PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — a huge group of toxic chemicals that are used in thousands of consumer products, are now also in our water and the blood of nearly every American. We need legislation to control the introduction of these chemicals into our water and soil by using products that don't contain them. And we must set a contaminant limit —we propose 20 parts per trillion—so water suppliers and well owners can test their water against it, and immediately remediate if necessary.
Over the past six years, Dr. Frank Sánchez has helped to build a strong foundation that set Rhode Island College (RIC) on a path toward progress. He did this while also confronting numerous challenges during a time of extreme uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of RIC's existing problems, yet Dr. Sánchez consistently weathered these multiple storms, leaving RIC in a far better place than when he took over the reins in 2016. For this, we extend our gratitude and friendship to Dr. Sánchez and we wish him well with all of his future endeavors.
the highest court in the state will have someone with a shared experience with a good portion of the citizens of this state, who fully comprehends the plight of minorities in more than just an abstract way. For too long people of color were expected to participate civically in the workings of this democracy without having the slightest say in its laws or policymaking.
There is financial help in the newly enacted state budget that includes $7.3 million from federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for eviction diversion and rental assistance. If you or someone you know is in arrears with rent payments from March through today, there’s money for you to make those past rent payments.
The Rhode Island Society of CPAs has partnered with RI Commerce Corporation to provide FREE online technical, legal, and training services next week —Monday, Dec. 14, through Friday, Dec. 18, for COVID-impacted businesses (which is everyone!)
There are now three ways to vote in Rhode Island: You can vote early and in-person at your local board of canvassers, you can vote by mail or vote at the polls.
We have introduced legislation to establish the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resiliency fund (OSCAR) to help our cash-strapped municipalities combat the effects of rising seas, erosion, and inland flooding.
Here in Rhode Island, adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities have not been provided adequate resources for many years. Before the pandemic, a federal judge was already mulling the possibility of ordering further overhaul of our troubled system of services. And then the pandemic shut down most day programs and employment opportunities, leaving this very vulnerable population without critical supports. Residents and underpaid staff at group homes have been at risk for illness, and those living at home face isolation and a reduction or loss of in-home support services. Agencies that serve them, which have mostly operated on the financial brink for years, are in danger of going under permanently.
Rhode Island must do better for its residents with I/DD.
On February 11, the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed legislation, SB 2125, prohibiting health insurers from charging women more for their health insurance. Again. In fact, this legislation has passed the Senate by overwhelming margins for each of the past eight years.
A democratic government cannot function without citizens’ participation. It is an important responsibility of every U.S citizen to vote. COVID- 19 has changed our lives and it’s changed how we vote. Our older and health-compromised citizens are at greater risk of being in a crowd at a polling place. We need to make voting easier and safer for everyone during a pandemic. It’s important to review the many ways you can now vote in Rhode Island in the upcoming Sept. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general election.
Rhode Island needs a coordinated effort at the state level that markets the Ocean State as safe, open and available to the many visitors whose vacation plans have been upended, as well as a long-term strategy to strengthen the vital but battered tourism industry.
We are now faced with perhaps our state’s most uncertain times in recent memory, but thankfully, DCYF and its dedicated staffers have remained vigilant during this health crisis by supporting and nurturing Rhode Island’s foster children and the loving foster parents willing to raise another child as their own, especially during a global pandemic.
It is my prayer that the call of the Black Lives Matter Movement for justice and equality is truly realized. I take exception to propaganda that tries to hide and ignore centuries of injustice of rapes, lynching, murder, high unemployment, high incarceration rates, poor health outcomes including high infant mortality rates, inadequate housing and education, police brutality and poverty. The loud cry we hear today from the peaceful protesters is that they want systemic racism eradiated, especially the murder of innocent black folk.
As a member of the Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force, I was pleased to read about Rhode Island state officials’ efforts to protect taxpayers from "virus profiteers" in the May 25 edition of the Providence Journal. Governor Raimondo's administration has responded quickly and effectively to this unprecedented challenge, and has been instrumental in avoiding millions of dollars in additional expenses fighting this pandemic. However, it is disappointing to see that qualified minority vendors have been bypassed altogether as the state awards millions of dollars in related contracts. This is especially poignant considering that Rhode Island’s minority community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Every May at the Rhode
Island State House, legislators, early care and education providers, parents,
policymakers and members of the public come together to discuss challenges and
advocate for resources to meet the needs of children and families.
