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Caldwell: Rhode Islanders must not be made to wait for more information about how we are going to end this pandemic
 
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Justine Caldwell, representing constituents at a loss for information about the status of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan, called on the state’s Department of Health and political leaders to more clearly articulate a plan for getting the state’s population vaccinated.

“When COVID-19 first hit Rhode Island, our state’s political and public health leaders did an exemplary job of clearly communicating with Rhode Islanders about our state’s plan for suppressing COVID-19 and protecting our populations from the virus — even in the face of a dysfunctional federal response to the pandemic. But as we enter the final phase of our response — immunizing our population against the disease -- our state’s communication has not measured up. We’re in the midst of multiple transitions — to a new governor and new federal administration — but Rhode Islanders, exhausted from nearly a year of having their lives upended, must not be made to wait for more information about how we are going to end this pandemic,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

Representative Caldwell said that her constituents, and others she talks with, are frustrated by having no idea when they might expect to be vaccinated, and not understanding why some groups are being prioritized over others. “Hearing that board members of powerful hospitals are higher on the priority list than they or their elderly relatives are is severely undermining trust in our response, especially in the absence of clear information about who is being prioritized and why. Images of municipal leaders receiving the vaccine when front-line workers have not have made people think who you are is more important than what you need.”

“My mother-in-law in Tennessee just got her second dose, and she doesn’t live in a congregate care setting. One of my constituents asked his at-risk child’s doctor when he might receive his vaccination, and his doctor didn’t know. Would he be able to have it earlier because he’s at risk, or would he wait until people in his age cohort are eligible? We don’t know. Even doctors don’t know,” said Representative Caldwell. “My grandparents, who are both over 85, don’t know when they can be vaccinated, or how they are going to find out — and both of them are well-informed, engaged citizens. We’re facing a crisis of communication about the biggest community challenge of our time.”

East Greenwich, which Representative Caldwell represents, is now facing more cases per capita than any city or town in Rhode Island. “I have at-risk constituents contacting me every day asking questions for which I have no answers. We’re telling people just to wait, and we’ll let them know when they’ll get vaccinated. We must articulate a plan that goes beyond a week or two into the future. Everyone’s lives have already been on hold for almost a year.”

Representative Caldwell acknowledged that no vaccination plan would please everyone, and said that public health experts ultimately were in the best position to weigh the needs of various populations.
“It’s the job of public health experts to decide how the vaccination program should work — but it’s the job of the government to communicate how the program is going to work. We’re not living up to that,” she said.

Even in the face of uncertainty, Representative Caldwell believes the state must do better.

“I understand there are still things we don’t know — the willingness of populations to get vaccinated, the effectiveness of the vaccine against new variants, the rate at which we’ll receive doses of the vaccine, how the federal response will work under the new Biden administration. But not knowing everything for sure is no reason not to provide our people with our best long-term estimates. Our state officials excelled in leveling with us during the early stages of the pandemic. We need to get back to that level of transparency and public education. Rhode Islanders need it in order to prepare themselves to get through what is still going to be a very challenging year,” she said.

Representative Caldwell laid out three areas where she believes the state must do better.

“First, we need an explanation about why other states are vaccinating faster than we are. Second, we need a clearer medium-term and long-term plan, with dates, based on the best ideas from public health experts, about how we’re going to complete this process. Our predictions don’t have to be perfect -- they should be updated as we go forward — but something is better than nothing. And third, we need a clearer plan for communication — what communication channels are we going to use to get information and data out to the people who need it? That’s our job as leaders, and when we have the information we need, I’d be happy to collaborate with state agencies and other community leaders to figure out how to get that information to my constituents and people across Rhode Island,” she said.
 

1/24/2021RepRep. Justine A. Caldwell; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) will be introducing a resolution calling for the end to COVID-19 mandated restaurant closing times.  Currently, restaurants and other social businesses are required to close by 10 p.m. during the week and 10:30 p.m. on the weekends.  Small business owners have called the closing times arbitrary and devastating to their small businesses.

“While we all want to do our part to defeat COVID-19 and keep our communities safe, these mandated closure times have decimated our restaurants and bars that rely upon nightlife to keep their doors open and their employees working and paid.  There has been no scientific evidence or rationale offered for these arbitrary closing times and it is time that we support our small businesses by repealing this order which was only supposed to be temporary in the first place.  These businesses have spent thousands of dollars in preparation and COVID-19 safety procedures and they have done everything the state has asked them to do, including following this draconian order to close early every night.  Hospital and infection rates are down and our neighbors in Massachusetts are now allowing their restaurants and bars to operate at normal hours.  Now is the time to give our restaurants and bars the help that they are pleading desperately for before all of these treasured small businesses close for good,” said Representative O’Brien.

The resolution is modeled upon resolutions recently introduced by the North Providence Town Council and the Cranston City Council.

The resolution calls for the state to allow businesses to operate at their normal business hours.  If the restriction is not lifted, the resolution calls for immediate state financial assistance for the small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the order.

1/22/2021RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio has introduced legislation to prohibit the possession of firearms on school grounds. Named in honor of its longtime champion in the Senate, The Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021 would allow only peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, and persons under contract to provide school security to carry a firearm on school grounds.

“Guns do not belong in schools, and private citizens have no business bringing a gun on school property,” said President Ruggerio. “Citizens carrying firearms in schools increases risk, not safety. There have been dozens of examples of mishandling and accidental discharge of firearms in schools across our nation.”

He added, “We are working hard to improve education in our state. The presence of firearms in schools is detrimental to a positive learning environment.”

The legislation would apply to the property of any public or private elementary or secondary school, including school buses. Activities that would be exempt from the proposed law include firearm instruction and/or safety courses; government-sponsored military-related programs such as ROTC; interscholastic shooting and/or marksmanship events; military history and firearms collection courses; and the use of blank guns used in theatrical or athletic events.

Former Senator Harold M. Metts sponsored similar legislation for many years.

The bill, 2021-S-0073, is cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne (D – Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D – Dist. 1, Providence), Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna M. Gallo (D – Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ryan W. Pearson (D – Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln).

1/22/2021SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio has introduced legislation to prohibit the possession of firearms on school grounds. Named in honor of its longtime champion in the Senate, The Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021 would allow only peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, and persons under contract to provide school security to carry a firearm on school grounds.
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) issued a statement today condemning racist graffiti that was discovered on part of a Route 116 bridge that spans the Woonasquatucket River.

“It’s extremely upsetting and offensive to see this type of hatred in a town that prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive,” said Senator Archambault. “This type of behavior is not to be tolerated in any way and is certainly not indicative of the people of Smithfield, who I am sure join me in condemning the graffiti. It’s certainly heart-wrenching that it comes on the heels of a call for national unity from our new president. But it’s a stark reminder that hate still exists in the most unlikely places and we must stay vigilant in combating it with zero tolerance.”

The graffiti has been painted over by town highway crews, but Senator Archambault urges other officials to use the incident as an opportunity to speak out against hatred and intolerance.
1/22/2021SenSen. Stephen Archambault; #204; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Arthur J. Corvese today filed legislation to settle a question about what happens when the lieutenant governor’s position becomes vacant midterm.

State law does not spell out a process for how to replace a lieutenant governor who leaves the office before his or her term is up, whether due to resignation, death, inability to serve or elevation to governor.

There is a statute that says the General Assembly in Grand Committee – a meeting of the entire House and Senate together – is to elect a replacement should a lieutenant governor-elect become unable to serve, and Representative Corvese’s legislation would create a similar provision in the case of the lieutenant governor.

The situation first came to light in 1997 when Lieutenant Governor Robert Weygand left the office upon his election to Congress. Gov. Lincoln Almond appointed a Republican lawyer who had never served in any elected office, Bernard Jackvony, to fill the position, which at that time included the duty of presiding over the Senate. A Supreme Court battle erupted between the governor and the Senate over whether the governor had the power to appoint a successor. Although the court ruled in favor of the governor’s appointment, it suggested the General Assembly could pass a law clarifying the issue and giving itself the power to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office.

However, although a bill was introduced that year, it was never passed amid questions about the constitutionality of an attempt to make it apply retroactively to the vacancy created that year.
Representative Corvese’s bill is aimed at finally resolving the issue.

“The fact is, neither the Rhode Island Constitution nor the General Laws say what is supposed to happen if the lieutenant governor leaves office. There’s a provision for all the other general officers. There’s a law that says what to do if a lieutenant governor-elect can’t serve. There’s even a law that describes what to do if both the governor and the lieutenant governor are both vacant at once, but there is no law that applies just to a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). “In every one of those cases, the law says the General Assembly in Grand Committee is to elect a successor, so my bill enacts the same process for a vacancy of the lieutenant governor.”

Representative Corvese introduced this legislation each year from 2013 through 2017, and it passed the House for the first three of those years. He is optimistic that legislators in both chambers will be interested in finally settling the issue now. He plans to push for fast-track passage of the bill (2021-H 5000) in the General Assembly.

“We’ve been aware of this loophole for more than two decades. It makes no sense to leave this question unanswered, particularly when there’s a simple solution that’s already established for all similar situations involving vacancy in this office. I look forward to finally addressing it now,” said Representative Corvese.


1/6/2021RepRep. Arthur Corvese; #11; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rep. Arthur J. Corvese today filed legislation to settle a question about what happens when the lieutenant governor’s position becomes vacant midterm.


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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet virtually Thursday to hear updates on federal funding for pandemic response.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m.

The committee will hear from the Department of Administration on funding updates regarding the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; December 2020 stimulus changes to CARES funding and deadlines; and additional federal aid passed in December and new budget options available to the state.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be streamed live online Via Capitol TV at
http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.   

1/20/2021SenSen. Ryan Pearson; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will meet virtually Thursday for hearings on bills concerning nursing homes and harm reduction centers.

The meeting is scheduled Thursday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m. via WebEx.

On the committee’s calendar are:
  • 2021-S 0002 — This Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence, mandates minimum staffing levels and standards for quality care for nursing homes and their residents.
  • 2021-S 0006 — This bill sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) would require the Department of Health to promulgate rules and regulations providing for the designation of essential caregivers to provide in-person physical or emotional  support to residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities during an emergency declaration.
  • 2021-S 0016 — This bill sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) would create a pilot program to establish harm reduction centers where use of pre-obtained controlled substances may occur under the supervision of health care professionals.
The State House remains closed to the public. The meeting will be televised by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15, and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

Members of the public wishing to testify may submit written testimony to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov. Testimony submitted by 2 p.m. Thursday will be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and will be included in the meeting records. Testimony submitted after that time will be placed on file.

Those who would prefer to provide verbal testimony may email slegislation@rilegislature.gov by Wednesday at 4 p.m. with the following information: bill number, whether the testimony is for or against the bill, and name and affiliation (if any) and phone number where the party can be reached to give the testimony.
 

1/20/2021SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and other members of the Kent County House delegation are urging the attorney general to investigate the billing procedures of the Kent County Water Authority.


Beginning in October 2020, several water authority customers began receiving bills that were far in excess of what they usually pay. In one incident, customers received a bill that was 455 percent higher than usual, with no explanation provided for the increase.

“We have asked the water authority to explain the reasons for these increases, and we’ve given them ample time and opportunity to answer these questions,” said Representative McNamara. “We still have not been given a good answer for these extreme billing hikes, and we think it’s time for the attorney general to get involved.”

Representative McNamara, along with Representatives Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) and Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), have introduced a House resolution (2021-H 5030) that would formally request Attorney General Peter Neronha to review the major increase in water charges by the Kent County Water Authority and the Public Utilities Commission.
1/19/2021RepRep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. David Bennett; Rep. Joseph J. Solomon; Rep. Thomas E. Noret; #41; #161; #214; #249; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), in conjunction with Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), has written to the Director of the RI Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, thanking her for an update regarding the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan that was given during a Senate Democratic Caucus that was held on Wednesday, January 13.

“With the Feds grossly mismanaging the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, it was truly helpful listening to the presentation from Dr. Alexander-Scott regarding what Rhode Island is doing to ensure that the vaccine reaches all interested individuals as quickly as possible.  I thank her and the Department of Health for their informative update and I am looking forward to continuing this collaborative approach to safeguard the health and safety of all Rhode Island residents,” said Senator Raptakis.

In the letter, Senator Raptakis and Leader McCaffrey suggest to Dr. Alexander-Scott that the state’s online testing portal could also be efficiently used for vaccine distribution, allowing interested individuals to sign up in advance of receiving the vaccine when it is available.

1/19/2021SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) on Sunday are hosting a virtual conversation with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on taming climate change under the Biden administration.

The public forum, which the legislators are offering in their roles as leaders of the Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus, will take place on Zoom Sunday, Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It is open to the public. Pre-registration is required for access, and is available here: https://forms.gle/j1uieBL5p2jZ4XA56.

The event will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the future of federal climate change policy as the nation transitions to the Biden administration, and to ask questions of Senator Whitehouse, who has been a leading advocate in the Senate for climate initiatives. Questions for Senator Whitehouse can be submitted in advance on the registration form or by email to Aquidneckclimate@gmail.com.

The Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus is a community group formed by Representatives Cortvriend and Carson to give voice to the importance of mitigating and adapting for the earth’s changing climate.

1/19/2021RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; Rep. Terri Cortvriend; Rep. Deborah Ruggiero; #224; #258; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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State House, Providence – Today, Rhode Island House Republicans sent the attached letter to Governor Gina Raimondo:
 
Dear Governor Raimondo,
 
Congratulations on your pending ascension to serve as the United States Secretary of Commerce. Although we may leave Rhode Island, our hearts remain, and we know you will always keep an eye on our home state. For this we are most thankful. This shared love of home compels us to respectfully request that you establish a near-term date certain to step down as our Governor. 
 
Given the magnitude of the health, economic and social crises Rhode Island grapples with, we must have a defined leadership timetable, so that we may all plan accordingly. Our head of state must not be contingent upon action from a seldom-functional United States Senate, or else the Ocean State will be rudderless between administrations.
 
The Lieutenant Governor will ultimately be responsible for these crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, our estimated $500 Million deficit in the next fiscal year, and deep tears in our social fabric. Accordingly, the ascension of the Lieutenant Governor to the Office of Governor should commence as soon as reasonably possible so that the individuals and policies that will ultimately see us through these crises may be implemented forthwith.
 
Lastly, no human should, or could be expected to, manage these state-level crises, while at the same time preparing to guide our national and international economic policy. Immense are the weights of these individual offices, and combined, they are unmanageable. Our nation and world need you focused on the great undertakings that await you as Secretary of Commerce, not pulled away by your responsibilities as Governor.
 
Respectfully, the very purpose of an office of Lieutenant Governor is to provide for the seamless transition of power in circumstances such as this. We implore you to allow our system to work as designed by joining other Governors that have stepped down as nominees for federally appointed positions prior to confirmation, including:  Terry Branstad (IO); John Hoeven (ND); Jon Huntsman, Jr. (UT); Dirk Kempthorne (ID); and Paul Cellucci (MA).
Thank you for your service to our state, and we wish you much health and happiness in your future endeavors,
 
Sincerely,
House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi
House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale
Representative Brian C. Newberry
Representative David Place
Representative George Nardone
Representative Robert Quattocchi
Representative Justin Price
Representative Sherry Roberts
  

                                                 

1/19/2021RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. Brian Newberry; Rep. David J. Place; Rep. George A. Nardone; Rep. Robert J. Quattrocchi; Rep. Justin Price; Rep. Sherry Roberts; #218; #169; #139; #266; #251; #238; #219; #216; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – More than $1.5 billion was expended by the State of Rhode Island in fiscal 2020 from various federal COVID-19 related federal assistance programs. The largest category of assistance was unemployment insurance programs - federal CARES Act funded unemployment benefits totaled more than $1 billion for fiscal 2020. The State received $1.25 billion under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and expended approximately $267 million in the year ended June 30, 2020. The largest categories of CRF outlay were for qualifying public health and public safety expenditures and the Hospital Assistance Partnership Program.

Summary information has been compiled by the Office of the Auditor General and included in an OAG-update communication with the intent of providing a highly summarized snapshot of expenditures of federal assistance received to address various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The summary does not include federal assistance made directly to individuals, businesses (e.g., Payroll Protection Program loans), universities, colleges, or hospitals.

The auditors note that their audit of the State’s financial statements is ongoing as well as the compliance audit of expenditures of federal awards (collectively known as the “Single Audit”). Accordingly, these expenditures, which are compiled from the State’s accounting records, are unaudited pending completion of the audit. The amounts included in the OAG-update reflect fiscal 2020 data as of January 13, 2021.

1/15/2021SenRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #187; #85; Dennis E. Hoyle, CPA
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano, Rep. Karen Alzate and Rep. Leonela Felix are joining together virtually on MLK Day to spread love and appreciation around Pawtucket in the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy.

