As a small business owner, Sue has first-hand experience with inefficient state rules and requirements that make it more difficult to start and run a business. As a legislator, she has always been concerned about the impact of burdensome regulations and the lack of funding to support small business development.
That's why she supported several bills that became law in 2010 to encourage the development and growth of small businesses. These new laws and initiatives will ease regulatory burdens and provide crucial financial resources to businesses in South County and throughout Rhode Island.
The successful legislation she supported includes measures that:
- Create a Web-based statewide master application system to help businesses locate and file applications for licenses and permits. This system will dramatically decrease the time and effort needed to start a small business.
- Allow for simultaneous review by state and municipal agencies of applications to streamline the permitting process for businesses. Before, many agencies required another agency's prior approval before beginning the review process.
- Reserve four seats on the Economic Development Corporation, and one seat on the State Apprenticeship Council, for small business representatives.
- Authorize $125 million for the Economic Development Corporation to provide loan guarantees to help Rhode Island businesses expand.
- Strengthen the Community College of Rhode Island's workforce development efforts and student training programs.
- Amend the state fire safety code to require uniform qualifications and training for deputy state fire marshals to ensure efficient building plan review and uniform code interpretation.
- Establish a regulatory reform office in the Economic Development Corporation with the power to intervene on behalf of businesses in state or municipal regulatory or permitting processes to assure consistent and efficient application of regulations. The office will make annual recommendations on consolidation and elimination of permitting regulations.
Sue Sosnowski supports renewable energy and environmental protection.
As Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, Sue Sosnowski has championed a number of laws that help Rhode Island develop renewable energy sources and protect the quality of our environment.
The most notable Senator Sosnowski sponsored will save the Block Island wind farm proposal. That legislation:
- Provides new protections for ratepayers, including a cap on the price of the renewable energy produced.
- Expands review of the proposed long-term contract with National Grid.
- Will make Rhode Island the first state in the country with an offshore wind farm, an incentive for new wind turbine businesses to locate in Rhode Island.
Other important environmental measures that Senator Sosnowski supported include laws that would:
- Decouple energy distribution rates from sales rates to enable National Grid to encourage and financially support more robust energy efficiency and conservation programs for ratepayers.
- Establish the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission to study the projected impacts of climate change on the state and recommend ways to minimize those impacts.
- Strengthen mercury reduction and education laws by requiring thermostat manufacturers to collect and properly dispose of thermostats that contain mercury.
- Increase penalties for companies that pollute property but ignore orders by state authorities to remediate the property.
Water is vital to every aspect of our lives, but often we take our water supply for granted. In Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have enough water to meet our needs. But we need to manage our water wisely to make sure we will have enough water to maintain our qualify of life and to support new economic development.
As an organic farmer, Sue Sosnowski knows how important it is to have an adequate supply of water for home use and for business and economic development. Water is vital to her livelihood, and she takes its management and use very seriously.
That's why she was proud to be the prime sponsor of the Water Use and Government Efficiency Act of 2009.
Four years of research, study, legislative hearings, and discussion led to this comprehensive legislation. In June of 2007, Senator Sosnowski's Committee on the Environment and Agriculture and the Senate Government Oversight Committee issued a joint report summarizing a series of six legislative oversight hearings. Those hearings identified a number of problems with the way we manage our water supply:
- Development often takes place in areas that don't have adequate water supplies or storage capacity.
- Many water systems, especially in urban areas, were not designed to serve the current number of customers. Many do not have adequate back-up water supplies.
- Summertime, the season with the least amount of rain, also is the season when the greatest demands are made on water systems because of inefficient outdoor residential water use. More efficient use of our shared water supply would make more water available for economic development.
- Many public water suppliers are not doing the regular maintenance and replacement needed to keep water systems running.
- Public water systems lose a large volume of water because of inaccurate meters, theft, and inefficient water main flushing, sewer cleaning, and storm drain cleaning.
The primary purpose of the legislation is to require more efficient use of the water we have. It is intended to help public water suppliers manage water demand and make long-term investments in water mains and other infrastructure, and to help them become financially self-sustaining while providing water to the public at affordable rates.
The legislation also requires the state and local communities to consider water resources when developing land use policies and making land use decisions.
It revises the methods used to set public water rates, making it easier for public water suppliers to stabilize their revenues and reserves for capital improvements and debt service, and allows them to provide customers with incentives for water conservation.
The legislation also cuts out some of the administrative expenses to public water suppliers by allowing them to apply for approval of multi-year rate structures, and by eliminating the requirement that they submit 30-month reports.
It also requires public water suppliers to operate more efficiently and at the same time provide better service to their customers. Within the next three years, all public water suppliers must begin reading water meters remotely, using radio frequency systems. Within the next four years, every public water supplier will bill its customers at least four times a year instead of once a year.
The Water Use and Government Efficiency Act of 2009, and the regulations state officials are now drafting to implement it, will change the landscape of water management for years to come. Hopefully it will change the attitude of those who act as if we have an infinite supply of water.