The disparities in education, economic development, housing, health care and other areas at the root of the disproportional effects of COVID-19 on minorities have also been exacerbated by it. Poverty is the elephant in the room that we are now forced to address.
As we keep our distance from each other and watch with sadness as the coronavirus sweeps through our beautiful country and across the world, we are reminded how precious human life is and how fragile it can be. In the face of intense challenge, we are reminded how essential it is that public policy be guided by data, science and sound analysis.
Although the General Assembly is not meeting in formal sessions, all senators and representatives remain hard at work. We are helping our constituents gain access to social services, securing supplies and food for front line workers, and most importantly, we are assisting the Governor in anything she deems necessary. We are in daily contact with our colleagues, Governor Raimondo and her team, and our municipal officials. Cognizant of the need for social distancing and restrictions on gatherings, we have found alternate mechanisms to accomplish actions that are legislative in nature but require immediate attention.
We read with much dismay, but not surprise, the news of how hundreds of freshwater sunfish washed up dead on Easton’s Beach last month. This fish kill is a bellwether of the types of problems we will experience as climate change continues to reshape our world.
There needs to be another way to incentivize medical research into cures for major diseases. A state legislator in Ohio has come up with an imaginative vision for a model that might be the key. Best of all, it would make any resulting cure available to patients at the lowest price possible, without costing the public anything more than the diseases cost us now.
In virtually all the predictions of what will be hot in the 2020 General Assembly session, there has been little mention of environmental policy. It is imperative that we make progress in 2020 on several fronts including plastics pollution, sea level rise, renewable energy, sustaining a clean water supply and waste management.
A good education should be a right for Rhode Island’s children. And while our state has a checkered record of delivering on this responsibility, we firmly believe that Rhode Island has what it takes to identify the solutions we need.
As the Ocean State, we should be much more proactive when it comes to resiliency along our shores. We should be exploring the actual risk to each coastal community and each property using up-to-date technology that models expected risks.
All Rhode Islanders benefit from our state’s partnerships with Twin River and IGT. Lottery revenues are the third largest source of state income and are used to provide essential state services such as educating children and caring for the needy.
Rhode Island passed
a law this legislative session that I sponsored to help small business and
manufacturers who wish to stand out amongst the competition as working towards
sustainability and corporate responsibility. Big companies in Rhode Island have
been doing this for years (CVS, Toray Plastics, General Dynamics) through the Department
of Environmental Management’s sustainability programs that encourage energy
efficiency, waste minimization, recycling, composting, using cleaning products
with fewer toxins, and reducing reliance on single-use plastics.
It is key for the success of our schools and our communities that students be at the center of any process in the impending state takeover of Providence schools. Students and families must have seats at every decision-making table.
We need to stop demonizing and mistreating immigrants, and we need to stop now. We must do better.
The Livable Homes Modification Grant Program helps Rhode Islanders with disabilities and seniors access money for home modifications that help keep them out of nursing homes.
For several years, I have been working within the General Assembly, and with the Division of Taxation and local municipalities, on efforts to fairly, safely regulate short-term rentals offered by third-party hosting platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO and faced numerous roadblocks. Chief among them is the difficulty of even identifying all the properties that are being offered for rent in this manner.
People of color and low-income communities have been disproportionately subjected to the enforcement of punitive marijuana laws. We need to acknowledge that our laws are ineffective and take a disproportionate toll on the long-oppressed poor and minority communities.
One policy we hope to enact this session to address this challenge and build our local economies is an increase to the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit .
We came up with a package of seven bills that takes a comprehensive, long-term approach to education reform, changing the culture right from the Department of Education down to the classroom.
Our society has changed and the demographics of our
population, especially in our schools, is no longer adequately served by the
old model of language instruction and education. Our global economy and society requires
multi-lingual future workers and in order for our children to be successful in
this expansive multi-lingual world, we must prepare them with dual-language
immersion programs in our public schools.
In the 10 years that I’ve served in the House, six of which were as a member of the Finance Committee, I’ve analyzed a lot of state budgets. This year’s proposal seems to have a new tax or fee hitting business or the average Rhode Islander at every turn. It’s true that broad-based tax rates such as income tax, sales tax and the corporate tax won’t change, but your Netflix bill and beach fees will.