The legislators are starting a “challenge” on social media, using the hashtag #PawtucketLove, to thank individuals in Pawtucket for their service to the community and they hope that others will be nominated and acknowledged with the challenge going viral, similar to the “Ice Bucket Challenge” several years ago.

“While we face such troubling times, it is vital that we shine a light on the good in our community by acknowledging the multitude of individuals in Pawtucket who serve their neighbors and community during everyday life,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).

“We simply want the community to demonstrate their appreciation for all the people in their lives that help and nurture others, especially during the difficult year we all have experienced,” said Representative Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket).

“When we are constantly bombarded with tragedy and uncertainty, it is important that we also focus on what is good, kind, and just in our lives.  Too many people in Pawtucket selflessly serve their community but are never acknowledged and we believe that now is the time to show these individuals how much we appreciate all that they do for Pawtucket and its residents,” said Representative Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket).

The legislators have put together a video online further explaining the challenge, which can be found here, https://youtu.be/zJoZ6jJ8TbE, or on the legislators’ Facebook and other social media pages.

1/15/2021RepSen. Sandra Cano; Rep. Karen Alzate; Rep. Leonela Felix; #245; #255; #279; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) has introduced legislation that would increase Rhode Island’s minimum wage from $11.50 to $15 over a four-year period.

The bill (2021-S 0001) would increase the minimum wage to $12.25 on Oct. 1, 2021; raise it to $13 on Oct. 1, 2022; raise it to $14 on Oct. 1, 2023; and finally to $15 on Oct. 1, 2024.

“This legislation will go a long way toward breaking the cycle of poverty that has ensnared so many of Rhode Island’s families,” said Senator Quezada. “A living wage will not only help people who work full time from living in poverty, it will also ease the demand on public assistance and bolster the state’s economy by ensuring that families have the income required to meet their basic needs.”

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), has been referred to the Senate Committee on Labor.
1/15/2021SenSen. Ana B. Quezada; #228; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight will be meeting virtually via WebEx on Wednesday, January 20 at 5 p.m. to hear presentations regarding the Health Services Council and the Hospital Conversion Act.

The committee is chaired by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton).

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the RI Department of Health, with provide an overview of the duties and responsibilities of the Health Services Council.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha will deliver an overview of the Hospital Conversion Act and the Attorney General’s role in enforcing the act.

The meeting will be streamed live online through Capitol Television and can be found here: http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

1/15/2021SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission’s annual celebration of the life, and death, of the great civil rights leader will be broadcast on Capitol Television on Monday, January 18 at 7 p.m. featuring pre-taped segments from Rhode Island dignitaries explaining what the legacy of Dr. King means to them.

The commission and celebration are chaired by Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence).

Normally, the celebration would be held in person, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be held virtually.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) will be joined by other legislative leaders, the state’s general officers, members of Rhode Island’s federal delegation and other dignitaries in offering video messages of how the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has touched their lives.

There will also be a musical performance by RPM Voices Choir and the annual presentation of awards to members of the community and for the event’s annual essay contest open to middle and high school students in the state.

The celebration will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

1/15/2021RepRep. Raymond Hull; #157; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Joshua Miller will once again lead the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate’s Democratic Policy Caucus, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio announced this week.

Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) has served as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee since 2013, and has chaired the Democratic Policy Caucus since its inception in 2017.

The Health and Human Services Committee considers legislation and matters dealing with the Departments of Health; Human Services; and Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. It also handles legislation relative to public health and welfare; health care and human service access and quality, professional standards of practice and facility standards of care.

The Policy Caucus provides leadership to the Democratic caucus on policy matters.

Elected to the Senate in 2006, Senator Miller served as chairman of the Senate Corporation Committee from 2009 until he became Health and Human Services Committee chairman. Throughout his legislative career, he has sponsored legislation aimed at improving health care delivery, curbing the opioid crisis, improving treatment for people with addiction and creating pathways to help people to get out of utility debt. He has also been a leader in efforts to improve mental health care and access, to extend the renewable energy standard and net metering and on other environmental and social issues.

Senator Miller, a restaurant owner and operator, has served on numerous boards of organizations related to the hospitality industry, including the Rhode Island Hospitality and Tourism Association, the Board of Directors for the Providence/Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Merchants Association.

Senator Miller also serves on the advisory committees for the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence and the Providence Police Advisory Board. In addition, Senator Miller was a member of the 2006 Health Insurance Commissioner’s Advisory Committee.
1/14/2021SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) is calling on Governor Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order that would grant driving licenses to undocumented residents before she leaves the state to serve in the incoming Biden administration.

“When Governor Raimondo campaigned for her first term in 2014, she publicly promised and signed a pledge that she would get undocumented residents licenses because it was the right thing to do in the name of public safety, yet six years have passed and this promise remains unfulfilled.  Now, with the governor leaving Rhode Island shortly to serve our nation, time is running out and I urge her to use an executive order to make good on her promise to provide driving licenses to our undocumented residents,” said Representative Williams.

“While public safety has always been important over the last six years, it is even more significant now with COVID-19 rampaging through these communities.  The governor has been asking everyone, especially those in high-risk areas, to get tested, but our undocumented brothers and sisters have no legal way of getting to these testing sites that are not accessible throughout all of their vicinities without a license.  The undocumented community has waited a long six years to see this promise fulfilled and I urge the governor to live up to her words and finally grant these residents the ability to move freely and legally before she leaves our state,” added by Representative Williams.

“Even though Governor Raimondo has been unusually quiet of late, we expect that she takes this matter seriously and provides this Rhode Island community with a response that they deserve before she packs her bags for Washington D.C.,” concluded Representative Williams.

1/14/2021RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Senator Thomas J. Paolino, (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield) has been named Secretary of the Senate Finance Committee and to the Health Committee, Education Committee and Lottery Commission.

As Secretary of the Finance Committee, Senator Paolino joins the committee leadership taking on a leading role in reviewing the state budget and authoring amendments. He will be responsible to engage with the broader Senate membership to ensure priorities of all members are included within the final budget.

Paolino, who has served on the finance committee for last several years, said he was pleased to take on this additional role, especially in light of the significant financial challenges the state is facing.
“We still do not know the scope of the financial situation the state is in,” Paolino said.  “But we do know this budget year will be unlike any other, and we will need to work harder than ever to ensure that we use our taxpayers’ money in a responsible way.”

Paolino, who is serving his third term in the Senate, said he is confident that as Secretary of Finance he will be able to contribute necessary input and oversight during one of the most critical times in Rhode Island history.

1/12/2021SenSen. Thomas J. Paolino; #230; Katie Haughey Cardoza
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) was reappointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) at yesterday’s Senate session.

The Senate Committee on Labor deliberates legislation relating to workers’ compensation and labor laws.

First elected in November of 2002, Senator Ciccone is also a member of the Finance Committee, the Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight Committee, and the Permanent Joint Committee on State Lottery.

1/13/2021SenSen. Frank Ciccone; #77; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) was reappointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) at yesterday’s Senate session.

The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government considers all legislation and matters affecting housing, municipal government and transportation.

First elected in November of 2010, Senator Lombardo is the owner of Lombardo and Sons of Providence. He is also a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors; a member of Rhode Island Builders; and a member of the Refrigeration Service and Engineering Society.

He is also a member of the Senate Committees on Commerce and Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight.

1/13/2021SenSen. Frank Lombardo, III; #182; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) was reappointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation & Veterans’ Affairs by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) at yesterday’s Senate session.

The Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs hears legislation and matters relating to constitutional amendments, liquor laws, gaming issues, commissions, resolutions, veterans affairs and laws relating to domestic animals.

First elected in November of 1998, Senator Felag also serves as the Second Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.

1/13/2021SenSen. Walter Felag; #112; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) plan to introduce legislation that would authorize the governor to designate any person to solemnize a marriage.

As it currently stands, only the General Assembly can authorize individuals to solemnize a marriage.

“It is an inconvenience to the people of Rhode Island that they need to seek a formal act of law just because they want a friend or family member to officiate at their wedding,” said Leader McCaffrey. “Votes and committee meetings are also a very inefficient way to handle what amounts to a clerical task. Getting married should be a joyous occasion, and there’s no reason the state needs to bog it down with red tape.”

The act would allow the governor to designate any person who is eligible to vote to solemnize a marriage within the state on a particular day and within a particular city or town. The authorization would expire upon completion of the marriage. A fee in the amount of $25 would be a prerequisite and would be payable to the secretary of state, or a fee of $20 for applications that are submitted electronically.

 “This bill will modernize the process by placing it online and ensuring that it’s available to all Rhode Islanders year round,” said Whip Kazarian.  “Some time ago, I was contacted by a constituent in July about their nuptials scheduled for September.  Unfortunately, the General Assembly had already concluded its session for the year and there was no other alternative possible.  It broke my heart when I had to tell my constituent there was nothing I could do to ensure their perfect wedding with the officiant of their choice and this is why this legislation is needed to modernize our system in Rhode Island.”
1/13/2021RepSen. Michael McCaffrey; Rep. Katherine Kazarian; #106; #194; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to meet virtually via WebEx tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 14, at 4 p.m. for hearings on several bills pertaining to insurance coverage.

The committee’s calendar includes:
  • 2021-S 0003 — Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), this bill would prohibit insurers from charging higher rates based on gender.
  • 2021-S 0004 — This bill sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) would amend the provisions of the Telemedicine Coverage Act and provide coverage for telemedicine under Rhode Island Medicaid.
  • 2021-S 0005 — Also sponsored by Chairman Miller, this bill would enact a list of 10 essential health benefits that all individual, large group and small employer health insurance policies would be required to provide.
The State House remains closed to the public. The meeting will be televised by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15, and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

Members of the public wishing to testify may submit written testimony to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov. Testimony submitted by 2 p.m. Thursday will be provided to the members of the committee at the hearing and will be included in the meeting records. Testimony submitted after that time will be placed on file.

Those who would prefer to provide verbal testimony may email slegislation@rilegislature.gov by Wednesday at 4 p.m. with the following information: bill number, whether the testimony is for or against the bill, and name and affiliation (if any) and phone number where the party can be reached to give the testimony.

1/13/2021SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) is supporting an effort by the East Providence School Department and School Committee to have teachers and support staff included in the state’s Phase One COVID-19 vaccination plan.  Currently, only hospital workers, first responders, and residents and employees of long term care facilities are included in Phase One of the plan.

“As we continue to grapple with this pandemic, the vaccine has brought hope to so many that returning to our normal way of life is within reach, but in order to accomplish this, we must make the best use of our limited amount of vaccine doses.  It is within this spirit that I am supporting the East Providence School Department and School Committee by urging health officials to include teachers and educational support staff within the Phase One COVID-19 vaccination plan,” said Representative Amore.

“The Department of Homeland Security considers educators ‘critical infrastructure workers’ but they have been left out of the vaccination plan.  And with so many children returning, or have already returned, to in-person learning, we must protect the health and safety of our educational staff who are so crucial to the healthy development process of our youth.  I support the East Providence School Department’s efforts by urging the Department of Health to protect these crucial members of our community by adding them to the Phase One vaccination plan – they and our children deserve it,” concluded Representative Amore.

1/13/2021RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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Freshman legislator will hold leadership posts on two
 
STATE HOUSE – Senate President Dominick Ruggerio today named Sen. Meghan E. Kallman to four Senate Committees, and to leadership posts on two of them.

Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) will serve as vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government and secretary of the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight. The Housing and Municipal Government Committee considers matters relating to housing, municipal government and transportation. The Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee considers rules of the Senate, ensures that the Senate and its staff adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, and monitors and evaluates the past, current and prospective performance of public bodies.

Additionally, she will serve as a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, which considers issues relating to the conservation of air, land, water, plant, animal, mineral and other natural resources of the state; and as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which considers legislation and matters relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance, technology and telecommunications.
Senator Kallman was inaugurated last week for her first term in the Senate, having previously served two terms representing Ward 5 on the Pawtucket City Council. A professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, she is a former member of the State Housing Appeals Board and a former member of the Pawtucket Juvenile Hearing Board. She is a longtime community organizer and co-founder of Crash Pawtucket, a local business showcase.
 
 

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1/12/2021SenSen. Meghan E. Kallman; #284; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) was elected to the position of House Deputy Majority Whip Monday night at a virtual House Democratic caucus. 

Deputy Whip Ackerman will work closely as part of the Democratic Leadership Team headed by Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski.

“I’m thrilled and honored that my colleagues chose me for this important leadership position,” said Representative Ackerman. “This is going to be a difficult year with a lot of tough issues to face, and I’m grateful to be tackling those issues with such a diverse group of talented legislators.”

Representative Ackerman, who was first elected as a state representative in November 2012, has been a strong consumer and health care advocate, championing a law protecting the consumers’ right to pay in cash, which garnered national attention. She worked closely with the Cancer Society to ban the use of tanning beds for minors. She also successfully passed a bill calling for the adoption and implementation of a five-year update to the state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

With a lifetime commitment to public service, she is a former member of the Cumberland Town Council from 2006 to 2012. Deputy Whip Ackerman holds a bachelor’s degree in political economics from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a self-employed Real Estate Title Examiner.  She and her husband, Barry, are the parents of Sam, a student at Columbia Law School, and Ellie, a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island. 

1/12/2021RepRep. Mia Ackerman; #191; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Senate President Dominick Ruggerio today appointed Sen. Jeanine Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) to serve on the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The Education Committee considers legislation pertaining to education, including student performance, governance, programming and teacher preparation and planning.

The Health and Human Services Committee handles all legislation and matters relative to public health and welfare; health care and human service access and quality; health and human service professional standards of practice, and facility standards of care. 

Senator Calkin was inaugurated to her second term last week, having previously represented District 30 from 2017 to 2018.  She also served on the Health and Human Services Committee during her first term. She is a project manager at the nonprofit coalition Renew New England Alliance.

1/12/2021SenSen. Jeanine Calkin; #231; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE –House Rules Committee Chairman Arthur Corvese has introduced legislation proposing new rules for the House of Representatives to allow the Speaker to activate procedures that include remote committee votes and some proxy voting during emergencies such as the current pandemic.

The proposals, which will have public hearings this Thursday and next Thursday, would also create two new standing committees, split the Health, Education and Welfare Committee into two committees, and allow each representative to keep up to three of their bills “alive” from the first year of their term into the second.

“I’m certain that these changes will help the House operate more effectively in doing the people’s work. These proposals will provide new committees to better focus on the types of issues we consider today, and keep legislation moving by spreading out the workload. It also gives us the latitude we need to keep working safely through emergencies like the current pandemic. Being able to do more of our committee work remotely, and allowing proxy voting by those who can’t safely be in a large group will help legislate in the new realities we current face,” said Chairman Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).

In response to the difficult legislative conditions caused by the pandemic, Chairman Corvese’s proposal (2021-H 5002) would provide the speaker with discretion to trigger temporary legislative procedures during a public health or other emergency. Those temporary procedures include allowing members to participate and vote in committee meetings via video conferencing or telephone, as long as the member’s identity could be verified. Witnesses would also be able to participate in similar manner. 

It would allow the speaker to authorize proxy voting by some members during House session, provided there is a quorum met by the physical presence of 38 of the members. Under that proposal, the Speaker could temporarily allow members who cannot attend the session to have their majority or minority leaders vote on certain matters on their behalf.  

Temporary procedures would remain in place until the speaker rescinds them at his discretion at the conclusion of the public emergency.

The bill adds two new standing committees: a Committee on Innovation, Internet and Technology, which would address issues relating to cybersecurity, data and internet privacy, and emerging technology, including technological innovation in state government; and a Committee on State Government and Elections, which would consider legislation relating to state affairs, governmental departments and divisions, administrative procedures, open meetings, elections law and constitutional amendments.

It also splits the Committee on Health, Education and Welfare into two distinct committees: a Committee on Education and a Committee on Health and Human services. This change would better position committees to hear legislation focusing on these distinct and important issues confronting the state. Additionally, it would change the Municipal Government Committee to the Municipal Government and Housing Committee to reflect the importance that the House places upon the issue of housing currently facing our communities.

The proposal allowing members to carry over up to three of their bills for the second year of a legislative term would allow them to avoid the process of reintroduction for their highest legislative priorities.

The Rules Committee meets Thursday, Jan. 14, at 4 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House for a hearing on the proposal, as well as several proposed bills pertaining to House rules. An additional public hearing will be held Jan. 21, at 4 p.m.

