The Rhode Island Senate voted last week to approve a bill that would increase the maximum fine for littering in Rhode Island from $500 to $1,000.
It is nearly impossible to travel anywhere in the state – little villages, big cities, parks, country lanes, the interstate -- and not see litter piling up in curbs, clogging drains, blowing down the road or along the side of the highway.
“It is, in a word, disgusting,” said Senator Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence). “It’s not just an eyesore, it’s an indication that some people are disrespectful and have little or no pride in their community or their state.”
In addition, said Majority Leader Ruggerio, litter costs cities and towns money in cleanup costs.
“Perhaps people toss junk out their car window because, if they are caught and fined, they think $85 is not a big deal,” he said, referring to the minimum monetary penalty for littering. “It’s time to change that. If we cannot convince people through education that littering is not the right thing to do, maybe a stiffer fine will convince them to find a proper receptacle for their trash.”
The Senate this week approved 2014-S 2721A, sponsored by Majority Leader Ruggerio, that will increase the fine for littering from a maximum of $500 to $1,000. (The minimum would remain at $85, as would the requirement that the offending individual also pick up litter for a period of between 2 and 25 hours.)
A second or subsequent offense would see a hike in the maximum fine from the current $500 to $5,000.
Under the legislation, any persons convicted of a violation of littering would also be liable for the removal of all litter or ordered to pay restitution for the cost of removal.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. A companion House bill, 2014-H 8177, sponsored by Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), is currently before the House Committee on Judiciary.