About the Rhode Island Statewide e-Permitting Initiative

What is the Rhode Island Statewide e-Permitting Initiative?  The focus of the first phases will be to establish a uniform, web-based system to be used by the State, its municipalities, and taxpayers for statewide permit management, inspection management, and electronic plan review.

Why was the initiative launched?  To promote economic growth and to provide tools to assist local permitting departments in confronting challenges related to overextended staff, increased demands, and pressure to improve the taxpayer experience. Rhode Island residents and business leaders have repeatedly expressed their frustration with working within inefficient and disparate permitting systems.

When was the initiative launched?  In 2012, the Rhode Island General Assembly charged the State Building Commissioner with the development of a statewide electronic permitting system. The following year, the General Assembly created the Municipal Advisory Council on Statewide Permitting to provide advice and recommendations on realizing a statewide permitting system.  The project is supported by the State Fire Marshal and the Department of Administration’s Office of Digital Excellence and Office of Regulatory Reform.  By 2014, the legislature provided sufficient funding to allow the state to go out to bid for a vendor, and in July 2015 the implementation began.  The software was launched in June 2016.

Who is participating?  The statewide roll-out is structured in phases. Phase I will launch common permits and inspections under the State Building Commissioner and State Fire Marshal. These include fire safety inspections, fire and building plan review, and a variety of permits including building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing. Phase I also includes ten (10) pilot municipalities: Cranston, Newport, North Kingstown North Providence, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Warwick, West Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket. All Phase I entities expect to launch by spring of 2017. Phase II will add fifteen (15) communities and will potentially expand the business uses. This expansion will include three municipalities using an older version of the software being implemented (East Providence, Middletown, and South Kingstown), plus another dozen.  Later phases will expand business use further and spread the system to remaining Rhode Island municipalities.

What are the main features of the new system?  

  • Convenience of self-service: Applications and payments may be submitted online at any time of the day, and permits may be received electronically and printed out as soon as they are approved.
  • Transparency: Processing status can be tracked step by step, giving applicants visibility into not only where their application is in the process, but the name of the actual employee working on it.
  • Contractor validation: Applicants and government officials won't need to question the validity of licensed/registered professional credentials. The system will validate against databases at the Contractors Registration Board (general contractors), Department of Labor and Training (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), Department of Business Regulation (architects, engineers) and Department of Health (asbestos, lead, radon). Only valid and current credentials can be submitted on a permit application.
  • Management: Governmental bodies are able to collect information related to a permit application in one place, track progress across multiple applications simultaneously, and assign tasks to achieve higher levels of efficiency and service for the public
  • Collaboration and Consistency: The State has partnered with Rhode Island municipalities to design and implement the same platform for online permitting, providing a more comprehensive solution and allowing both levels of government to benefit from economies of scale both in system cost and implementation time lines.