The meetings will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15, and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. They will also be live streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

No in-person public testimony will be taken, since the State House is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic. Written testimony is encouraged and should be submitted to apaolantonio@rilegislature.gov. Those who would prefer to provide verbal testimony must send an email by 11 a.m. on Jan. 13 to apaolantonio@rilegislature.gov with the following information:  bill number, whether the testimony is for or against the bill, and name and phone number where the party can be reached to give the testimony.

Documents provided by the public will be made available on the General Assembly website at http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HRUL.aspx.

1/12/2021RepRep. Arthur Corvese; #11; Meredyth R. Whitty
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House Rules Committee Chairman Arthur Corvese has introduced legislation proposing new rules for the House of Representatives to allow the Speaker to activate procedures that include remote committee votes and some proxy voting during emergencies such as the current pandemic.


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STATE HOUSE – Resolutions condemning the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol last week and calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office were introduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly today, and the Senate approved its version.

The resolution points to President Trump’s repeated lies about the results of the election and his efforts to coerce election officials into changing election results, and his instructions to supporters at a rally preceding the attack to “fight like hell” and march to the U.S. Capitol Building where the Joint Session of Congress was meeting to certify the electoral votes from all 50 states.

It “vehemently condemns the acts of violence and insurrection committed at the seat of our country's democracy and calls for the removal of President Donald J. Trump through the exercise of the 25th Amendment or Congressional impeachment.”

The Senate gave immediate consideration to and passed its resolution (2021-S 0008), which is being sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), 

“As elected officials, we should defend democracy in the strongest terms. The violence at our capitol was aimed at preventing the resolution of a free and fair election and it was incited by the president. Despite an utter lack of any evidence, he continues to lie about the results of the election he lost, and to insist that his supporters dismiss any information that contradicts him. He is attempting authoritarian rule and provoking mobs, and the danger that his deceit will lead to more violence is very real. He needs to be removed from office before he does any further damage to our country,” said Senator Euer.

The House, where Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) is the sponsor of the resolution (2021-H 5005), is expected to take it up the next time it meets, Jan. 19.

“What happened at the Capitol was nothing short of a violent assault on democracy itself, and it happened because the president has tried every avenue he can think of to undermine the validity of the election results. There seems to be no limit to what he will do to try to cling to the power, including encouraging a mob that attacked Congress. This attack had a tragic and permanent human toll, and we must not allow it to succeed at degrading the strength of our democracy. Leaders across America should be demanding accountability from those who participated in this seditious act, starting with the person who incited it: Donald Trump,” said Representative Potter.

The resolution condemns the actions of the mob as well as Trump’s incitement to those at his rally.
“Incited by outright lies and misinformation, and driven by the misconception that their actions could encumber the true and just democratic process, the deadly mob assaulted police officers, scaled walls, and broke windows and doors as they forced their way into the U.S. Capitol building,” the resolution says.
1/12/2021RepSen. Dawn Euer; Rep. Brandon C. Potter; #244; #274; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Resolutions condemning the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol last week and calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office were introduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly today, and the Senate approved its version.



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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has made several appointments to the Senate leadership team.

Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) will once again serve as Senate Majority Whip, a position she has held since 2011.

Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence) has been appointed to serve as Deputy Whip. First elected in 2016, Senator Quezada will also serve as Secretary of Education and as a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Bristol, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) will both serve as Deputy Majority Leaders. Senator Seveney, who was first elected in 2016, will also serve as Vice Chairman of the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee and as a member of the Committees on Finance; Education; and Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs. Senator Lawson, who was first elected in 2018, will serve as Secretary of the Health and Human Services and Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs committees.

Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, has been reappointed Democratic Policy Chairman.

“I am proud to be working with such a dynamic team of colleagues,” said President Ruggerio. “The Senate will take on the serious issues facing our state with a bipartisan team of committee leaders and with the most diverse Senate this state has ever known.”

President Ruggerio appointed committees today, including several new committee chairpersons. Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) will helm the Commerce Committee; Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) will lead the Education Committee; Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) will chair the Environment and Agriculture Committee; Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) will chair the Finance Committee; Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) will chair the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) will head up the Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee.

Four committee chairs were reappointed, including Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Health and Human Services Committee; Sen. Frank S. Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), Housing and Municipal Government; Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Labor; and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren), Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs.
1/12/2021SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) to serve as chairwoman of the Committee on Commerce.

“I am thrilled and honored to be chosen to lead a committee that will have such an important job in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Sosnowski. “I look forward to working with the many talented legislators on the panel as we deliberate issues that have such a huge impact on the people and businesses of this state.”

The Commerce Committee considers legislation and matters relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance, technology and telecommunications. 

Senator Sosnowski was also appointed to serve on the Finance and Labor Committees. The Finance Committee handles all matters relating to revenue, appropriations and taxes. The Labor Committee deliberates legislation relating to workers’ compensation and labor laws.

Senator Sosnowski previously served as chairwoman of the Environment and Agriculture Committee.
1/12/2021SenSen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #111; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) has been appointed chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education for the 2021-2022 session.

Senator Cano will become the first Latina committee chairperson in the Senate’s history with the appointment.

“To be named as the chairwoman for the Senate Education Committee is a true honor and I thank President Ruggerio and my colleagues for their support and confidence in me to lead this important committee.  It is no secret that our educational system in Rhode Island is in need of reform, and when combined with the devastating effects of COVID-19, there is much work to be done in order to guarantee our children the proper education that they rightfully deserve,” said Senator Cano.

During her tenure in the legislature, Senator Cano has focused extensively on educational issues, such as her sponsorship of legislation mandating financial literacy be taught to students and her membership on the Senate Education Funding Formula task force.

Senator Cano, an assistant vice president at Navigant Credit Union, was first elected to the Rhode Island Senate on April 3, 2018 in a special election.  She is a former at-large councilwoman for the City of Pawtucket and a former member of the Pawtucket School Committee.

1/12/2021SenSen. Sandra Cano; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) has been appointed by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) to serve as a deputy majority leader in the Senate for the 2021-2022 legislative session.

“To be appointed to the leadership of the Senate is a true honor, and I thank President Ruggerio, Leader McCaffrey and the rest of my colleagues in the Senate for trusting in my abilities to execute this important role in the chamber. Rhode Island is facing substantial challenges this year, but I am confident that through collaboration and hard-work, we will weather this storm. The Rhode Island Senate is eager to tackle these significant problems for the betterment of our state and its residents,” said Senator Lawson.

Senator Lawson, who is serving her second term in the Rhode Island Senate, is also the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs.

Senator Lawson is a Social Studies teacher at East Providence High School and is Vice President of the National Education Association Rhode Island. In addition, Senator Lawson is the former President of the East Providence Education Association.

1/12/2021SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) has been appointed the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight for the 2021-2022 session.

“I thank President Ruggerio and my colleagues in the Senate for having confidence in my abilities to lead this important committee.  As our society progresses, we must reevaluate our rules of governance that have over time become outdated.  Rhode Islanders deserve a robust committee of oversight that protects their quality of life and best interests and I am eager to begin this work,” said Senator DiPalma.

The committee is tasked with considering all matters relating to the rules of the Senate, ensuring that the Senate and senatorial staff adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, and monitoring and evaluating the past, current and prospective performance of public bodies.

Senator DiPalma previously served on the Middletown Town Council from 2004-2008 when he was elected to the Rhode Island Senate. He also serves on the Senate Finance and Education committees.

1/12/2021SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist 6, Providence) to serve as the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Commerce.  He also appointed Senator Mack to serve on the Housing & Municipal Government Committee.

The Commerce Committee considers legislation and matters relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance, technology and telecommunications.

The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government considers all legislation and matters affecting housing, municipal government and transportation.

A 2016 graduate of Brown University, she is currently a Youth Organizing Specialist at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.  Senator Mack is also board member of the East Side/Mount Hope YMCA and serves on the Women’s Health and Education Fund.

She was elected to the Rhode Island Senate in November of 2020.

1/12/2021SenSen. Tiara T.  Mack; #282; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. Kendra Anderson (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) to the Senate Committees on Commerce and Housing & Municipal Government.

The Commerce Committee considers legislation and matters relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance, technology and telecommunications.

The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government considers all legislation and matters affecting housing, municipal government and transportation.

Senator Anderson is an ESOL teacher in Central Falls, a member of Progreso Latino, and founder of Climate Action Rhode Island. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College.

She was elected to the Rhode Island Senate in November of 2020.

1/12/2021SenSen. Kendra  Anderson; #287; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) to serve as vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture. She will also serve on the Health and Human Services Committee.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture considers issues relating to the conservation of air, land, water, plants, animals, minerals and other natural resources of the state.

The Health and Human Services Committee handles all legislation and matters relative to public health and welfare; health care and human service access and quality; health and human service professional standards of practice, and facility standards of care

Senator DiMario was elected to the chamber in November and sworn in on Jan. 5.

1/12/2021SenSen. Alana DiMario; #288; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. Cynthia Mendes (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) to serve on the Senate Commerce Committee. She will also serve on the Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Commerce Committee considers legislation and matters relating to financial institutions, business regulation, property and casualty insurance, technology and telecommunications. 

The Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs hears legislation and matters relating to constitutional amendments, liquor laws, gaming issues, commissions, resolutions, veterans affairs and laws relating to domestic animals.

Senator Mendes was elected to the chamber in November and sworn in on Jan. 5.

1/12/2021SenSen. Cynthia M. Mendes; #285; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. John Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) to serve as secretary of the Senate Labor Committee. He will also serve on the Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Labor Committee deliberates legislation relating to workers’ compensation and labor laws. The Judiciary Committee handles all legislation and matters which affect the penal code, judicial system, ethics, open meetings, access to public records and election laws.

Senator Burke was elected to the chamber in November and was sworn in Jan. 5.

1/12/2021SenSen. John P. Burke; #283; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) has appointed Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) to serve on the Senate Finance and Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight Committees.

The Finance Committee handles all matters relating to revenue, appropriations and taxes.

The Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight is charged with monitoring the performance of public organizations and agencies, considering all legislation relating to government ethics, and all matters relating to the operating rules, functions and protocols of the Senate.

Senator Acosta earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science (Theory) and Ethnic Studies, and Master’s Degrees in Urban Education Policy and Sociology from Brown University.  He is currently working to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology at Brown University.

He is a member of the Central Falls Children’s Foundation and the Central Falls Juvenile Hearing Board.  He is also a former member of the Central Falls City Council.

He was elected to the Senate in November of 2020.

1/12/2021SenSen. Jonathon Acosta; #285; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 

Senator Acosta was one of eight new members of the Rhode Island Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all Senate members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in March 2017, President Ruggerio began his second full two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.  The session was held at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Acosta earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science (Theory) and Ethnic Studies, and Master’s Degrees in Urban Education Policy and Sociology from Brown University.  He is currently working to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology at Brown University.

He is a member of the Central Falls Children’s Foundation and the Central Falls Juvenile Hearing Board.  He is also a former member of the Central Falls City Council.

Senator Acosta was born on November 3, 1989.  He and his partner Aly Chatham have one son, Leon Ernesto Acosta-Chatham.

1/5/2021SenSen. Jonathon Acosta; Sen. Cynthia M. Mendes; #285; #285; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) said she was alarmed and disappointed by reports that the state Council on Postsecondary Education has hired an out-of-state firm to help Rhode Island College close a $10-million deficit.

“It appears that hiring an out-of-state consulting agency is the default strategy in this state,” said Representative Serpa, chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee. “This is a blatant cavalier attitude of disrespect for taxpayer dollars. Was the Board of Governors at Rhode Island College consulted about this? If not, why not? If so, did no one consider the possibility that colleges and universities nationwide have all had to reconfigure their strategies in light of COVID-19?”

The firm, New York-based Alvarez & Marsal, was hired with a no-bid contract on Dec. 14 at $76,000 a week in a contract that expires Feb. 28. The consultants are tasked with analysis and recommendations related to programmatic, operational and financial improvements.

“It’s my understanding that no-bid contracts are only permissible when they are necessitated by emergency situations,” said Representative Serpa. “I’m not convinced that this qualifies as an emergency. And spending over three-quarters of a million dollars to close a $10-million shortfall seems more than a little counterintuitive to me.”

Representative Serpa indicated that she would convene a meeting of the Oversight Committee to take a closer look at the contract and the firm.
1/12/2021RepRep. Patricia Serpa; #121; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) was elected to the position of House Majority Whip last night at a virtual House Democratic caucus.  The Majority Whip is the third-highest ranking position within the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Whip Kazarian is only the second woman to hold the position.

Whip Kazarian will work closely as part of the Democratic Leadership Team headed by Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski.

“To say this is a tremendous honor would be an understatement and I thank Speaker Shekarchi, Leader Blazejewski, and my colleagues in the House for their votes of confidence in my ability to be the new House Whip.  Our state is facing significant challenges over the course of this year and I am eager to work with my fellow legislators in order to set Rhode Island on a path to recovery,” said Whip Kazarian.

First elected in 2013, she has a strong background in the tech field, having previously worked at both Upserve and Virgin Pulse, and was previously a Senior Planner for the City of Pawtucket.  Whip Kazarian received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and economics from Columbia University’s Barnard College and was inspired to run for office by President Barack Obama’s commencement address to her graduating class in 2012.
 

1/12/2021RepRep. Katherine Kazarian; #194; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is calling the $76,000-a-week contract between Rhode Island College, the Council on Postsecondary Education and New York-based consultants Alvarez & Marsal “a disgraceful use of tax-payer dollars” that should have been used on scholarships for struggling Rhode Island families.

“For essentially a 10-week contract, RIC, which claims it is bleeding money due to COVID-19 and other factors, is sending $760,000 of taxpayer money out of state to find ways to save money.  This makes no sense and is a disgraceful use of taxpayer dollars that should have been used in providing scholarships to struggling Rhode Island students and families.  Once again, significant amounts of money are being sent to out-of-state contractors while Rhode Island families are left without help during these trying times.  This money could have helped 75 local families with the increasing costs of higher education,” said Representative O’Brien.

Representative O’Brien also questions why the current employees of RIC or the Council on Postsecondary Education are unable to provide the proper financial analyses for RIC.

“Why are we sending our money to New York while there are numerous highly-compensated employees who are supposed to already be doing this work?  Why are we hiring people who do not have the necessary skills to do their jobs, which then necessitates us to hire outside help?  There is no doubt that changes need to be made at RIC but sending our crucial dollars outside our borders rather than helping our own residents is not the way to accomplish these goals,” concluded Representative O’Brien.

1/12/2021RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Calling the insider political jockeying for the office of Lt. Governor not in the best interest of the citizens of Rhode Island’s right to decide who will represent them by voting, Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) will be introducing legislation requiring a special election to be held for the Office of Lieutenant Governor.

“We must move immediately to take the selection of our next Lieutenant Governor from the backrooms of politics to the voters of Rhode Island.  The question is whether we want our next Lieutenant Governor to be decided by who makes the best political deal for themselves or by the vote of our citizens.  My legislation will require a special election to be held within 60 days or less after passage for the Office of Lieutenant Governor, thus placing the power to elect our next Lt. Governor where it belongs, in the hands of the voters,” said Deputy Speaker Lima.

“While a special election will bring an added cost to our state coffers, the cost of allowing the selection of Lieutenant Governor to hinge on political brokering will be much higher. Additionally we already have a special election scheduled for March on bonds.  Also, COVID-19 should not be seen as a barrier to this legislation since we just went through a General Election will no apparent health ramifications.  With the widespread use of mail ballots, that will be available for the special election as well, this will greatly reduce any health concerns,” added Deputy Speaker Lima.

“Our Constitution leaves the question of how to fill a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor out, while it specifically provides how we are to fill the other State General Offices,” Deputy Speaker Lima citing the Rhode Island Constitution (Section 4. Temporary appointment to fill vacancies in office of secretary of state, attorney-general, or general treasurer. -- In case of a vacancy in the office of the secretary of state, attorney-general, or general treasurer from any cause, the general assembly in grand committee shall elect some person to fill the same; provided, that if such vacancy occurs when the general assembly is not in session the governor shall appoint some person to fill such vacancy until a successor elected by the general assembly is qualified to act.)

“This makes it clear both by the Constitution and pertinent Court case law that the General Assembly has the constitutional and statutory authority to enact legislation requiring a special election for the Office of Lieutenant Governor and repealing any law to the contrary. Enacted, the law will take precedent over any other statutory law giving any person or any government body the right to fill a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant. Governor.  The House of Representatives and the Senate have a duty to protect the right of our citizens to vote for their next Lieutenant Governor and I hope we will act as one in passing this legislation.  I have discussed this legislation with Speaker Shekarchi and he indicated he feels a full vetting of the bill by the House is appropriate,” concluded Deputy Speaker Lima.

