this bill allows," Craven told Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick. "Identical is a word. Identical means identical," Morgan said. "It's hard to interpret it as anything other than what the words mean." Morgan said she is opposed to the driving privilege cards because "it is not about human dignity. It is not whether you are a good person or not. It is whether you came here with permission or not." On the other side of the issue, Rep. David Morales, D-Providence, said the issue should not be about ideology. "The 17 states that have already enacted this law, they found auto accidents have been significantly reduced," he said. Of the 15 representatives voting against the bill in the House Wednesday, seven were Democrats and eight Republicans. House GOP Leader Blake Filippi broke with the majority of his caucus to support the bill. "I have driven cars in foreign countries illegally, because I thought it was ridiculous I couldn't drive a car. I don't know why we want to have an underclass in our society," Filippi said. "We need to fix our immigration policy in this country. But our response to a broken federal immigration system should not be to deny families and friends and workers the ability to drive a car." Environmental legislation roundup:Offshore wind, chemical contamination and plastics bags Solar energy Senate leaders are doing a legislative loop-di-loop to try to save a potential tax break for solar energy developers that was narrowly defeated by a Senate committee on Tuesday in the face of strong opposition from the cities and towns. The short version: The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Development defeated the legislation promoted by Green Development, owned by a big political donor, Mark DePasquale, and Revity Energy, a former client of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, on a 4-to-3 vote. Senate leaders have posted the House-passed version of the bill (H8220) for a potential Thursday vote by a different committee — the Senate Judiciary Committee — , which is expected to be the last day of the legislative session that began in January. At this late date, the Senate would have to take up the bill almost immediately for it to make it to McKee's desk to be signed, vetoed or allowed to become law without his signature. More:Rhode Island Senate scrambles to save defeated tax break for solar developers The thickly worded tax legislation boils down to this: "The real property on which they are located shall not be reclassified, revalued or reassessed due to the presence of renewable energy resources." What's the downside? Leading the opposition, the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns said the House bill "would create preferential tax treatment for ALL renewable energy projects and tax them differently from any other revenue-generating commercial operation,'' pushing those lost revenues onto other taxpayers. "Large solar installations have been built in many communities, particularly in southern and western Rhode Island because of the availability of open space. "In those communities, solar projects are taxed like other revenue-generating operations. A tangible tax is applied to the equipment itself – in this case, a standardized amount in most if not all communities – and a real property tax is levied on the land." Lawmakers created a "narrow exemption" in 2017 allowing farm owners to use up to 20% of their farmland for renewable energy without losing the lower farmland valuation." Put another way: "The taxable value of the land used for renewable energy does increase, unless it is employed in a dual-use fashion (e.g., cows grazing alongside solar equipment). "The General Assembly clearly did not want entire farms to be converted to solar installations, which is why the preferential tax treatment was narrowly crafted,"" according to League's policy director, Jordan Day. She said the the House bill - known as H 8220 "would create preferential tax treatment for ALL renewable energy projects and tax them differently from any other revenue-generating commercial operation,'' pushing those lost revenues onto other taxpayers. The other side of the argument? "Local taxes are significant longterm operational expenses for any development (renewable or otherwise)," Nicholas L. Nybo, a representative of Revity Energy, wrote lawmakers earlier this year. "While Revity has enjoyed great relationships with many cities and towns...there are municipalities that have imposed drastic mid-cycle re-assessments on real estate developed for renewable energy," which have had the effect of increasing property tax obligations by 200% to 300% in a given year," he wrote. He cited Hopkinton, as an example, where the company has a project that ""produces approximately 24,570,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity per year," that allows "two Rhode Island municipalities to save between 28.75% and 35% on their electricity bills." "Prior to Revity purchasing the property, the assessed value of the property was $305,800. In tax year 2020, after Revity purchased the property and developed (a solar) project, the assessment increased to $1,619,300. "In tax year 2021, the assessment increased again to $2,969,300. Revity now owes $55,021.13 in property taxes which is on top of the $69,375 in