In order to help ordinary citizens to run and shift the power away from special interests, I have submitted legislation (2019-S 0457) that would create a “democracy voucher” program that would be available to legislative candidates as well as statewide office candidates. I worked with the good-government group Common Cause to devise a campaign finance system that focuses on the voters rather than the state’s biggest donors.
The public has a right to know all of the available information when it comes to their safety. The crisis last week with the gas system on Aquidneck Island is no exception.
I have introduced legislation (2019-H 5009) that would direct the state Department of Education to establish a chronic absenteeism prevention and intervention plan by Jan. 1, 2020.
I think it would be an understatement to say Rhode
Islanders were shocked by the recently released test results from the Rhode
Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS).
The results clearly demonstrate that Rhode Island’s public education
system is far from satisfactory, let alone anything to be proud of, and there
are several problems that need to be rectified for the sake of our children.
that Boston is on the “short list” for the new Amazon headquarters raises the
following question for Rhode Island – how can we prepare to benefit if the
company does land an hour north of us?
Opioid use has become a problem that touches each and every one of us one way or another. For state legislators, we’re tasked with finding creative and innovative policies that will curb addiction, or better yet, prevent it from happening.
The House Finance Committee will work to make the PawSox bill a better bill for Rhode Island taxpayers. I suspect there will be more change-ups in this saga, but the first pitch will be thrown in 2020. The question is where?
Business especially needs broadband to effectively compete. The defense industry on Aquidneck Island is an important economic sector. Many of the defense contractors in Middletown need high-speed Internet access that is secure and reliable.
The American Industrial Revolution was launched at Slater Mill in Pawtucket. Today we have a similarly historic opportunity to invigorate economic growth in our city, via a new ballpark proposed right near the historic factory. An influx of artists and microbreweries have contributed to the city’s economic momentum in recent years, and we think “The Ballpark at Slater Mill” would synergistically help fuel Pawtucket’s ongoing revitalization.
hold approximately 42 percent of the taxable real estate within the City of
Providence. Under current state law, Providence does not have the right to levy
taxes on those properties. Even if a non-profit
owner uses land in a manner that competes directly with “for profit”
businesses, the non-profit cannot be taxed. State law forbids it.
It seems there’s little time left in a school day for civics education anymore. That’s too bad. How can anyone be expected to make smart decisions if they don’t care about how government works, who becomes president or who should be elected?
Rhode Island must be more proactive in planning for flooding and sea rise. The devastating toll of human loss and suffering in Texas must remind us of the high stakes involved.
On September 14, the Senate Finance Committee will begin a series of hearings on the financing proposal for a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium at the Apex site in Pawtucket. It is our intention to thoroughly review all aspects of the proposal and to conduct these hearings in an accessible and transparent manner. Every hearing will be broadcast on Capitol Television. Hearings will be held both at the State House and in communities throughout the state in order to give every Rhode Islander who wants to participate the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Manufacturing in Rhode Island is alive and well, but not the manufacturing from the days of our grandparents. Technology has changed how we do business today and how we live.
We live in a time period where negativity,
particularly toward government, has sadly become the norm. It is understandable why the public has a
negative view of state government due to various missteps and mistakes that
have been made. But at times, successes are overlooked and quietly fly under
the radar with little fanfare or recognition.
That is why the recent rollout by the Division of Motor Vehicles of the
long overdue new computer system should be recognized as a prime example of
something government has gotten right for the taxpayers of the state.
There is nothing more important than integrity and keeping your word.
Long ago, our
ancestors decided to throw off the yoke of tyranny and oppression by abandoning
absolute monarchy and embracing a republican form of government — the belief
that our common interests are best served by a group of elected representatives
who would make our laws.
That was more
than just a political experiment. Many of our forebears fought and died to
secure our rights to that form of government. The power you have at the ballot
box is one that could only be dreamed about through much of world history.
In order for that
system to work, the people need to know that elections are fair and that their
votes count. In fact, eight of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution deal
directly with voting or elections. A huge portion of Rhode Island General Law
deals strictly with elections, political campaigns and voting. Every safeguard
has been adopted to ensure the fairness, legitimacy and accuracy of elections.