1/12/2021RepRep. Charlene Lima; #16; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today filed legislation (2021-S 0007) that would impose a one-year moratorium on hospital conversions involving for-profit corporations as the acquiree or acquiror.
 
“The questions swirling around the financial instability of Fatima and Roger Williams hospitals stem in no small part from their for-profit status,” noted President Ruggerio. “Public allegations have been made that the hospital network they are a part of has incurred over a billion dollars in debt, and that the owners have personally taken over $500 million in dividends. They are insolvent and headed for bankruptcy, according to allegations made in court filings.”
 
He continued, “We have seen the ripple effect that the closure of Memorial Hospital had on hospitals across the state. Hospital facilities and staff are stretched to their limit, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the strain. The strength of our overall statewide hospital network is critical to the wellbeing of Rhode Islanders. We need to conduct a comprehensive review of for-profit hospital entities and their impact on the financial condition of the hospitals they operate and the broader health care network in the state.”
 
President Ruggerio has asked Senator Louis P. DiPalma to convene the Senate Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight Committee, which he will chair, to review matters related to Fatima, for-profit hospitals and hospital conversions.
 
The Committee is expected to launch a series of hearings beginning Wednesday, January 20. Over the course of their hearings, they will review applications pending at Health Services Council for a transfer of control at Fatima and Roger Williams, the Hospital Conversion Act application pending through the Department of Health and Office of Attorney General, and the broader impact of this and other potential for-profit hospitals on the state’s overall hospital network.
1/12/2021SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today filed legislation (2021-S 0007) that would impose a one-year moratorium on hospital conversions involving for-profit corporations as the acquiree or acquiror.


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The House Democratic Caucus, at a virtual meeting tonight, elected the following slate to its Leadership Team:
  • Whip: Rep. Katherine Kazarian, District 63, East Providence
  • Deputy Whip: Rep. Mia Ackerman, District 45, Cumberland, Lincoln
  • Caucus Chair: Rep. Grace Diaz, District 11, Providence
  • Deputy Speaker: Rep. Charlene Lima, District 14, Cranston, Providence
  • Speaker Pro Tempore: Rep. Brian P. Kennedy, District 38, Hopkinton, Westerly  
At a Democratic Caucus in Warwick on November 5, 2020, Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi was nominated as the House Speaker, which was officially voted upon by the entire House on January 5, 2021, and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski was elected as the Majority Leader.

“I am very excited about our Leadership Team, which brings a combination of new energy and vast experience on all matters pertaining to the House,” said Speaker Shekarchi. “We will work with our Democratic colleagues to embrace their ideas and talent and reform the way business is done at the State House. Collectively, we will help our economy recover in a manner that works for all Rhode Islanders and protects our most vulnerable populations.”

“Rep. Kazarian and Rep. Ackerman are excellent additions to the leadership team because they are deeply committed to public service and will bring fresh ideas and perspectives to our public policy," said Leader Blazejewski.  "We look forward to working with them -- along with Caucus Chair Diaz, Deputy Speaker Lima, and Speaker Pro Tem Kennedy -- to continue reforming how business is conducted in the House and helping Rhode Islanders recover from the economic instability and public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Whip Kazarian and Deputy Whip Ackerman have both served in the House since January 2013.

Whip Kazarian has sponsored numerous bills to expand the scope of health insurance coverage for Rhode Islanders, including a law that requires health insurance plans to provide for a 12-month supply of birth control to all those who are insured. She has also sponsored legislation to reduce the burden of student loans and successfully created a process for the Department of Education to collect and organize information concerning the duties and responsibilities performed by school social workers.
She has a strong background in the tech field, having previously worked at both Upserve and Virgin Pulse, and was previously a Senior Planner for the City of Pawtucket.  Engaged to Sam Daniel, she will be attending law school in the fall. Whip Kazarian received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and economics from Columbia University’s Barnard College and was inspired to run for office by President Barack Obama’s commencement address to her graduating class in 2012.
 
With eight great-grandparents who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915, she and her family have been very active in Rhode Island’s Armenian community.  She was the sponsor of legislation which made Holocaust and Genocide education mandatory in all of the state’s middle schools and high schools. Deputy Whip Ackerman was a co-sponsor of the law. 

Deputy Whip Ackerman has been a strong consumer and health care advocate, championing a law protecting the consumers’ right to pay in cash, which garnered national attention. She worked closely with the Cancer Society to ban the use of tanning beds for minors. She also successfully passed a bill calling for the adoption and implementation of a five-year update to the state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

With a lifetime commitment to public service, she is a former member of the Cumberland Town Council from 2006 to 2012. Deputy Whip Ackerman holds a bachelor’s degree in political economics from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a self-employed Real Estate Title Examiner.  She and her husband, Barry, are the parents of Sam, a student at Columbia Law School, and Ellie, a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island.

The three other members of the Leadership Team are retaining their positions.  Caucus Chair Diaz has been a House member since January 2005 and has been in her present role since January 2015.
Deputy Speaker Lima has served in the House since January 1993 and has been a member of the Democratic Leadership Team since 2003. 

Speaker Pro Tempore Kennedy is the senior-ranking member of the House, serving since January 1989, and is the former long-time chairman of the House Corporations Committee.
 

1/11/2021RepRep. Katherine Kazarian; Rep. Mia Ackerman; #194; #191; Larry Berman
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State House, Providence - The Rhode Island House of Representatives Republican Caucus offers sincere congratulations to Justice Melissa A. Long upon her swearing in as a Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Justice Long, who brings years of varied legal experience, will bring a fresh and thoughtful perspective to the Court and uphold our constitution and laws. 

1/11/2021RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; #218; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – After receiving numerous complaints from constituents, the Rhode Island Senate Republican caucus is calling on the governor to eliminate late fees and interest penalties being assessed for Department of Motor Vehicles untimely registrations. Taxpayers report attempting to register a new car, but were unable to secure an appointment at the DMV within the required 30-day period after purchase. 

“These are taxpayers who made every effort to follow the rules and pay the required fees to register their new cars,” said Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, (R-Dist. 23, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield). “It is not their fault, nor should they be penalized because the DMV was not able to accommodate them within 30 days.” 

Rhode Islanders who were unable to schedule an appointment within 30 days found that when they were finally able to register their cars, the Department of Revenue assessed late fees and interest on those penalties.  The lawmakers have requested a report on how much money has been assessed in late fees. 

“The governor has the authority to suspend these fees and interest by executive order,” said Senator Gordon Rogers, (R-Dist. 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate). “She should have no problem penning another to abate these fees.” 

The caucus asks the governor to address this issue immediately, and to make the order retroactive to cover all late fees since mid-March. 

 “It’s absolutely absurd that taxpayers are being fined for the DMV’s inability to accommodate them in a timely manner,” de la Cruz said. “This issue needs to be fixed as soon as possible. So many people are facing financial challenges these days, this is a burden they shouldn't have to carry because of the state’s failure.”

The Senate Republican caucus also includes: Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), Senator Elaine J. Morgan, (R-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) and Senator Thomas J. Paolino, (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield).

1/8/2021SenSen. Dennis Algiere; Sen. Jessica de la Cruz; Sen. Elaine J.  Morgan; Sen. Thomas J. Paolino; Sen. Gordon E. Rogers; #84; #262; #209; #230; #261; Katie Haughey Cardoza
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) is urging Lt. Governor Daniel McKee to appoint former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa as the state’s new lieutenant governor once McKee assumes the governorship after Governor Gina Raimondo leaves Rhode Island to serve as Commerce Secretary in the Biden administration.

“Once Lt. Governor McKee assumes the role of governor, he has an important decision to make about who will replace him as the state’s new lieutenant governor and I firmly believe the best choice for our state is former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa,” said Representative Alzate.

“I have known James for decades and since becoming a state representative, I have worked closely with him and his administration for the betterment of the Pawtucket and Central Falls region of our state.  Whether it’s leadership in bringing Central Falls back from bankruptcy to the collaboration he formed with many diverse interests he brought together to revitalize Central Falls, James Diossa possesses the knowledge, leadership, and dedication to serve the people of Rhode Island as their new lieutenant governor.  I hope that our new governor recognizes the qualifications and attributes that James Diossa will bring to the lieutenant governor’s office if he is named to this crucial role in state government and I respectfully urge him to appoint James Diossa,” concluded Representative Alzate.

1/8/2021RepRep. Karen Alzate; #255; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccine is scheduled to meet virtually on Wednesday, January 13 at 3 p.m., via WebEx to receive an update from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Process.

RIDOH Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and Dr. Philip A. Chan, Consultant Medical Director, Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease and Emergency Medical Services will deliver the update to the task force.

The task force, chaired by Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), was created to ensure that Rhode Island’s distribution of the vaccine is done in a timely manner following the CDC guidelines and that front-line workers, the health-compromised and the elderly are given access first, and also to make certain the needs of the underserved populations are appropriately addressed.

The meeting will be televised by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.  The meeting can be live streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

No public testimony will be accepted at the virtual meeting.

1/8/2021RepRep. Raymond Hull; #157; Andrew Caruolo
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Statement from Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi:
 
“I had a great conversation tonight with Governor Raimondo and I am absolutely thrilled that she has reached the pinnacle of her personal and professional career in President-elect Biden’s Cabinet.  However, it is a bittersweet day because one of the reasons I was most excited about being elected Speaker was to have the opportunity to work closely with her again.  From the day I accepted the job to manage her first political campaign when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010, I knew she was destined for greatness. 

  
“I have absolutely no doubt she will be a rock star in Washington.  As President-elect Biden seeks to rebuild a post-COVID economy, he has chosen the perfect person to guide him.  Working with our General Assembly, she took Rhode Island from the highest unemployment numbers in the country to one of the lowest until COVID sadly impacted us.  She had many great economic achievements through Commerce Corporation programs, including the Qualified Jobs Tax Credit program I proudly sponsored and it has resulted in more than 3,000 new private sector jobs. She has also been a courageous and strong leader for the state throughout the COVID crisis.
 
“We have enjoyed a close personal friendship for more than a decade and I offer my heartfelt congratulations to her and her family as she embarks on this exciting new opportunity to rebuild the U.S. economy as Commerce Secretary.”

1/7/2021RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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Senate President Dominick Ruggerio issue the following statement today regarding President-elect Joe  Biden's announcement that he will appoint Gov. Gina Raimondo as U.S. Commerce Secretary:

“I have enjoyed working in partnership with Governor Raimondo to address the many challenges facing Rhode Island. She will make an outstanding Commerce Secretary. Governor Raimondo took office at a time when Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and she brought our state to record employment levels before the pandemic hit. I know she will have a tremendous impact at the national level. I thank her for her service to our state, particularly during this very difficult last year. I am going to miss her courageous leadership, keen intellect and sharp analysis of the issues. On behalf of the Rhode Island Senate, I wish her and her family all the very best as she takes on this very important role.”

1/7/2021SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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Below is a joint statement from the Senate President and Speaker of the House on the passing of Bill Rappleye:
 
President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Joseph K. Joseph Shekarchi said, “We are deeply saddened by the news of Bill Rappleye’s passing. Bill was a reporter of the highest integrity. He had a keen political sense and never shied away from asking the tough questions, but he always treated his subjects with impartiality and fairness. Most of all, Bill was a gentleman to his core. Our deepest condolences are with his friends and family during this difficult time.”

1/7/2021RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #85; #187; Greg Pare
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Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi announced today that Raymond D. Simone, the longtime chief of staff to U.S. Senator Jack Reed, will soon be joining him as chief of staff to the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

I wanted the best person for the job and Raymond is a perfect fit.  He is a highly-skilled, dedicated public servant who I have known for over thirty years.  He’s got the experience and drive this job demands and I’m thrilled he will lead my staff as we work to overcome COVID and deliver for the people of Rhode Island,” said Speaker Shekarchi.  “Raymond is widely respected on both sides of the aisle and has a proven track record.  I am grateful to Senator Reed for allowing Raymond to serve with me for this critical coming session.”
 
Simone has served as Reed’s chief of staff since he was first sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1991 and then to the U.S. Senate in January 1997.
 
“Joe is a dear friend and superb leader.  I’m honored he asked me to serve and look forward to the challenge,” said Simone. “It’s been a privilege to work for Jack Reed. Jack and Joe both share that tireless, blue collar work ethic, unquestioned integrity, and are champions for working families. This new assignment will allow me to serve the state in a different capacity.  The Speaker has put forth a bold agenda for a healthier, safer, more prosperous Rhode Island and I look forward to working with him to implement it and tackle COVID during an unprecedented time.”

Simone will join Speaker Shekarchi’s team later this month. A lifelong resident of Cranston and a graduate of Roger Williams University, Simone is the father of a daughter, Jessica Braza, and he has three granddaughters.

Speaker Shekarchi also announced that Nicole McCarty has been promoted to chief legal counsel for the Office of Speaker.

“Nicole has been my legal counsel for the past three years and has done an excellent job,” said Speaker Shekarchi.  “She is loyal, dedicated and works extremely hard on behalf of the people of Rhode Island.”

Nicole has been employed by the General Assembly since 1997.  For many years, she worked as a staff attorney for the office of Legislative Council, which is responsible for researching, drafting and reviewing legislation for both the House and the Senate.  In March 2018, she became legal counsel for Majority Leader Shekarchi.

Nicole is a 1992 graduate of Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.  In 1995, she earned her Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University School of Law.  She is a lifelong resident of Warwick, where she lives with her husband Chris McCarty and her daughter, Grace, who attends Fordham University.

1/6/2021RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island Senate today re-elected Dominick J. Ruggerio to the office of President of the Senate during its inaugural meeting of the 2021-22 session. He was first elected to the post in 2017.

 “I continue to be honored to serve alongside such a talented collection of civic-minded public servants,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “This is the most diverse Senate in the state’s history and I am thrilled to be leading this chamber as we address the many issues that face Rhode Island in 2021.”

President Ruggerio resides in North Providence and represents District 4, which includes portions of North Providence and Providence. He is the father of two grown children and grandfather to three granddaughters.

President Ruggerio served as Majority Leader from 2011 to 2017, and as Senate Majority Whip from 2003 to 2010. He previously served as Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate and as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor and Transportation. Ruggerio served in the House of Representatives from 1981 through 1984, when he was elected to the Senate.
1/5/2021SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Daniel Trafford
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The Rhode Island Senate today re-elected Dominick J. Ruggerio to the office of President of the Senate during its inaugural meeting of the 2021-22 session. He was first elected to the post in 2017.


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 STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly opens its 2021 session Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Due to the need for social distance necessitated by COVID-19, the Assembly will not be meeting at the State House, which remains closed to the public.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence. In accordance with the state constitution, the senior representative from Newport, Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), will preside until the election of a new speaker, which is scheduled after Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea administers the oath of office to the members. Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg will administer the oath to the elected speaker. In November, the House Democratic Caucus endorsed Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) for speaker. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo is also scheduled to offer remarks.

The Senate is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. in Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College in Providence. Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) will preside over its organization, which will include the formal election of president as well as a new president pro tempore and a new deputy president pro tempore. The Senate Democratic Caucus has endorsed President Dominick J. Ruggerio for another term as president. Secretary of State Gorbea will administer the oath of office to members and Governor Raimondo is scheduled to offer remarks to the Senate.

Due to the pandemic, the sessions will not be open to the public. They will be broadcast live by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox and Full Channel on Channel 15, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, and on Channel 34 by Verizon and subscribers. The sessions will also be live streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Space is extremely limited at both venues. Any member of the media who wishes to cover the sessions in person must make arrangements no later than Monday, Jan. 4, at 3 p.m. by contacting Larry Berman at (401) 222-1408 or lberman@rilegislature.gov for the House, and Greg Paré at (401) 276-5558 or gpare@rilegislature.gov for the Senate.

1/4/2021RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #85; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly opens its 2021 session Tuesday, Jan. 5.



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STATE HOUSE — The Senate today approved several judicial appointments that will help diversify the state court system, including the first person of color to the Supreme Court and appointments that will result in the first majority-female Supreme Court, the first Asian-American to the Superior Court, and the first Latina to the Family Court.

All judicial appointments require the advice and consent of the Senate. Appointments to the Supreme Court also require consent from the House of Representatives, which gave its approval on Wednesday. 

Gov. Gina Raimondo named Superior Court Judge Melissa Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Judge Long will replace retiring Associate Justice Francis X. Flaherty and former Senator Lynch Prata will replace retiring Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia.

In addition, the Senate confirmed the appointments of Richard D. Raspallo and Linda Rekas Sloan as associate justices of Rhode Island Superior Court, Kevin B. Reall as associate justice of the Worker’s Compensation Court, and Elizabeth Ortiz as associate justice of the Family Court.