tangible taxes that Revity pays Hopkinton." "There is no knowing how high this assessment will skyrocket over the next 25 years absent some reform," Nybo wrote in his written testimony.. "A few municipalities, like Hopkinton, have decided to use their taxing authority to produce a budget windfall or as a cudgel to ward off future developers." Bottom line, he said; "The arbitrariness of certain municipalities’ tax assessment practices vis-à-vis renewable energy developers renders these important projects less financially viable and limits the generosity of discounts that developers can promise to offtakers." As he read the intent of the bill: "all assessments on real property with renewable energy resources thereon shall revert to the last assessed value immediately prior to the renewable developer’s acquiring an interest in the real estate." Revity describes itself as a Rhode Island-based utility scale solar developer "which has successfully developed over 90 megawatts of operating solar capacity in Rhode Island and Massachusetts." House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a lawyer, has represented Revity in some of its past solar developments and a housing proposal for the company on a site where a solar project was rejected in Coventry. A spokesman told The Journal: Shekarchi does not currently work for Revity., Green Development also sent lawmakers a letter urging support of the bill. Green was founded by Mark DePasquale; a big political donor, and it lists former Rep. Henry Boeniger as a $50,000 a year lobbyist, and former Rep. John McCauley as its director of sales. DePasquale and other political contributors who list Green Development as their employer have given more than $92,000 to Rhode Island office-holders and candidates since 2015. That includes $4,300 to Gov. Dan McKee and $8,800 to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in recent years. Gas tax President Joe Biden's call for states to suspend gasoline taxes this summer has not convinced Rhode Island political leaders of the need for a gas tax holiday. A week after the state House of Representatives voted down attempts by Republican lawmakers to suspend the state's 34-cent gas tax, the Senate on Thursday is scheduled to give final approval to the $13.6-billion budget for next year. More:Gov. Dan McKee signs off on $515-million Providence pension bailout Shekarchi said they hadn't changed their mind about a gas tax holiday and pointed out that Biden's announcement Wednesday said states should be suspending the gas tax or "helping consumers in other ways." "We were way ahead of President Biden by providing more dramatic and permanent tax relief to Rhode Island vehicle owners. The budget the House passed last week, and the Senate is poised to pass shortly, invests $73 million of direct tax relief to consumers by permanently eliminating the car tax," Shekarchi said in an email. "This is more meaningful and impactful than a symbolic three-month suspension of gas taxes.” McKee, who for months has said that a gas tax holiday would provide only minimal direct benefit to drivers, pointing to Connecticut's experience, did not have any comment on Biden's remarks Wednesday. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio did not respond to requests for comment. The federal gas tax is 18 cents per gallon. Baby parking In other action on what could be the penultimate day of the legislature's annual session, the General Assembly voted to provide parking spaces in large lots for parents with small children. The bill, which now heads to McKee's desk, would reserve at least two parking spaces for "persons transporting young children under the age of three years and baby strollers" at the front of lots with 101 to 500 spaces. Even larger lots would have to provide additional spaces. Republicans argued that the bill is a step towards the "nanny state." "Regulating how people have parking spots for anything other than disability parking I just think is governmental overreach," House GOP leader Blake Filippi said before the vote. "It's not our business. Let people figure it out." The final House vote was 49-14. E-voting The lawmakers also approved - and sent to the governor - a bill to allow disabled and military voters to "electronically receive and return their mail ballot." Not one of the state's top election officials spoke in favor of the bill. And the proposal was not included in the much-heralded "Let RI Vote" bill, allowing online applications and eliminating longstanding witness requirements for mail ballots, that Gov. Dan McKee signed earlier this month. Cranston's director of elections, Nicholas Lima warned: "No current technology exists that allows a [ballot] to be transmitted ... electronically, without risk of interception or alteration by hostile threat actors – including well-equipped nation state actors that are intent on disrupting American elections by any means necessary. "Such a system could be a wide-open invitation to the manipulation of election results, or, just as dangerously, could open the door to increased distrust in the elections." Lima wrote. The legislation passed the Senate on a final 24-12 For more information, please contact us at: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html

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