That’s why I’ve
submitted legislation at the behest of the good government group Common Cause.
The bill (2017-S
require the Board of Elections to establish a post-election audit program to
make sure that the equipment and procedures we use to count votes during an
election are all working properly. This will go a long way toward ensuring
public confidence in election results. In those cases where problems or issues
are detected they can be corrected long before the next election cycle. Without
the constant scrutiny and examination of election procedures, the democratic
system could be called into doubt.
audit makes sure that all the equipment is functioning well — that election
procedures yielded the correct results. During a post-election audit, paper
records are checked against the results produced by the voting system to
In effect, an
audit is a partial recount of results to verify that the voting system is
accurately recording and counting votes. The legislation would authorize the
Board of Elections to audit the results within seven days after an election
using established rules and proven methodologies. These audits would not
only act as a deterrent to voter fraud, but they would help to avoid a full recount
by showing when a recount is necessary, as well as uncovering programming
errors, equipment malfunctions and bugs in the system.
And make no
mistake, these audits are needed. For example, in the past election, there were
ballot formatting errors which caused substantial inaccuracies in the vote
counts in both Foster and my hometown of North Kingstown. In North Kingstown,
the error produced a wrong outcome — one that made it appear that only a
handful of people voted to approve a town referendum. When the ballots were
re-run, it turned out that the ballot question had passed.
In both cases,
subtle changes had been made in the spacing of words and fill-in ovals that
weren’t reflected on the test ballots that were used to calibrate the machines.
In this case, the error was caught because the result was so unusual. But had
it been a close result, no one would have known that these errors actually
undermined the will of the people.
If passed, Rhode
Island would join 29 other states that already require post-election audits.
This is an excellent way to safeguard our democratic process — and I urge
everyone to contact their state senators and representatives and ask them to
support this bill.
James C. Sheehan, is a Democratic state senator representing District 36 in
North Kingstown and Narragansett. He resides in North Kingstown.
As this year’s legislative session draws to a close, I would like to draw your readers’ attention to an issue that has been bandied about for some time now without any sort of resolution — the line item veto.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with one of my
constituents who receives healthcare services in their home in order to remain
safely at home. Without home care, this North Kingstown resident would not be
able to live in our community with family and would be subject to nursing home
placement at a higher expense to taxpayers.
I’m proud to join Treasurer Seth Magaziner in announcing the “Bank Local” program to help small business get an infusion of capital. This is an innovative plan to incentivize local banks and credit unions to make loans to qualified small businesses and, in return, receive a matching state deposit into that bank or credit union.
Earlier this year, I announced my initiative to phase out the onerous and regressive car tax within five years. The budget the House will adopt this June will provide approximately $40 million in car tax relief, which will continue over the next five years until it is completely eliminated.
A group of House Democrats came
together to craft the Fair Shot Agenda, a life-saving and life-changing legislative
package that consists of Earned Paid Sick Days, a $15 minimum wage, Tax
Fairness, and School Building Repairs. These
four simple ideas will serve as a life-line to the poor, the vulnerable, and the
disenfranchised who work so hard, yet the American Dream remains elusive and
out of reach.
I have previously written that the Defense Economy is vital and critically important to Aquidneck Island, Newport County, Rhode Island and our national defense. Critical to ensuring this most important sector of the state’s economy remains strong, sustained and growing, is targeted investments in education, from pre-K to 16, specifically in the STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) subjects. These continued, targeted investments in education are needed now more than ever.
This year Rhode Island enacted
legislation that is a reflection of a need that we as lawmakers have to address
to make certain that our front line responders are prepared. Nearly 15% of police service calls will deal
with some component of mental illness and this percentage is on the rise. When an officer arrives on scene they not
only should have the proper equipment but, they should have state of the
science training. Rhode Island now will guarantee that our
police officers will receive nationally certified training with proven success
all over the country. This program is
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I heard and discussed “revenge porn” legislation for four or five years. I could not agree more with the goal of the bill, which is to protect privacy. But I believe it is imperative that we concern ourselves not just with the rhetoric surrounding proposed legislation, but also the language of the proposed law. Because the details of the law determine how is implemented.