“These appointments represent an important step forward for diversity in the Rhode Island Judiciary,” said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “For the first time ever, we will have a majority of women on the Rhode Island Supreme Court. For the first time ever, we will have a woman of color on the Supreme Court. For the first time ever, we will have a Latina on the Family Court and an Asian-American on the Superior Court. That representation of Rhode Island’s diverse and rich tapestry of culture and heritage will have a profound impact on the state’s justice system for years to come.”

The Senate also confirmed the appointments of Patrick Tigue as the Health Insurance Commissioner beginning January 10; James Thorsen as Director of the Department of Revenue; and Mark Furcolo as the Director of the Division of State Lottery.  

Additionally, the Senate confirmed Patricia M. DiCenso and Michael Almeida to the Board of Education; and Marcus Mitchell and Iraida Williams to the Human Rights Commission.

Among additional appointments, the Senate confirmed Lisa Andoscia, Christine DiBiase, Esq., and Leonard Lopes, to the Narragansett Bay Commission, and the reappointment of James Bennett, Jina Petrarca, and Mario Carlino to the Narragansett Bay Commission.

12/18/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Greg Pare
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The Senate today approved several judicial appointments that will help diversify the state court system, including the first person of color to the Supreme Court and appointments that will result in the first majority-female Supreme Court, the first Asian-American to the Superior Court, and the first Latina to the Family Court.


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STATE HOUSE – A coat drive organized by Sen. Dawn Euer, Sen. Sandra Cano and a group of housing advocates collected more than 2,600 coats, hats, blankets and other pieces of winter gear, which will be given to homeless individuals throughout Rhode Island.

The coat drive grew out of a November virtual meeting between Senator Euer and the housing advocates organizing an effort to support a proposed affordable housing bond. During the call, participants lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the cancelation of “Buy Nothing Day,” an annual event held on the State House lawn during which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of donated coats, blankets, hats, gloves and other items are available to anyone in need. Without the event, many homeless Rhode Islanders would be left without winter gear.

The group mobilized to fill the need, and Senate leadership agreed to make the State House the collection point for the public. Even though the State House is currently closed, from Nov. 24 through Dec. 4, the public was invited to drop off winter gear at the State House freight entrance.

The response was overwhelming. In less than two weeks, the drive collected 1,275 coats, 465 hats, 204 scarves, 238 pairs of gloves and 118 blankets. The enormous collection box had to be emptied several times daily, and a large Senate hearing room was quickly filled to the brim with donations from the public. More advocates, including Amy Moses from the Conservation Law Foundation, helped out with moving and storage boxes to hold the growing stockpile.

In addition, there were nearly $500 made in monetary donations.

“My years as an activist left me little doubt about the generosity of our community in Rhode Island. But at a time when many of those who would normally contribute are struggling themselves, and when even just venturing out to public places is an uneasy experience, I did not expect the outpouring of support that we’ve received,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 14, Newport, Jamestown). “This tremendous response shows just how much those who can help really want to. We are so grateful to everyone who showed up to provide desperately needed warmth to the many Rhode Islanders who are experiencing homelessness.”

The items collected will be distributed to homeless men, women and children across the state by homeless outreach agencies and workers.

While initially organizers expected to be able to collect and transport the coats in their own cars to the Pawtucket headquarters of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless headquarters in Pawtucket, the response was so great that they needed a large truck.

Teamsters Local 251 stepped up, providing a truck it uses to for training new drivers. Volunteers loaded up the truck this afternoon and a Teamsters driver delivered the donations to the Coalition for the Homeless.

“The Teamsters are very happy to help out with this effort to help our homeless brothers and sisters. We are well aware that the pandemic has not only made the needs of struggling Rhode Islanders greater, but has also made it harder than ever to connect people with the help they need. We are grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference for the most vulnerable people in our state,” said Matt Taibi, Teamsters Local 251 Secretary Treasurer and Principal Officer.

Some of the warm items have already started being distributed by outreach workers.

“This is huge. I just want to say thank you on behalf of the homeless people who might not get to say it, to everyone who brought these things They are going to be given out immediately because people are in desperate need right now,” said Diamond Madsen, an advocate who has been a major force behind the drive and who was once homeless herself. “The needs are greater than ever in the pandemic, and the supports are fewer. I hope people will keep giving all winter, because we’re going to need it.”

Those who still have winter coats or gear to donate can still do so through another drive at Centro de Innovación Mujer Latina, located at 279 Dexter. St., Providence. Donations, which will be distributed statewide, will be accepted there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow as well as Dec. 15 through Dec. 17 . Coats will be available there for those who need them Dec. 18 and 19.

Monetary donations can also still be made at www.rihomeless.org/coat-drive.

While coat drives help address an acute need temporarily, Senator Euer, Senator Cano and the advocates involved urged more long-term solutions, such as the passage of the $65 million housing bond included in the pending state budget bill – which is a $40 million more for housing than was originally proposed – and the creation of a dedicated state funding stream for affordable housing.

“Rhode Island was already in a deep housing crisis before the pandemic hit, because our housing is unaffordable to working families, let alone the unemployed or underemployed. This is absolutely one of the most critical issues in our state. Without meeting a person’s basic need for a roof over their head, you can’t hope to address issues like joblessness, education, addiction and other health problems or even hunger. Housing first is a strategy that will help people and address many other issues,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “We in the Senate recognize the importance of creating more affordable housing in Rhode Island. We support the housing bond and ask our fellow Rhode Islanders to approve it when it goes before them on the ballot. The pandemic has made it even harder for those already struggling to stay warm and keep a roof over their heads. I’m proud to stand with Senator Dawn Euer and Senator Sandra Cano in their efforts to make sure coats are available to those most in need this year, and I am touched by the many, many Rhode Islanders who joined us by bringing donations to the State House.”

12/11/2020SenSen. Dawn Euer; Sen. Sandra Cano; #244; #245; Meredyth R. Whitty
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A coat drive organized by Sen. Dawn Euer, Sen. Sandra Cano and a group of housing advocates collected more than 2,600 coats, hats, blankets and other pieces of winter gear, which will be given to homeless individuals throughout Rhode Island.


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SALT deduction affirmed to help small businesses
 
STATE HOUSE – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued proposed regulations affirming a workaround initiated by House Speaker-nominee K. Joseph Shekarchi to help small-business owners who were negatively affected by the Trump administration’s 2017 tax changes.

The IRS issued a notice that it is proposing regulations that will clarify that state and local taxes paid by a partnership or S corporation on its income are allowed as a deduction by the partnership or S corporation in computing its taxable income. Therefore, the taxes would not be subject to the state and local taxes (SALT) deduction cap on the returns of the owners in the business.

In 2019, Majority Leader Shekarchi sponsored legislation (2019-H 5576), which was later enacted as part of the 2020 state budget, to provide Rhode Island business owners the workaround affirmed by this IRS regulation. Without it, owners of “pass-through” entities such as LLCs, S corporations, sole proprietors and partnerships potentially faced higher federal tax liabilities due to a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction on federal taxes that was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pushed by President Trump and passed by Congress in December 2017.

Rhode Island’s effort was based on a similar bill enacted in Connecticut and was carefully designed to be revenue-neutral for the state.

“While we were always confident that this solution worked within the boundaries of the federal law, it’s great to have this stamp of approval from the IRS. This notice gives business owners in Rhode Island certainty and clarity that they can continue getting the full credit for the state and local taxes they are paying. The pandemic has made this year extremely challenging for businesses of all types, and they shouldn’t be saddled with higher tax liability on top of the other difficulties they are facing right now,” said Speaker-nominee Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

12/2/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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SALT deduction affirmed to help small businesses
 
STATE HOUSE – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued proposed regulations affirming a workaround initiated by House Speaker-nominee K. Joseph Shekarchi to help small-business owners who were negatively affected by the Trump administration’s 2017 tax changes.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Arthur J. Corvese today announced he will file legislation at the start of the 2021 legislative session to settle a question about what happens when the lieutenant governor’s position becomes vacant midterm.

State law does not spell out a process for how to replace a lieutenant governor who leaves the office before his or her term is up, whether due to resignation, death, inability to serve or elevation to governor.

There is a statute that says the General Assembly in Grand Committee – a meeting of the entire House and Senate together – is to elect a replacement should a lieutenant governor-elect become unable to serve, and Representative Corvese’s legislation would create a similar provision in the case of the lieutenant governor.

The situation first came to light in 1997 when Lieutenant Governor Robert Weygand left the office upon his election to Congress. Gov. Lincoln Almond appointed a Republican lawyer who had never served in any elected office, Bernard Jackvony, to fill the position, which at that time included the duty of presiding over the Senate. A Supreme Court battle erupted between the governor and the Senate over whether the governor had the power to appoint a successor. Although the court ruled in favor of the governor’s appointment, it suggested the General Assembly could pass a law clarifying the issue and giving itself the power to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office.

However, although a bill was introduced that year, it was never passed amid questions about the constitutionality of an attempt to make it apply retroactively to the vacancy created that year.
Representative Corvese’s bill is aimed at finally resolving the issue.

“The fact is, neither the Rhode Island Constitution nor the General Laws say what is supposed to happen if the lieutenant governor leaves office. There’s a provision for all the other general officers. There’s a law that says what to do if a lieutenant governor-elect can’t serve. There’s even a law that describes what to do if both the governor and the lieutenant governor are both vacant at once, but there is no law that applies just to a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). “In every one of those cases, the law says the General Assembly in Grand Committee is to elect a successor, so my bill enacts the same process for a vacancy of the lieutenant governor.”

Representative Corvese introduced this legislation each year from 2013 through 2017, and it passed the House for the first three of those years. He is optimistic that legislators in both chambers will be interested in finally settling the issue now. He plans to introduce the bill on the first day of session and push for fast-track passage in the General Assembly.

“We’ve been aware of this loophole for more than two decades. It makes no sense to leave this question unanswered, particularly when there’s a simple solution that’s already established for all similar situations involving vacancy in this office. I look forward to finally addressing this in the upcoming session,” said Representative Corvese.

11/17/2020RepRep. Arthur Corvese; #11; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Rep. Arthur J. Corvese today announced he will file legislation at the start of the 2021 legislative session to settle a question about what happens when the lieutenant governor’s position becomes vacant midterm.


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WARWICK -- The House Democratic Caucus endorsed Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to serve as the Speaker of the House for the 2021-22 legislative session. The caucus, at a meeting tonight at the Crowne Plaza, elected Deputy Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski to serve as the Majority Leader for the 2021-22 session.

The Shekarchi-Blazejewski leadership team received 56 votes from the 65-member caucus. While Majority Leader-elect Blazejewski will ascend to the new position because of the caucus vote, Speaker-nominee Shekarchi will become official following a vote of the 75-member chamber on January 5, 2021, the first day of the new session.

“I am humbled by the overwhelming support shown to me at the caucus," said Speaker-nominee Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). "With the help of my fellow representatives, I am committed to bringing reform to the chamber and empowering the elected members. Together, we will tap into our colleagues’ ideas, talent, and experience; work to help our economy recover in a way that it works for all Rhode Islanders and protects our most vulnerable populations; and reform the way that business is done at the State House.”

Speaker-nominee Shekarchi offered strong praise for Majority Leader-elect Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) to succeed him as House Majority Leader.

“Chris is a hard-working, thoughtful, and highly-respected colleague and lawyer who brings a wealth of energy and insight into many important issues facing our state,” said Speaker-nominee Shekarchi.  “I am proud to have Chris lead my team, and will work with him to empower our members and ensure that all voices in our Democratic caucus are heard.”

“I strongly support Joe for Speaker because he is 100% committed to making sure all voices are heard and opinions are fairly debated and considered,” said Majority Leader-elect Blazejewski.  “Working together, our shared goals are to ensure that business is performed in a professional, respectful manner, and to enact reforms so all members are part of the legislative process in an open, fair, and transparent environment.”
11/5/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #187; #156; Larry Berman
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 The House Democratic Caucus endorsed Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to serve as the Speaker of the House for the 2021-22 legislative session. The caucus, at a meeting tonight at the Crowne Plaza, elected Deputy Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski to serve as the Majority Leader for the 2021-22 session.

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STATE HOUSE, Providence – The Rhode Island Senate’s Democrats caucused at the Providence Marriott tonight and reelected Senator Michael J. McCaffrey to another term as Senate Majority Leader. They also endorsed Senator Dominick J. Ruggerio as the Caucus nominee for President of the Senate. The vote for President of the Senate will be taken by all members of the Chamber on the first day of the 2021-2022 session.
 
Senators Ruggerio and McCaffrey outlined new priorities in their remarks and added that they will continue to fight to codify the Affordable Care Act into state law. Among the new priorities they hope to pass early in 2021 are a living wage, a more equitable tax structure, adult cannabis use, and the Economic and Climate Resilient Act.
 
“Our constituents have not only tasked us with navigating our state through a pandemic, they have elected us to fundamentally rebuild it,” said Majority Leader McCaffrey. “This pandemic has severely impacted public health, the economy, housing and education. It has also exposed deep divides that exist in our state, and we have been entrusted by our neighbors to provide strong leadership that will close those divides.”
 
In his remarks, President Ruggerio discussed his desire to enact a statutory pathway to a $15 an hour living wage and secure budget relief for distressed communities. “The Senate has consistently passed legislation to steadily increase the minimum wage,” said Senate Ruggerio. “Now, we must insist on enactment of a clear pathway to $15. We also demand that distressed cities and towns receive the funding they depend upon to provide a continuum of services to residents in our communities, without delay.”
 
President Ruggerio also discussed several steps he is taking to ensure the Senate can convene safely in January, including an off-site chamber at the Rhode Island Convention Center. “We are in the process of securing off-site accommodations in the spacious and well-ventilated Convention Center to enable us to meet regularly, and safely.”
 
President Ruggerio also announced several key members of the leadership team. He asked the senators to support the election of Senator Hanna Gallo as the next President Pro Tempore when the Senate reconvenes in January. He also announced his intention to make the following appointments:
 
  • Senator Maryellen Goodwin, Majority Whip
  • Senator Ana B. Quezada, Deputy Majority Whip
  • Senator Cynthia A. Coyne, Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee
  • Senator Ryan W. Pearson, Chairperson of the Finance Committee
  • Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, Chairperson of the Commerce Committee
  • Senator Dawn Euer, Chairperson of the Environment & Agriculture Committee
  • Senator Sandra Cano, Chairperson of the Education Committee
  • Senator Joshua Miller, Chairperson of the Health & Human Services Committee
  • Senator Frank Lombardo, III, Chairperson of the Housing & Municipal Government Committee
  • Senator Frank A. Ciccone, III, Chairperson of the Labor Committee
  • Senator Walter S. Felag, Jr., Chairperson of the Special Legislation & Veterans Affairs Committee
  • Senator Louis P. DiPalma, Chairperson of the Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee
 
Both leaders called for unity and collaboration as the Senate works together to make progress on behalf of Rhode Islanders.
 
Ruggerio has served as Senate President, and McCaffrey as Majority Leader, since March 2017.

11/6/2020SenSen. Michael McCaffrey; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #106; #85; Greg Pare
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The Rhode Island Senate’s Democrats caucused at the Providence Marriott tonight and reelected Senator Michael J. McCaffrey to another term as Senate Majority Leader. They also endorsed Senator Dominick J. Ruggerio as the Caucus nominee for President of the Senate. The vote for President of the Senate will be taken by all members of the Chamber on the first day of the 2021-2022 session.


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STATE HOUSE –Sen. Roger A. Picard was elected Deputy President Pro Tempore today as the Senate convened its 2021 session.

The Deputy President Pro Tempore presides over the Senate when the Senate President and the Senate President Pro Tempore are unavailable during the Senate session.

Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) previously served as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, a position he’d held since 2013. He was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2008, and had previously served in the House of Representatives since 1992. He has served on both chambers’ Labor and Commerce or Corporations Committees, as well as the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee.

Senator Picard is a social worker for the Woonsocket School Department. He is a graduate of Woonsocket High School, and holds a BA in economics and a BS in business from University of Rhode Island, a master’s in social work from Rhode Island College and a master’s in theological studies from Providence College. He and his wife Diane live in Woonsocket. They are the parents of three adult daughters, Nicole, Kristen and Caitlyn.

“I am deeply honored to serve my colleagues in the Senate, and I am so grateful for their support. I will continue to work hard to be deserving of the faith they’ve placed in me,” said Deputy President Pro Tempore Picard. “I’m looking forward to the significant work we have ahead of us in this unusual year, and I believe in our ability to work very collaboratively to help our state and its people move forward.”
 

1/5/2021SenSen. Roger Picard; #65; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Sen. Roger A. Picard was elected Deputy President Pro Tempore today as the Senate convened its 2021 session.


