K. Joseph Shekarchi (D) was elected Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives in January 2021. From November 2016 through 2020, he served as House Majority Leader, and he was previously Chairman of the House Labor Committee. He has served the residents of District 23 in Warwick since first being elected in November 2012.
Speaker Shekarchi has been a prolific legislator, sponsoring many successful bills concerning a wide range of issues from economic development to health care, animal rights and regulatory reform.
Speaker Shekarchi sponsored several major economic development initiatives. The Qualified Jobs Incentive Act, which has created more than 3,000 new well-paying private sector jobs with no fiscal impact to the state. He also sponsored the Premium Jobs Initiative, which links Rhode Island’s insurance premium tax rate to the number of jobs created by companies.
The 2020 state budget included Speaker Shekarchi’s plan to provide a work-around for owners of “pass-through” entities, which provided a tax cut to Rhode Island small businesses with no lost revenue to the state.
He has sponsored laws requiring health insurers to cover mastectomies without copays or deductibles, and prohibiting the denial of coverage for not covering any off-label drug used for the treatment of disabling or life-threatening chronic disease as part of their prescription drug coverage. AAA New England honored him with a Traffic Safety Leadership Award for laws he sponsored requiring children under 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats and establishing a class for the parents of new teen drivers. He was also the sponsor of several good government reforms, including the long sought-after law eliminating the “master lever” option on the ballot.
Speaker Shekarchi has been a leader in protecting animals, receiving the Golden Paw Award from Animal Rescue Rhode Island for his advocacy. He sponsored the law that gave the R.I. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals custody of seized dogs, and another that makes individuals guilty of animal abuse responsible for the cost of care of those animals by the RISPCA. Another law he authored prohibits the sale or transfer of unweaned puppies.
Speaker Shekarchi was presented the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Excellence in Advocacy Award for the passage of legislation he sponsored that requires training for law enforcement officers on mental health and substance abuse emergencies. He was also honored by the Hospitality Association as Ambassador of the Year and by the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care for his advocacy.
He 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, Speaker Shekarchi is a successful attorney in private practice for over 25 years. He has been the legal counsel to the Warwick Housing Authority for over 25 years and is a former Warwick solicitor.
He served as the former chairman of the R.I. Auto Dealers Hearing Board and is a former member of both the R.I. Judicial Tenure and Discipline Board and the Coastal Resource Management Council. Speaker Shekarchi is a lifelong Warwick resident.
State House, Room 323
Providence, Rhode Island 02903