We will hear our fair share of partisan politics this campaign season but I hope we can all come together to support Question 2 on the November ballot. If voters approve this ballot question, the Ethics Commission would once again have the power to police conflicts of interest among General Assembly members.
This year, I joined together with community groups, civil rights organizations, and formerly incarcerated Rhode Islanders to introduce legislation reforming the use of solitary confinement in our prison system, and I’m glad our efforts have kickstarted a real conversation on this controversial practice. It was clear that making an informed policy decision on this controversial issue would require additional collaboration and research. That’s why I am very excited that the Rhode Island House passed a resolution creating a study commission that can work to resolve these questions.
Rhode Island has struggled to emerge from the Great Recession. Yet, through sustained efforts to improve our business climate, invest in education and raise the quality of life for our residents, we are putting Rhode Island on a path to recovery.
The House Finance Committee recently approved a spending plan that includes no broad-based tax increases, provides tax relief to retirees, enhances our state’s economic development toolkit, fully funds our education formula and cuts state beach fees in half.
Under my leadership, the House Oversight Committee will analyze how well our state agencies are working and determine what needs to be done to improve services to Rhode Islanders.
I was outraged to learn that no Rhode Island law stops someone from hiding a device on your car to monitor its movements. As a result, anyone, even domestic abusers, can track another person’s whereabouts with little to no legal recourse. Due to an antiquated statute, courts are struggling to prosecute this predatory behavior among domestic abusers. Therefore, we must modernize Rhode Island’s stalking laws to afford comfort, privacy, and protection to victims of domestic abuse.
The the state must adopt a philosophical approach to meeting adaptation goals that embrace the broader aim of protecting Rhode Island’s overall economy from flooding and rising waters.
Many Rhode Islanders share my frustration with the recent events concerning elected officials in our state. The bottom line is that we should be able to trust our government instead of worrying about what scandal is around the next corner.
That is why I have worked over the last few months on a bill to restore Ethics Commission oversight of the General Assembly: to give the public and the business community faith that our government is working for them.
From an economic stand point, the clean energy sector has been a very bright spot in our economy. “Environmental economics” means a lot to this state’s economy.
One of the most important checks involves the legislative branch’s ability to keep the executive branch from spending too much money. That is why, although the governor gets to propose budgets, the General Assembly ultimately votes on what is included in them. Without that check on the executive branch, the state departments would have little impetus to control spending, with taxpayers left to foot the bill. With this very necessary balancing act in mind, we have introduced legislation aimed at changing the recently passed RhodeWorks road-and-bridge repair program to require General Assembly oversight and approval over the amounts of tolls and the location of toll collection sites.
Never before has housing been such an important issue to Rhode Islanders.
Since October, I have been chairing a House commission studying the potential for growing tourism through a coordinated marketing effort. I sponsored the bill creating this commission because I firmly believe Rhode Island needs an ad campaign that effectively conveys our state’s unique identity to tourists. The Assembly agreed, and concurrently appropriated $5 million to the Commerce Corporation to create that campaign.
The mismanagement of this effort has jarred Rhode Island as well as members of our commission.
Approximately every seven seconds, our cell phones ping the nearest tower. Each ping is recorded and, through a simple process, our location information is triangulated, accurate to within ten meters, or about 33 feet for those of us who don’t measure in meters. The telecommunications company that maintains this information can store it indefinitely, and release it whenever and to whomever it pleases — including the police. The information this real-time map of your movements can reveal is virtually unprecedented in its detail, and that is why we have introduced legislation (S-2403, H-7167) to establish limits on law enforcement’s access to it.
Rallying points for RhodeWorks opponents are riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation.
Rhode Island has the least-safe bridges and roads in America—visible to anyone traveling the state. A thriving Rhode Island economy is predicated on investing in infrastructure. That’s how we grow the economy, by creating more taxpayers and not more taxes.
As I walked into the House chamber last Wednesday to vote on the revised RhodeWorks infrastructure funding bill, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu and transported back to November 2011 when I walked into that same chamber to vote on then Treasurer Raimondo’s pension reform proposal. The similarities between the two issues and, the solutions proposed to address them, are striking.
As consumers, we have the power to support these local businesses and buy local so they survive. That is just one of the reasons I introduced legislation to create a sales tax holiday on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 (2016-H 7010).