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STATE HOUSE — The State Senate today elected Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) as president pro tempore. In that position, she will be responsible for presiding over the Senate in the absence of the president.

“I am honored that my colleagues in the Senate would choose me to serve in this position,” said Senator Gallo. “I look forward to working with President Ruggerio in addressing the many issues that 2021 brings to the people of Rhode Island.”

Senator Gallo, who previously chaired the Senate Education Committee, has been instrumental in numerous education initiatives, including sweeping education reforms enacted in 2019 that put in place curricula aligned with high standards and improved accountability and governance.

She sponsored landmark legislation establishing an equitable, predictable, and transparent formula for funding education in Rhode Island.

She led the charge for funding of full-day kindergarten statewide, enacted in 2015. She was an early supporter of the state’s successful application for a federal Race to the Top grant.

She was elected to the Senate on Nov. 3, 1998.

1/5/2021SenSen. Hanna Gallo; #88; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE —Sen. Meghan E. Kallman was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) was one of eight new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 38 Senate members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year today meeting at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic.

A professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Senator Kallman holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Brown University. She is a member of the State Housing Appeals Board and a former member of the Pawtucket Juvenile Hearing Board. She is a community organizer and founder of Crash Pawtucket, a local business showcase. Prior to being elected to the Senate, she served two terms on the Pawtucket City Council, representing Ward 5.

1/5/2021SenSen. Meghan E. Kallman; #284; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE —Sen. Jeanine Calkin was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Calkin (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) was one of eight new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 38 Senate members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year today meeting at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic.

Senator Calkin is returning to the Senate, having previously represented District 30 from 2017 to 2018. She is a project manager at the nonprofit coalition Renew New England Alliance. She holds a master’s degree in information systems from Bryant University and bachelor’s in information science from Johnson & Wales University.
 

1/5/2021SenSen. Jeanine Calkin; #231; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist 6, Providence) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 
Senator Mack was one of eight new members of the Rhode Island Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all Senate members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in March 2017, President Ruggerio began his second full two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.  The session was held at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2016 graduate of Brown University, she is currently a Youth Organizing Specialist at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.  Senator Mack is also board member of the East Side/Mount Hope YMCA and serves on the Women’s Health and Education Fund.

1/5/2021SenSen. Tiara T.  Mack; #282; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Kendra Anderson (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 

Senator Anderson was one of eight new members of the Rhode Island Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all Senate members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in March 2017, President Ruggerio began his second full two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.  The session was held at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Anderson is an ESOL teacher in Central Falls, a member of Progreso Latino, and founder of Climate Action Rhode Island. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College.

She was born on June 27, 1957 and has one son, Jake Anderson O’Flaherty.

1/5/2021SenSen. Kendra  Anderson; #287; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. John Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Burke was one of eight new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. He was first elected to the post in March 2017.

A lifelong resident of West Warwick, Senator Burke retired from the University of Rhode Island in 2019, having been employed in various information technology positions at the university for more than 37 years. A graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School, he went on to study computer science at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Senator Burke is a former member of Council 94 PTAA, a former West Warwick Baseball League coach, a former West Warwick Girls Softball coach, a former treasurer of the West Warwick Sunday Morning Slow Pitch League, and has served as Grand Knight of Gibson Council 181, Knights of Columbus, of West Warwick. He is currently a member of West Warwick’s Frontenac Club.

He has one daughter, Billie Burke, and a dog, Marley.
1/5/2021SenSen. John P. Burke; #283; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator DiMario was one of eight new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. He was first elected to the post in March 201 7.

A licensed mental health counselor in private practice, Senator DiMario earned a bachelor’s degree from Wells College and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Bridgewater State University. She serves on the board of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Born on Sept. 23, 1978. She is married to Eric DiMario and has three children, Leo, Samuel and Morgan.
1/5/2021SenSen. Alana DiMario; #288; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. Cynthia Mendes (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Mendes was one of eight new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with the re-election of Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) as President of the Senate. He was first elected to the post in March 2017.

Senator Mendes has served for over 20 years as a community advocate for those in need in her community. She earned a certificate in theological studies, is a certified orthodontic assistant and dental radiology technician, and earned an associate’s degree in social science.

She spent much of her career in healthcare as a clinical supervisor and treatment coordinator in the dental field. She has also worked as manager of employee benefits and culture at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island. She is currently a project manager at Renew New England.

 Born on June 14, 1980, Senator Mendes has one daughter, Francesca Buono.
1/5/2021SenSen. Cynthia M. Mendes; #285; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi was elected Speaker by the Rhode Island House of Representatives as it began the 2021 legislative session today.

House members voted 59-9, with four abstentions, for Speaker Shekarchi, who had previously served as the chamber’s Majority Leader. Prior to being elected Majority Leader in November 2016, he served as Chairman of the House Labor Committee, a position to which he was appointed midway through his freshman term in 2014. He has served the residents of District 23 in Warwick since first being elected in November 2012.

The vote took place in a session held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic.

In accepting the position from his colleagues, Speaker Shekarchi emphasized his commitment to working cooperatively with them, spoke of the strong values imparted to him by his parents, and invoked the words of President John F. Kennedy in an address he made at the Massachusetts State House before assuming the presidency in 1961.

“As you know, my goal for this office is to facilitate collaboration and consensus in pursuit of the common good. My approach will be different, but it should never be confused with an unwillingness to make difficult, final decisions at the appropriate time … and make them stick. Let us pledge to listen to each other, and always treat each other with respect and kindness,” he told his fellow representatives. “I will continue to be anchored by the values instilled in me by my hardworking parents. I will also be guided by the values so eloquently addressed by President Kennedy sixty years ago: Courage, judgment, integrity and dedication.”

Speaker Shekarchi has been a prolific legislator, sponsoring many successful bills concerning a wide range of issues, from economic development to health care to animal rights.

During his time as chairman of the House Committee on Labor, Speaker Shekarchi sponsored several major economic development initiatives. The Qualified Jobs Incentive Act, which is helping to create more than 3,000 new, well-paying jobs in Rhode Island, provides tax credits to companies that hire new full-time employees with a salary of at least 250 percent of the state’s hourly minimum wage. Jobs created through it have consistently averaged annual salaries above $60,000. He also sponsored the Premium Jobs Initiative, which links Rhode Island’s insurance premium tax rate to the number of jobs created by companies.

He reformed the state’s Workers’ Compensation system, including allowing for the use of electronic fund transfers to deliver weekly workers’ compensation benefits, and managed approval of two successive increases to the state’s minimum wage in 2014 and 2015. He has sponsored several laws streamlining the regulation and review process for development projects and subdivisions to facilitate construction.

Speaker Shekarchi is a graduate of Mount St. Charles Academy, Class of 1980, and graduated from Suffolk University in 1984. He returned to Suffolk to earn his law degree in 1990. In addition to his duties as a legislator, Leader Shekarchi is an attorney at the Shekarchi Law Office. He has been the legal counsel to the Warwick Housing Authority for 16 years and was a former Warwick solicitor.
 
House Speaker Shekarchi’s remarks follow:

Members of the House, Honored Guests, Family and Friends:

To my colleagues in the House, I offer a most sincere thank you for the faith and confidence that you have placed in me today. I pledge to work every day with all of you to ensure that we are a member-driven, inclusive House of Representatives.

I’d like to extend my deepest appreciation to Chairman Marvin Abney for doing an outstanding job as the presiding officer at this first session and to Representatives Mary Messier and Representative Katherine Kazarian for your kind words in placing my name into nomination – and I know Representative Grace Diaz is watching at home and wanted the opportunity to second my nomination as well.

I’d especially like to thank Majority Leader Chris Blazejewski for lending me great assistance throughout the transition process. Chris will be a terrific Majority Leader.

I’d also like to thank Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg for swearing me in and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea for administering the oath of office to all of us. I’m so pleased that Senate President Ruggerio and Senate Majority Leader McCaffrey are here on this special day.

I would be remiss to not thank former Speaker Nicholas Mattiello for his many years of public service. I am confident that history will look kindly upon his legislative accomplishments.

Thank you all.

Sixty years ago, a short drive up the road from here, at the Massachusetts State House, President Kennedy gave farewell remarks to his home state just before assuming the presidency.

His remarks that day still serve and guide us as public servants. He challenged those of us who have been entrusted with public office to question ourselves in four fundamental ways:

First – the president asked - are we truly people of courage? Do we have the courage to withstand public pressure, as well as private greed?

Secondly, are we truly people of judgment? Can we perceive judgment of the future as well as the past – can we recognize our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others? Do we have enough wisdom to know that we don’t know everything, and do we have the humility to admit it?

Third, are we truly people of integrity – who never run away from the principles we believe or the people who believe in them? Are we people who will never divert from the sacred public trust … not for financial gain or political ambition?

And finally, are we truly people of dedication – with an honor devoted solely to the public good and never compromised for any individual or group, or private obligation?

Courage. Judgment. Integrity. Dedication.

These ideals have guided me as I’ve worked to honor the friendship and trust the constituents of my beloved city of Warwick have blessed me with over the years.

These same ideals will guide me as I honor the confidence you have placed in me, on behalf of your constituents, in this new office.

The desire to honor and serve my constituents has brought me here today, but the unconditional love and support of my family through the years has been my inspiration. I know my late Mother is watching over me with pride today while my Father, who is 94, is watching me at home.

My father came to America as an immigrant in the 1950’s. He became a successful surgeon and always went the extra mile to help others. I learned the power of kindness from the actions of my parents… and I also learned that kindness should never be mistaken for weakness.

The qualities instilled in me by my parents have led to an ethic of hard work, honesty and compassion that I will apply to the difficult tasks before us.

The COVID crisis has dealt a crippling blow to our communities and our state. None of us has escaped its grip. We must adapt to new realities and find new solutions in order to achieve what the Constitution of the United States requires of us all - establish Justice, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty.

The past year has forced us to confront our failings in this regard. As the economic tide went out, it exposed a society where in too many ways justice has not been established equally, the general welfare has not been promoted fairly and the blessings of liberty remain out of reach for far too many of our fellow Rhode Islanders, through absolutely no fault of their own.

We need to do better – much better. And while I am humbled by the confidence that you have put in me, I am extremely confident in all of you. I know that many of the solutions are already present in this room, in you.

So, in the coming months, to honor our oaths of office, we must all collaborate to prioritize some difficult challenges.

In the short term, we will work – every day – to ease the pain and lighten the burden of the pandemic, particularly for those communities who have borne the brunt of it.

We will listen to and support our first responders, our health care professionals and our teachers.

We will find new ways to support and protect our small businesses, lift up the unemployed, and creatively assist our families.

We will work with Governor Raimondo and the Senate to achieve the rapid and effective distribution of the vaccine.

And in the long term, we will roll up our sleeves, clear away the rubble of the pandemic, and build a new and better Rhode Island.

We will strive for a Rhode Island that provides a just, secure and prosperous future for everyone, regardless of our zip code, regardless of the color of our skin, and regardless of how long their family has proudly claimed the title of “American.”

This coming session, I am looking to all of you to continue our “Lively Experiment”. I am looking for your new ideas, new energy and new perspectives. As with all experiments, honest mistakes will be made. But I believe that a mistake can be a powerful teacher.  

As you know, my goal for this office is to facilitate collaboration and consensus in pursuit of the common good. My approach will be different, but it should never be confused with an unwillingness to make difficult, final decisions at the appropriate time … and make them stick.

Let us pledge to listen to each other, and always treat each other with respect and kindness.

I will continue to be anchored by the values instilled in me by my hardworking parents. I will also be guided by the values so eloquently addressed by President Kennedy sixty years ago: Courage, judgment, integrity and dedication.

I ask you to join me in committing to these things. To my colleagues in this chamber, I believe in you.

Today, we humbly begin our duty to solve the problems of our day. You have each earned the sacred trust of the voters in your districts. I await your unique perspectives and ideas.  

Let us resolve, after an honest discourse, to come together to make our mark on this great state. I am certain that many of the answers are in this room - let us find them together.

I am honored to embark on this new journey with each and every one of you.

Thank you. God Bless you all.


1/5/2021RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi was elected Speaker by the Rhode Island House of Representatives as it began the 2021 legislative session today.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 

Representative Baginski was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all House members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House session was held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and was closed to the public.

Representative Baginski is a graduate of the Moses Brown School in Providence and of George Washington University in 2008.

Born on November 10, she is currently employed by Professional Ambulance and she resides in Cranston.

1/5/2021RepRep. Jacquelyn M. Baginski; #275; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Nathan W. Biah, Sr. (D-Dist. 3, Providence) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 

Representative Biah was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all House members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House session was held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and was closed to the public.

He was born on December 14, 1971 and is a graduate of both Rhode Island College in 1999 and he earned a Master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of Rhode Island in 2007.

Representative Biah is a high school principal with the Providence School Department.

He is the father of Nathan, Jr., Natalie and Natasha and he resides in Providence.

1/5/2021RepRep. Nathan W. Biah; #270; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Ramon Perez (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) was formally sworn into office on Tuesday, January 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened. 

Representative Perez has previously served in the House of Representatives from 2016 through 2017.
Representative Perez was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all House members by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House session was held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and was closed to the public.

Representative Perez was born on November 20, 1971 and he is the owner of New England Taxi.  He is also a founding member of the Taxi Driver Union in Providence. 

Representative Perez resides in Providence with his wife Mayra.
 

1/5/2021RepRep. Ramon A. Perez; #234; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Michelle E. McGaw was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-2022 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year today meeting at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic. The session also included the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the speaker of the House.

Representative McGaw is a consultant pharmacist serving the long-term care community and is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy. She is a member of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, and served on the Portsmouth Waste and Recycling Committee and the 2020 Portsmouth Charter Review Committee. She is a board member for the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus.

 

 

1/5/2021RepRep. Michelle E.  McGaw; #281; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Jose Batista was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence) was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year today meeting at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic. The session also included the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the speaker of the House.

A former public defender, Representative Batista operates a solo law practice in South Providence, his lifelong home, where he grew up as the oldest of six children of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. He attended Providence Public Schools from K-12 and graduated from Classical High School in 2006, Bryant University in 2011 and Roger Williams University School of Law in 2014.
1/5/2021RepRep. Jose F. Batista; #272; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Brianna E. Henries was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year today meeting at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic. The session also included the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the speaker of the House.

A lifelong Rhode Islander, Representative Henries is a 2009 Classical High School graduate. She teaches theater at Valiant Arts Studio in Pawtucket, and is also a retail manager and makeup artist for Bare Minerals.  

1/5/2021RepRep. Brianna E.  Henries; #280; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. David Morales was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence) was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year today meeting at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic. The session also included the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the speaker of the House.

Representative Morales, whose district includes Providence’s Mount Pleasant, Valley and Elmhurst neighborhoods, works at Year Up Rhode Island as an internship and employment specialist. Born Sept. 16, 1998, he was raised by a single immigrant mother in the rural town of Soledad, Calif., alongside his older sister. He graduated from Soledad High School in 2016 and two years later graduated from the University of California Irvine with a bachelor’s in urban studies. In 2019, at age 20, he became the youngest graduate in the history of the Brown University Public Affairs master’s program. Representative Morales is a member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and is also one of the only Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) members elected to public office.

1/5/2021RepRep. David P. Morales; #271; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Brandon C. Potter was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 75 House members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year today meeting at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence to provide greater social distance than is possible at the State House, which is closed to the public during the pandemic. The session also included the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the speaker of the House.

Born Aug. 6, 1984, Representative Potter grew up in Cranston and went to Cranston West High School. He studied at Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

1/5/2021RepRep. Brandon C. Potter; #274; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Shallcross Smith was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.

The owner of Dr. Day Care Inc. Representative Shallcross Smith previously served in the House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010. She also served on the Lincoln School Committee. She is a member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, Business Owners Child Care Centers of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Social Work Board, the Hasbro Children’s Hospital Fundraiser Committee, and Inspiring Minds Board. She is a commissioner on the Rhode Island Legislative Commission of Child Care, a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer and a mentor for students of the Community College of Rhode Island.

A 1970 graduate of Lincoln High School, she received an associate’s degree in early childhood education and human services in 1982. She received a bachelor’s degree in human services from the University of Rhode Island in 1985, master’s degree in counseling from Rhode Island College in 1989, and a doctorate in youth studies/leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Florida in 1995.

Born Aug. 2, 1952, she resides in Lincoln with her husband, Ronald R. Smith. She has a son, Keith W. Shallcross and daughter-in-law, Jo-Ann Belisle; a son, Christopher J. Smith, and his significant other, Jennifer Proulx; a daughter, Amy S. Vogel, and son-in-law, Andrew J. Vogel; five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
1/5/2021RepRep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith; #277; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3711451/5/2021 12:13 PMSystem Account1/5/2021 2:35 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Steven J. Lima (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Lima was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.