This year, I’ve submitted legislation (2015-H 7068) that would create a sales tax holiday weekend — similar to the one they have in neighboring Massachusetts. For two days in August, items below $2,500 would be exempt from the state’s 7 percent sales tax.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme
Court’s landmark decision in Roe v Wade ensured that women have the
right to reproductive freedom. This opinion was reaffirmed in 1992 when the
Court ruled that “throughout this century, this Court
also has held that the fundamental right of privacy protects citizens against
governmental intrusion in such intimate family matters as procreation,
childrearing, marriage, and contraceptive choice…and this Court correctly
applied these principles to a woman’s right to choose abortion.”
Globalization has hit Rhode Island hard. Those manufacturing jobs
that allowed my immigrant parents and generations of other Rhode Islanders the
opportunity to raise their families in modest comfort are long gone. It’s not
just manufacturing, either. Our state is touted as the calamari capital of the
world. Yet, walk into any local supermarket today and you will find packages of
frozen calamari from China competing with offerings from Galilee, often at a
lower price. Now, we can sit around and lament the impact that globalization
has had on our local economy or we can personally change this troubling
societal trend by taking a very simple action.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation recently finalized an agreement with the federal government after failing to comply with the Clean Water Act, neglecting its drainage systems and allowing runoff from highways to pour runoff into more than 200 bodies of water in our state for years on end.
The Qualified Jobs Incentive Act makes tax incentives available to companies locating, expanding, and hiring in Rhode Island, with particular emphasis on high-wage employment — jobs that pay well in promising industries.
The people of Rhode Island have never been afraid to take action when they see a problem. We were the first of the original thirteen colonies to declare our independence and were also the first to take military action against England. Now, we must be the first to stand up for our communities of color as they work toward building equity in the housing market.
The United States Department of Transportation ranks Rhode Island last -- 50th out of 50 states -- in bridge quality. Everyone agrees that we have to fix the bridges across RI, approximately 1 in every 5 (20%) of which are structurally deficient. This represents over 150 bridges which require immediate attention. The time to act is now. The problems will get worse if they’re not addressed, and the longer we wait the more costly it becomes.
This week, I reach a personal goal — one 17 years in the
making. On Saturday, I’ll be donating a pint of blood that will bring my total
to 75 gallons. Of all the achievements in my life, I take special pride in
this one, because I know how much it’s needed, and how many people can be
The Quonset Air Museum is in danger of being permanently dismantled if its present home cannot be repaired or if a new location cannot be found.
If our state’s best candidates for public service refuse the opportunity to serve because $100,000 is not a big enough salary, perhaps we are looking at the wrong type of candidate to lead our state agencies.
A piece of Rhode Island’s aviation history may disappear forever. The Quonset Air Museum is in danger of being permanently dismantled if its present home cannot be repaired or if a new location cannot be found.
Speaking as one voice, the General Assembly and governor have given us a budget that takes a step — make that a leap — in the direction of making Rhode Island a good place to do business. Instead of just talking about what we should be doing, we’ve actually done something concrete. And that’s worth taking note.
We need to reorganize and re-energize our efforts to make Rhode Island — not just a city here or a beach there — a destination for tourists and the money they bring with them.
Prescription drug abuse affects every community, economic class, race and age. Simply put, it is not just an inner city problem but a statewide issue. Every year opioids abuse costs Rhode Islanders $108 million in health care costs. In fighting this epidemic, we must look at every available solution.
In response to recent crimes aimed at Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of other faiths, the Rhode Island House of Representatives has passed a resolution I sponsored condemning hate crimes and religious bigotry.
It seems nonsensical to try to attract new businesses to Rhode Island, and then welcome them to the state by handing them a tax bill. And then another bill the next year, and the next. That is why I have again this year introduced legislation that would suspend the imposition of the minimum business corporation tax of $500, for a period of three years from the date a business incorporates with the Secretary of State. The legislation is specifically intended to apply to start-up businesses in the state, as well as new businesses coming to Rhode Island. It is designed to support new companies that may not, in the first few years of operating, have achieved profitability.
If Rhode Island wants to attract new companies to move here, and encourage existing companies to grow here, we must offer solid reasons that our state is an attractive place for business to operate. The fact, albeit unpleasant, is that the cost of doing business in Rhode Island is relatively higher than it is in many other places in the country. Also, we have developed a reputation as a difficult place to do business. Therefore, if we want to be successful at attracting companies here, we need to offer incentives for businesses to invest here.
For all those guests to the waterfront parks that span across the tip of Fox Point, one problem is clear: the towering high-voltage power lines. As we improve our public parks through better maintenance and more programming, we must also include a major improvement that has had broad public and political support for more than a decade: burying the waterfront power lines that diminish the public’s enjoyment of four popular waterfront parks at the head of Narragansett Bay. These wires loom over India Point and Corliss Landing Parks in Providence and dominate views of the water and cityscape from Bold Point Park in East Providence and from the $22 million linear park opening this spring over the Seekonk River.
I feel strongly that "you are what you
eat." Knowing this truism, people across Rhode Island are telling us they want more
information about the food they put in their shopping carts. One of the most spirited issues right now
surrounds genetically modified foods. Are they good for us or bad for us? The
problem is that we really don't know.
As Rhode Island lawmakers take a serious look at reforming our marijuana laws this legislative session, it is crucial that we keep in mind an important fact. Whether you love it or hate it, whether it is legal or illegal, people are going to buy, sell, and consume marijuana. The question is not whether we want marijuana in society or not. The choice we have to make is whether we are going to continue to allow criminals to control the market or if we are going to put marijuana behind the counters of licensed businesses that label their products, sell only to adults, and pay taxes.
It’s time for the legislature to get involved in the problem of campus sexual assault, if for no other reason than to get everybody — lawmakers, colleges, students, parents and the media — to start talking about this problem instead of sweeping it under the carpet.
Apprenticeships work. These programs help to address the unemployment rate by providing effective training programs that teach skills particular to a field as well as “soft skills” such as punctuality, communication and teamwork. They have historically served as a strong pathway to the middle class and a step towards a rewarding career in the trades industries, such as electricians and plumbers.
National Grid has been very clear about the fact that its request is the result of high costs caused by limited gas pipeline capacity, not renewable energy requirements. Our conventional electric power plants run largely on natural gas, and their needs, combined with – and competing with – the demand for natural gas used in residential heating, means the limited capacity of the pipeline is in great demand.
Rhode Island desperately needs to address certain issues if we hope to move our economy forward – issues such as our tax burden, our skilled worker gap, our incentives for attracting and growing business, our infrastructure. Before we rush to action on the RhodeMap RI plan, let’s put together a more comprehensive, thorough action plan that all stakeholders in Rhode Island can buy into.
At first blush, the idea of a Constitutional Convention seems in keeping with the democratic principle of citizen participation in government. In actuality, a Constitutional Convention is an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer dollars and a potential vehicle for special interest groups to accomplish their goals at the expense of all other citizens.
The Rhode Island Medical Technology Innovation Act, which I sponsored in the House of Representatives, was developed to address regulations that presented impediments to providing good health care services to state residents. The new law corrects previous delays in responding to a new business entering Rhode Island and eliminates a major roadblock to firms involved in new, evolving kinds of health care services from coming to Rhode Island. With the adjustments to Rhode Island’s regulations as a result of the new law, our state is positioned to attract these new businesses and the new, good paying jobs they will create.
In the last legislative session, we worked together to pass a number of bills aimed at addressing two challenges: an inability of unemployed to find jobs fitting their skills, and concern that the state's workforce is not prepared for the demands of tomorrow's economy. But we must do more than pass legislation. We must build on and leverage public-private partnerships between academia and business, between government agencies and corporate leaders. And that is why we are 100 percent behind Question 4.
Following a reading of Department of Education Commission Deborah Gist's dissertation, I believe I know why it had been embargoed from public view until recently. To guide her efforts to develop and implement a teacher evaluation system, she embraced a model of good leadership and a theory of adaptive change to inspire confidence. She did not succeed at either.
Following meetings with dozens of business leaders from a
cross section of industries, I submitted legislation this session to reduce the
corporate tax from 9.0 percent to 7.0 percent. By working with Rhode Island
Public Expenditure Council Executive Director John Simmons, the RIPEC staff and
the Senate Fiscal Office, we developed a fair bill aimed at making the state
more competitive. I have made this a focus of my legislative activities for the
past three years.