The president of Future Com Ltd., Representative Lima served on the Woonsocket School Committee from 2018 to 2019, and the Woonsocket Planning Board from 2008 to 2011. He is a graduate of Woonsocket High School.

Born on Feb. 18, 1971, he a resident of Woonsocket.

1/5/2021RepRep. Steven J. Lima; #278; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Felix was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.

Representative Felix served as the policy director at Progreso Latino, one of the leading organizations advocating for the state’s Latinx and immigrant communities. She served on the Rhode Island Commission for Health Advocacy and Equity, and chaired the policy and advocacy committee of the Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island. In 2019, she was named to the inaugural Public Leaders for Inclusion Council by America Indivisible. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of OpenDoors RI.

Born in Boston on Oct. 4, 1987, Representative Felix spent her childhood in the Dominican Republic, her parents’ native home. She graduated from Charles E. Shea High School in Pawtucket in 2005, received her associate’s degree from the Community College of Rhode Island in 2011, and graduated cum laude from Rhode Island College with degrees in justice studies and sociology in 2013. She worked full time while attending law school at New England Law/Boston and received her JD in 2018.

Representative Felix works as the ethics education coordinator in the legal department for the city of Providence, focused on ethics education and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. She resides in Pawtucket with her fiancé, Greg, and her dogs, Chiquita and Chanel.
1/5/2021RepRep. Leonela Felix; #279; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Edward T. Cardillo Jr. (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 5, as the 2021-22 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Representative Cardillo was one of 14 new members of the House of Representatives who took the oath of office, which was administered by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The House of Representatives began its legislative year with the election of Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) as the Speaker of the House.

An employee of J. DeMarco Landscape Inc., Representative Cardillo formerly served on the Johnston Housing Authority. He is also a member of the House District 42 Democratic Nominating Committee, and previously served on the Johnston Democratic Town Committee. He graduated from Cranston High School West in 1973.

Born Dec. 11, 1954, he and his wife Patricia have two daughters, Brianna and Lauren.

1/5/2021RepRep. Edward T. Cardillo, Jr.; #276; Daniel Trafford
24
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NoYesApproved3711421/5/2021 12:11 PMSystem Account1/5/2021 2:35 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker-elect K. Joseph Shekarchi expressed hope and satisfaction with a $30 million-plus settlement announced today between members of the failed St. Joseph pension plan and several of the defendants they sued for its mismanagement.

“In the end, we want to see the hardworking healthcare employees of the St. Joseph’s system get the security and funds they deserve for their retirement. We are hopeful that this settlement and any future settlements with remaining defendants will restore as much as possible to the members. One thing the pandemic has made clear is just how dedicated healthcare workers are and how critical they are to our community. Obviously, their hard-earned retirement assets should be protected, and we are glad to see progress toward addressing the grave injustice that was done to them in this situation,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

Said Speaker-elect Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), “Every member of the St. Joseph’s pension system is an innocent victim who trusted their employers to contribute and manage their retirement plan responsibly. They had no way to see this disaster coming, and it left thousands of people in danger of losing their contributions and their hope for a stable future. We are very glad to see progress toward restoring what was taken from them, and we are optimistic for a full, fair resolution of all the lawsuits surrounding this insolvency. We are also committed to preventing this sort of failure in the future, because employees deserve to be kept in the loop about their retirement investments.”

The two legislative leaders were the sponsors of a law (2018-S 21122018-H 8166) passed in 2018 to help facilitate the settlement. In 2019, they sponsored another bill (2019-S 0431Aaa2019-H 5287Aaa) aimed at preventing similar insolvency situations in the future. That bill, which was also enacted, now requires that any nongovernmental pension plans that are not covered by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and have 200 or more members must comply with ERISA’s reporting requirement.

The $85 million St. Joseph pension plan covers about 2,700 current and former employees of Our Lady of Fatima and Roger Williams hospitals, but was left insolvent when contributions to it ceased following the sale of Fatima and Roger Williams to Prospect Medical Holdings in 2014.
1/4/2021RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #85; #187; Greg Pare
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Annual Performances Feature Student Musicians Throughout the State

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting a number of traditional programs this holiday season, Rhode Island students were unable to hold their annual live holiday concerts in the State House. Each year in December Rhode Island students perform at the State House in an annual special series of musical performances presented by the Rhode Island State Council. In 2019, more than 2,600 students from 59 schools performed during the holiday season.

This year, to usher in the holidays, Capitol TV has started broadcasting past holiday concerts presented between 2017 and 2019. You can find the concerts on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and then repeated from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On the weekends, concerts will be shown as the schedule allows.

All schedules are subject to change; you can find the daily schedule and the next day at http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

"We're pleased to be continuing this holiday tradition of student performances at the Rhode Island State House albeit virtually," said Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of RISCA. "The next best option to live events is to enjoy these holiday concerts on Capitol TV featuring students from throughout Rhode Island. We hope families will enjoy the holiday spirit and tune in.”

Capitol TV can be found on Cox HD 1065, Cox 15 and 61, Full Channel 15, and Verizon Fios 34, and on the web at rilegislature.gov.

The holiday concert series, organized by RISCA, features music of the season, performed by students from schools throughout the State of Rhode Island. The performances all took place in the State House.

About Rhode Island State Council on the Arts: Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. Visit http://www.arts.ri.gov for more information.

 


12/2/2020SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Legislative Press Bureau
18
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Annual performances feature student musicians throughout the state


While COVID-19 has made it impossible for student groups to perform traditional holiday concerts at the State House this year, Capitol Television is airing concerts presented between 2017 and 2019. 

 

NoYesApproved37110112/2/2020 10:17 AMSystem Account12/30/2020 11:01 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — With an affirmative vote in the Senate today, the Rhode Island General Assembly has approved a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.

While it does include seven bond referendums that will be put before voters in a special election, the plan does not initiate any new programs, and is intended only to formally establish state spending for the fiscal year that began July 1, memorialize the planned use of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds which are coming up on a Dec. 30 deadline for use, stay current on obligations and prevent current programs from expiring.

“With so many financial unknowns and variables still to be locked down, I’m pleased that this budget will fully fund a top Senate priority, the restoration of aid to cities and towns,” said Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I am also pleased that the bond questions will be placed before the voters in a special referendum in March. These initiatives, particularly $65 million for affordable housing, have been important priorities for the Senate.”

Said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport), “Like so many aspects of our daily lives in 2020, this year’s budget is different than years past, but it differs out of necessity and with the goal to support the state and its residents as best as possible during these trying and uncertain times. This ‘skinny budget’ will keep our crucial services and supports running, it will provide much-needed relief to our cities and towns, and most importantly, it will help our struggling families and small businesses during the pandemic. We are going to have plenty of challenges to confront in next year’s budget, so I am thankful we were able to put together a document this year that continues to serve the people of Rhode Island without raising taxes or cutting crucial services to our residents.”

The plan (2020-H 7171A) restores cuts that had been proposed by the governor, and in some cases temporarily instituted, to municipal aid including distressed communities and car tax reimbursements, provider rates and social programs. The bill fully funds state aid to education according to the state education formula. The committee was also able to avoid proposed fee increases at the Veterans Home.

That means that in addition to maintaining current law local aid commitments, an additional $25 million in relief will be heading to cities and towns, and an additional $40 million to school districts through the funding formula.

The restoration of those cuts — and bridging a $275 million budget gap that was estimated to be as high as $900 million in June — was made possible largely through full and creative use the federal coronavirus relief funding, revenue collections that turned out to be better than they looked earlier in the year, and lower-than-expected caseload costs.

With the federal funding, the budget provides significant assistance to Rhode Islanders who are facing increased economic hardship this year. The budget more than triples support for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to $800,000; and includes extra payments to families enrolled in RIWorks; increased housing, rental and eviction relief assistance; and extra payments to those who are affected by the current “pause” instituted to contain the spread of the virus. Lawmakers were able to restore grants to the business incubator Urban Ventures and the Boys and Girls Club, both of which had faced elimination.

Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds were able to be used for Community College of Rhode Island,
Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island to help them with pandemic-related budget gaps. The bill continues the Rhode Island Promise program for one more class of students.

The bill provides a six-month extension on a number of RI Commerce programs that were set to expire. Legislative leaders expect to debate longer extensions of these programs in the FY 2022 budget.

The bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time.

The proposal includes $400 million in bonds in seven ballot questions that will be put before voters in a special election March 2, to be conducted much like June’s presidential primary, with mail ballots encouraged but also polling places available in every community.

The bond questions include:
  • Question 1 — $107.3 million for higher education, including $57.3 million for a fine arts center at URI, $38 million for the Clarke Science Building at RIC and $12 million to renovate CCRI’s campuses.
  • Question 2 — $74 million for environment and recreational projects, a total of $10 million over the governor’s original proposal.
    • $4 million for local recreation projects
    • $3 million for natural and working lands
    • $15 million for clean and drinking water
    • $7 million for municipal resiliency projects
    • $33 million for state beaches, parks and campgrounds
    • $4 million for the proposed park on the former I-195 land in Providence
    • $6 million for Providence River dredging (included in the 2018 green bond, but funding proved insufficient)
    • $2 million for the Woonasquatucket Greenway
  • Question 3 — $65 million for affordable housing, an increase of $40 million over the original proposal, included in the amendment offered by the governor in July.
  • Question 4 — $71.7 million for transportation initiatives
  • Question 5 — $15 million for early childhood care and the educational capital fund
  • Question 6 — $7 million for arts and cultural infrastructure, including $6 million for the cultural arts and economy grant program, and $1 million for the state preservation grants program.
  • Question 7 — $60 million for commerce infrastructure, including $20 million for the Port of Davisville at Quonset and $40 million for industrial site development.
Including the federal coronavirus funding, the budget totals $12.75 billion.

The budget now moves to the governor’s office.

12/18/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #199; #202; Greg Pare
7
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With an affirmative vote in the Senate today, the Rhode Island General Assembly has approved a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.


NoYesApproved37113612/18/2020 6:37 PMSystem Account12/22/2020 1:01 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Governor Raimondo has signed a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.

While it does include seven bond referendums that will be put before voters in a special election, the plan does not initiate any new programs, and is intended only to formally establish state spending for the fiscal year that began July 1, memorialize the planned use of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds which are coming up on a Dec. 30 deadline for use, stay current on obligations and prevent current programs from expiring.

“With so many financial unknowns and variables still to be locked down, I’m pleased that this budget will fully fund a top Senate priority, the restoration of aid to cities and towns,” said Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I am also pleased that the bond questions will be placed before the voters in a special referendum in March. These initiatives, particularly $65 million for affordable housing, have been important priorities for the Senate.”

Said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport), “Like so many aspects of our daily lives in 2020, this year’s budget is different than years past, but it differs out of necessity and with the goal to support the state and its residents as best as possible during these trying and uncertain times. This ‘skinny budget’ will keep our crucial services and supports running, it will provide much-needed relief to our cities and towns, and most importantly, it will help our struggling families and small businesses during the pandemic. We are going to have plenty of challenges to confront in next year’s budget, so I am thankful we were able to put together a document this year that continues to serve the people of Rhode Island without raising taxes or cutting crucial services to our residents.”

"In the face of historic challenges and economic uncertainty, it is critical that we continue to make investments in education, job training, and economic development that will help us recover from this recession," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "I want to thank the General Assembly for their hard work and flexibility under these extraordinary circumstances. This balanced budget will lay the foundation we need to create a more resilient, inclusive and equitable Rhode Island. I look forward to building on that foundation and making crucial investments in new housing, pre-K classrooms, beaches and parks, institutions of higher education, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure by passing our state's bond initiatives in March."

The plan (2020-H 7171A) restores cuts that had been proposed by the governor, and in some cases temporarily instituted, to municipal aid including distressed communities and car tax reimbursements, provider rates and social programs. The bill fully funds state aid to education according to the state education formula. The committee was also able to avoid proposed fee increases at the Veterans Home.

That means that in addition to maintaining current law local aid commitments, an additional $25 million in relief will be heading to cities and towns, and an additional $40 million to school districts through the funding formula.

The restoration of those cuts — and bridging a $275 million budget gap that was estimated to be as high as $900 million in June — was made possible largely through full and creative use the federal coronavirus relief funding, revenue collections that turned out to be better than they looked earlier in the year, and lower-than-expected caseload costs.

With the federal funding, the budget provides significant assistance to Rhode Islanders who are facing increased economic hardship this year. The budget more than triples support for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to $800,000; and includes extra payments to families enrolled in RIWorks; increased housing, rental and eviction relief assistance; and extra payments to those who are affected by the current “pause” instituted to contain the spread of the virus. Lawmakers were able to restore grants to the business incubator Urban Ventures and the Boys and Girls Club, both of which had faced elimination.

Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds were able to be used for Community College of Rhode Island,
Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island to help them with pandemic-related budget gaps. The bill continues the Rhode Island Promise program for one more class of students.

The bill provides a six-month extension on a number of RI Commerce programs that were set to expire. Legislative leaders expect to debate longer extensions of these programs in the FY 2022 budget.

The bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time.

The proposal includes $400 million in bonds in seven ballot questions that will be put before voters in a special election March 2, to be conducted much like June’s presidential primary, with mail ballots encouraged but also polling places available in every community.

The bond questions include:
  • Question 1 — $107.3 million for higher education, including $57.3 million for a fine arts center at URI, $38 million for the Clarke Science Building at RIC and $12 million to renovate CCRI’s campuses.
  • Question 2 — $74 million for environment and recreational projects, a total of $10 million over the governor’s original proposal.
    • $4 million for local recreation projects
    • $3 million for natural and working lands
    • $15 million for clean and drinking water
    • $7 million for municipal resiliency projects
    • $33 million for state beaches, parks and campgrounds
    • $4 million for the proposed park on the former I-195 land in Providence
    • $6 million for Providence River dredging (included in the 2018 green bond, but funding proved insufficient)
    • $2 million for the Woonasquatucket Greenway
  • Question 3 — $65 million for affordable housing, an increase of $40 million over the original proposal, included in the amendment offered by the governor in July.
  • Question 4 — $71.7 million for transportation initiatives
  • Question 5 — $15 million for early childhood care and the educational capital fund
  • Question 6 — $7 million for arts and cultural infrastructure, including $6 million for the cultural arts and economy grant program, and $1 million for the state preservation grants program.
  • Question 7 — $60 million for commerce infrastructure, including $20 million for the Port of Davisville at Quonset and $40 million for industrial site development.
Including the federal coronavirus funding, the budget totals $12.75 billion.
12/21/2020SenRep. Marvin Abney; Sen. William Conley; #199; #202; Larry Berman
6
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Governor Raimondo has signed a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.



YesYesApproved37113912/21/2020 4:25 PMSystem Account12/22/2020 1:00 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is calling on Governor Raimondo and the COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee to prioritize access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Rhode Island’s communities of color and high-density populations which have been the state’s hardest-hit populations by the virus.

“As the data has revealed consistently since the beginning of the pandemic, Rhode Island’s community of color and those living in high-density settings have been the most affected by this deadly virus.  Whether we are speaking about the essential workers who have continued to serve the public, even at great risk to themselves or families, or individuals living in tight spaces where the opportunity to properly quarantine is impossible, we must protect these populations that are struggling immensely.  This will only be possible if the state’s community of color and those living in the most-affected areas are prioritized to receive this game-changing vaccine as soon as possible,” said Rep. Jean Philippe Barros, chairman of the caucus (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket).

The other members of the caucus are Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist 73, Newport, Middletown); Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dis. 12, Providence); Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket); Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence); Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence); Rep. Joshua Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence); Rep. Mario F. Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence); Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence); Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket); Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence); Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket); Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence); and Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

12/21/2020RepRep. Jean Philippe Barros; #222; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved37113812/21/2020 2:59 PMSystem Account12/21/2020 2:59 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee voted 11-2 today to approve a pared-down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.

While it does include seven bond referendums that will be put before voters in a special election, the plan does not initiate any new programs, and is intended only to formally establish state spending for the fiscal year that began July 1, memorialize the planned use of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds which are coming up on a Dec. 30 deadline for use, stay current on obligations and prevent current programs from expiring.

“This budget is about making sure we take full advantage of the federal funding available to help take care of Rhode Islanders and get us through this pandemic. We are just a few weeks away from the start of a new session in January, and at that time we look forward to a full discussion of new policies and ideas,” said House Speaker-elect K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “For now, we need to hold the line and fully support our schools, our cities and towns, and our existing efforts to help the people of Rhode Island, and I’m proud of the way we have come together to do exactly that within the resources we have. With this budget in place, we will be able to turn our focus to the future, to economic recovery as the vaccine rolls out, and to helping provide resources as well as hope to the people of Rhode Island in 2021.”

Said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport), “Like so many aspects of our daily lives in 2020, this year’s budget is different than years past, but it differs out of necessity and with the goal to support the state and its residents as best as possible during these trying and uncertain times. This ‘skinny budget’ will keep our crucial services and supports running, it will provide much-needed relief to our cities and towns, and most importantly, it will help our struggling families and small businesses during the pandemic. We are going to have plenty of challenges to confront in next year’s budget, so I am thankful we were able to put together a document this year that continues to serve the people of Rhode Island without raising taxes or cutting crucial services to our residents.”

The plan (2020-H 7171A) restores cuts that had been proposed by the governor, and in some cases temporarily instituted, to municipal aid including distressed communities and car tax reimbursements, provider rates and social programs. The bill fully funds state aid to education according to the state education formula. The committee was also able to avoid proposed fee increases at the Veterans Home.

That means that in addition to maintaining current law local aid commitments, an additional $25 million in relief will be heading to cities and towns, and an additional $40 million to school districts through the funding formula and ensuring that $80 million was not put in jeopardy by not enacting a new budget.

The restoration of those cuts – and bridging a $275 million budget gap that was estimated to be as high as $900 million in June – was made possible largely through full and creative use the federal coronavirus relief funding, revenue collections that turned out to be better than they looked earlier in the year, and lower-than-expected caseload costs.

With the federal funding, the budget provides significant assistance to Rhode Islanders who are facing increased economic hardship this year. The budget more than triples support for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to $800,000; and includes extra payments to families enrolled in RIWorks; increased housing, rental and eviction relief assistance; and extra payments to those who are affected by the current “pause” instituted to contain the spread of the virus. Lawmakers were able to restore grants to the business incubator Urban Ventures and the Boys and Girls Club, both of which had faced elimination.

Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds were able to be used for Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island to help them with pandemic-related budget gaps. The bill continues the Rhode Island Promise program for one more class of students.

The bill provides a six-month extension on a number of RI Commerce programs that were set to expire. Legislative leaders expect to debate longer extensions of these programs in the FY 2022 budget.

The bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time, although it does not preclude layoffs the state colleges and URI may make.

The proposal includes $400 million in bonds in seven ballot questions that will be put before voters in a special election March 2, to be conducted much like June’s presidential primary, with mail ballots encouraged but also polling places available in every community.

The bond questions include:
  • Question 1 — $107.3 million for higher education, including $57.3 million for a fine arts center at URI, $38 million for the Clarke Science Building at RIC and $12 million to renovate CCRI’s campuses.
  • Question 2 — $74 million for environment and recreational projects, a total of $10 million over the governor’s original proposal.
    • $4 million for local recreation projects
    • $3 million for natural and working lands
    • $15 million for clean and drinking water
    • $7 million for municipal resiliency projects
    • $33 million for state beaches, parks and campgrounds
    • $4 million for the proposed park on the former I-195 land in Providence
    • $6 million for Providence River dredging (included in the 2018 green bond, but funding proved insufficient)
    • $2 million for the Woonasquatucket Greenway
  •  Question 3 — $65 million for affordable housing, an increase of $40 million over the original proposal, included in the amendment offered by the governor in July.
  • Question 4 — $71.7 million for transportation initiatives
  • Question 5 — $15 million for early childhood care and the educational capital fund
  • Question 6 — $7 million for arts and cultural infrastructure, including $6 million for the cultural arts and economy grant program, and $1 million for the state preservation grants program.
  • Question 7 — $60 million for commerce infrastructure, including $20 million for the Port of Davisville at Quonset and $40 million for industrial site development.
While the Assembly usually passes the state budget in June, lawmakers put off this year’s budget while awaiting word from Congress about final federal funding levels. Without additional federal aid next year, House leaders said they expect to face extremely difficult challenges creating the FY 2022 budget in the coming session.

Including the federal coronavirus funding, the budget totals $12.75 billion.

The House will consider the budget at a session on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence.

Following House passage, the bill will go to the Senate.
 

12/9/2020RepRep. Marvin Abney; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #199; #187; Larry Berman
6
http://www.rilegislature.gov////pressrelease/Pictures/_w/statehouse-snow_jpg.jpgNoApproved
The House Finance Committee voted 11-2 today to approve a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.
NoYesApproved37111712/9/2020 8:46 PMSystem Account12/18/2020 6:49 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccine is scheduled to meet virtually tomorrow to discuss vaccine distribution efforts with representatives from the Department of Health, Care New England and Lifespan.

The meeting is to be held tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. via WebEx.

The meeting will be televised by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.  The meeting can be live streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director; Alysia Mihalakos, Chief of the Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Tricia Washburn, Chief of the Office of Immunization, will make the presentation by the Department of Health. 

Lifespan will be represented by Christine M. Collins, Vice President and Chief Pharmacy Officer, and Jacqueline Parrillo, RN, Director, Employee and Occupational Health Services and Human Resources. Care New England will be represented by Dr. Raymond Powire, MD, Executive Chief of Medicine, and Robin Neale, MS, Vice President, Quality and Clinical Effectiveness.

The task force’s purpose is to ensure that Rhode Island’s distribution of the vaccine is done in a timely manner following the CDC guidelines and that front-line workers, the health-compromised and the elderly are given access first, and also to make certain the needs of the underserved populations are appropriately addressed. The task force will work closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and learn about the state’s vaccine plan.

No public testimony will be accepted at the virtual meeting.

12/14/2020RepRep. Raymond Hull; #157; Andrew Caruolo
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The House of Representatives Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccine is scheduled to meet virtually Tuesday to discuss vaccine distribution efforts with representatives from the Department of Health, Care New England and Lifespan.
NoYesApproved37112712/14/2020 12:55 PMSystem Account12/18/2020 6:49 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee tonight approved the nominations of Superior Court Judge Melissa Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  The appointments now to go the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The vote to confirm Judge Long was unanimous and the vote to confirm former Senator Lynch Prata was 13-2.

“This was a historic day for the state and the first step in the approval process toward a newly diversified Supreme Court bench.  The governor chose two excellent and qualified candidates to our highest bench and I believe if confirmed, they will both be outstanding presences on the Supreme Court.  I congratulate both of these impressive nominees and I will whole heartedly recommend that the entire House of Representatives vote to confirm the nominees on Wednesday during the House session,” said Rep. Robert E. Craven, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).

Governor Raimondo recently selected Superior Court Judge Melissa Long to replace retiring Associate Justice Francis X. Flaherty and former Senator Lynch Prata to replace retiring Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Normally, the Rhode Island Senate confirms judiciary appointments, but nominations to the Supreme Court require the advice and consent of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The full House of Representatives will consider the appointments on Wednesday at 2 p.m. during their session to be held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium due to COVID-19 safety protocols. 

12/14/2020RepRep. Robert Craven; #189; Larry Berman
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The House Judiciary Committee tonight approved the nominations of Superior Court Judge Melissa Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  The appointments now to go the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The vote to confirm Judge Long was unanimous and the vote to confirm former Senator Lynch Prata was 13-2.


NoYesApproved37112912/14/2020 5:04 PMSystem Account12/18/2020 6:49 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet virtually Thursday to consider the state budget (2020-H 7171A) in anticipation of its passage by the House of Representatives.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, Dec. 17, at 3 p.m.

The State House remains closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be streamed live online Via Capitol TV at
http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.   

12/15/2020SenSen. William Conley; #202; Daniel Trafford
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The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet virtually Thursday to consider the state budget (2020-H 7171A) in anticipation of its passage by the House of Representatives.


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STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island Senate will meet Friday to consider the state budget along with several gubernatorial appointments. Initially scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday, the Thursday session was canceled and the meeting time on Friday moved up due to the forecast of a snowstorm Wednesday into Thursday.

The Senate will meet Friday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at Sapinsley Hall at Rhode Island College in Providence.

It is expected that the senators will take up the business of the state budget along with several appointments requiring their advice and consent, including appointments to the states Supreme, Superior, Workers’ Compensation, and Family courts.

The session will be closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be broadcast on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1013, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be streamed live online Via Capitol TV at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

Members of the media who wish to cover the meeting in person should contact Greg Paré at (401) 276-5558 by Thursday at noon so that it can be ensured that there is compliance with social distancing requirements and all safety protocols.

12/15/2020SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; #85; Daniel Trafford
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The Rhode Island Senate will meet Friday to consider the state budget along with several gubernatorial appointments. Initially scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday, the Thursday session was canceled and the meeting time on Friday moved up due to the forecast of a snowstorm Wednesday into Thursday.
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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow, December 16 at 2 p.m. at the Vets Auditorium to consider the FY 2021 budget and for the confirmation votes of two appointments to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

The House will consider the FY 2021 budget (2020-H 7171A) which is a pared-down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.

The House will also consider the Supreme Court appointments of Superior Court Judge Melissa A. Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to fill the seats being vacated by Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Flaherty and Supreme Court Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia.

The Vets Auditorium is closed to the public as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live-streamed at www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV.

Media members wishing to arrange for in-person coverage are asked to contact Larry Berman at lberman@rilegislature.gov.


12/15/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Andrew Caruolo
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The Rhode Island House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow, December 16 at 2 p.m. at the Vets Auditorium to consider the FY 2021 budget and for the confirmation votes of two appointments to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved the nominations of Superior Court Judge Melissa Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 

The vote to confirm Judge Long was 63-0 and the vote to confirm former Senator Lynch Prata was 58-5.

“I congratulate the two nominees and I am proud that the House of Representatives chose to support these two impressive and qualified candidates to our state’s Supreme Court.  With this step, Rhode Island is closer to a better-represented and diverse judicial system that serves our residents honorably and fairly.  History was made tonight and Judge Long and former Senator Lynch Prata should be proud of this incredible accomplishment.  It is my hope that they are both now confirmed by the Senate and I look forward to addressing each of them as Associate Justice Long and Associate Justice Lynch Prata,” said Speaker-elect K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Governor Raimondo recently selected Superior Court Judge Melissa Long to replace retiring Associate Justice Francis X. Flaherty and former Senator Lynch Prata to replace retiring Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Normally, the Rhode Island Senate confirms judiciary appointments, but nominations to the Supreme Court require the advice and consent of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Senate plans to take up the nominations on Friday.

12/16/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #187; Larry Berman
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The House of Representatives today approved the nominations of Superior Court Judge Melissa Long and former Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 



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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island House of Representatives voted 59-6 today to approve a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.

While it does include seven bond referendums that will be put before voters in a special election, the plan does not initiate any new programs, and is intended only to formally establish state spending for the fiscal year that began July 1, memorialize the planned use of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds which are coming up on a Dec. 30 deadline for use, stay current on obligations and prevent current programs from expiring.

“This budget is about making sure we take full advantage of the federal funding available to help take care of Rhode Islanders and get us through this pandemic. We are just a few weeks away from the start of a new session in January, and at that time we look forward to a full discussion of new policies and ideas,” said House Speaker-elect K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “For now, we need to hold the line and fully support our schools, our cities and towns, and our existing efforts to help the people of Rhode Island, and I’m proud of the way we have come together to do exactly that within the resources we have. With this budget in place, we will be able to turn our focus to the future, to economic recovery as the vaccine rolls out, and to helping provide resources as well as hope to the people of Rhode Island in 2021.”

Said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport), “Like so many aspects of our daily lives in 2020, this year’s budget is different than years past, but it differs out of necessity and with the goal to support the state and its residents as best as possible during these trying and uncertain times. This ‘skinny budget’ will keep our crucial services and supports running, it will provide much-needed relief to our cities and towns, and most importantly, it will help our struggling families and small businesses during the pandemic. We are going to have plenty of challenges to confront in next year’s budget, so I am thankful we were able to put together a document this year that continues to serve the people of Rhode Island without raising taxes or cutting crucial services to our residents.”

The plan (2020-H 7171A) restores cuts that had been proposed by the governor, and in some cases temporarily instituted, to municipal aid including distressed communities and car tax reimbursements, provider rates and social programs. The bill fully funds state aid to education according to the state education formula. The committee was also able to avoid proposed fee increases at the Veterans Home.

That means that in addition to maintaining current law local aid commitments, an additional $25 million in relief will be heading to cities and towns, and an additional $40 million to school districts through the funding formula and ensuring that $80 million was not put in jeopardy by not enacting a new budget.
The restoration of those cuts – and bridging a $275 million budget gap that was estimated to be as high as $900 million in June – was made possible largely through full and creative use the federal coronavirus relief funding, revenue collections that turned out to be better than they looked earlier in the year, and lower-than-expected caseload costs.

With the federal funding, the budget provides significant assistance to Rhode Islanders who are facing increased economic hardship this year. The budget more than triples support for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to $800,000; and includes extra payments to families enrolled in RIWorks; increased housing, rental and eviction relief assistance; and extra payments to those who are affected by the current “pause” instituted to contain the spread of the virus. Lawmakers were able to restore grants to the business incubator Urban Ventures and the Boys and Girls Club, both of which had faced elimination.

Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds were able to be used for Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island to help them with pandemic-related budget gaps.

The bill continues the Rhode Island Promise program for one more class of students.

The bill provides a six-month extension on a number of RI Commerce programs that were set to expire. Legislative leaders expect to debate longer extensions of these programs in the FY 2022 budget.

The bill includes no cuts to state agencies that would result in staff layoffs at this time, although it does not preclude layoffs the state colleges and URI may make.

The proposal includes $400 million in bonds in seven ballot questions that will be put before voters in a special election March 2, to be conducted much like June’s presidential primary, with mail ballots encouraged but also polling places available in every community.

The bond questions include:
  • Question 1 — $107.3 million for higher education, including $57.3 million for a fine arts center at URI, $38 million for the Clarke Science Building at RIC and $12 million to renovate CCRI’s campuses.
  • Question 2 — $74 million for environment and recreational projects, a total of $10 million over the governor’s original proposal.
    • $4 million for local recreation projects
    • $3 million for natural and working lands
    • $15 million for clean and drinking water
    • $7 million for municipal resiliency projects
    • $33 million for state beaches, parks and campgrounds
    • $4 million for the proposed park on the former I-195 land in Providence
    • $6 million for Providence River dredging (included in the 2018 green bond, but funding proved insufficient)
    • $2 million for the Woonasquatucket Greenway
 
  • Question 3 — $65 million for affordable housing, an increase of $40 million over the original proposal, included in the amendment offered by the governor in July.
  • Question 4 — $71.7 million for transportation initiatives
  • Question 5 — $15 million for early childhood care and the educational capital fund
  • Question 6 — $7 million for arts and cultural infrastructure, including $6 million for the cultural arts and economy grant program, and $1 million for the state preservation grants program.
  • Question 7 — $60 million for commerce infrastructure, including $20 million for the Port of Davisville at Quonset and $40 million for industrial site development.
While the Assembly usually passes the state budget in June, lawmakers put off this year’s budget while awaiting word from Congress about final federal funding levels. Without additional federal aid next year, House leaders said they expect to face extremely difficult challenges creating the FY 2022 budget in the coming session.

Including the federal coronavirus funding, the budget totals $12.75 billion.

The budget now goes to the Rhode Island Senate for consideration.

12/16/2020RepRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. Marvin Abney; #187; #199; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Rhode Island House of Representatives voted 59-6 today to approve a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) was today honored by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner with his office’s “Distinguished Service Award” for Representative Casimiro’s championing of the state’s unclaimed property program.

Every year Treasury recovers unclaimed cash and assets from businesses, banks, securities, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, and utility deposits. The property is kept safe until it can be returned to its rightful owner.

“The ‘YOUR MONEY’ program to help Rhode Islanders claim their unclaimed property from the state has been a true success, putting millions of dollars in unclaimed property back into the hands of its rightful owners – the residents of Rhode Island.  When we first started this initiative, there were more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders with unclaimed property held by the state, and most didn’t even realize it and now, this is a state-of-the-art program that has received national attention for its effectiveness.  I thank Treasurer Magaziner for this tremendous honor, as well as his partnership and support for this important program,” said Representative Casimiro.

Representative Casimiro was honored due to legislation (2017-H 5743) she sponsored which made it easier for Treasury to return unclaimed property to Rhode Islanders through more efficient communication between state agencies.  This legislation led to the creation of the “YOUR MONEY” program which matches unclaimed property with known addresses so money can be returned automatically. In the past, residents have had to check the State's database to see if they have unclaimed property and then submit a claim.

The ceremony was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

12/16/2020RepRep. Julie A. Casimiro; #237; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved37113312/16/2020 3:18 PMSystem Account12/16/2020 3:19 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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