The House of Representatives last week adopted a state budget which promotes economic development and encourages companies to invest and grow in Rhode Island.With such a great emphasis being placed on improving our state’s economic climate, we also had to make an extremely difficult but necessary budget decision. We included $12.3 million that is due to bond holders for the repayment of the moral obligation bonds in the 38 Studios debacle. As distasteful and maddening as that payment is, our state must not reverse the economic momentum we will achieve with many of our budgetary investments.
One element that contributes to the concentration of wealth in this country is the inordinately high compensation packages that many companies pay their executives. While the success of those firms often relies on paying disproportionately lower wages to the masses who create, sell or otherwise promote the corporation’s products or services, those at the top can pull down tens of millions in a single year, hundreds of times the salary of the vast majority of their employees.
Low wages are not just a business matter. This extreme wage inequality often comes at a cost to the taxpayer, too. Many workers at the bottom of the pay scale are forced to rely on numerous social services – food assistance, subsidized child-care, rent and energy assistance, health care and more – to make ends meet, despite being employed full-time.
To encourage business growth, and to try to reduce our unemployment rate, we have introduced legislation that could be an enormous job creator in Rhode Island. The “Rhode Island New Qualified Jobs Incentive Act” would make tax incentives available to companies that hire new “qualified” full-time employees who work a minimum of 30 hours per week, with a salary that is at least 250 percent of the state’s hourly minimum wage.
In Rhode Island and nationwide, policymakers must shift our focus to what’s good for the middle class. Instead of talking about merely creating jobs, we must demand that jobs pay a living and equitable wage, create pathways to success, and recognize the complexity of balancing a career while managing a family. We need economy-boosting jobs, not economy-busting ones.
I was heartbroken to see so many people waiting in line to file
applications for subsidized housing this past year. We’re approaching a tough
time for baby boomers, who due to the constraints of a poor economy and a dozen
other factors are having trouble competing for jobs in a tech-savvy world. The consequences of such a high demand for subsidized
housing include a growing number of homeless people on our streets. A lot of
different community groups and government entities have attempted to tackle the
homelessness problem in various ways. It is my belief that ending chronic
homelessness begins with a plan, based on a permanent foundation.
For the last few years, there has been some serious debate
over Rhode Island’s
sales tax. It’s a tough decision – do we stay at 7 percent or do we lower it a
little to stay competitive with the border
states? Some people think we should just eliminate it
all together. In order to really get a good grasp on how we should attack the
issue, I think we have to think about why people really cross the border. Is it
to save on sales tax, even if there is only a 75-cent difference? Or is it
about convenience? These are fair questions to ask ourselves.
In the fall of 2011, the General Assemby came together for an unprecedented special session and overwhelmingly enacted major refor5ms to the state's pension fund. The legislation we enacted truly balanced the costs and risks between employees and the state and it protected the fiscal integrity of the retirement system, the state and our municipalities.
Rhode Island's economy has been a bloodied battleground these last few years. In that time, the General Assembly has been working to attack every facet of our economic troubles in various ways. I took office primarily to join this fight against unemployment after seeing the poor and vulnerable people of Woonsocket and Cumberland suffer at the hands of a monstrous depression.
Time is an essential element of long-term, sustained growth, especially in the case of Rhode Isalnd and its low national business competitiveness rankings. But with the enactment of the various "Moving the Needle" bills during the last legislative session, Rhode Island has positioned itself to see real growth in the years ahead.
The 20-member Task Force on Behavioral Health and Firearm Safety, which I co-chair, has been meeting regularly during the General Assembly's off-session. Our collective charge is to review current mental health laws and recommend a comprehensive approach to vehavioral health and gun safety. There is a delicate balance between gun ownership, public safety and mental health.
The General Assembly has worked to build a shared vision for improving the Rhode Island economy and creating jobs. An important part of that effort is removing time-consuming, expensive red tape and regulations that prevent existing businesses from growing, and may discourage potential employers from opening in our beautiful state. As an example of success, consider the economic engine that has emerged at the Quonset Business Park.
Regulatory reform isn't the sexiest topic in state government right now, but for small business owners it's everything. It is my belief that Rhode Island is coming close to achieving tangible progress in streamlining our regulatory processes.
Many have called equal educational opportunities for all students the top civil rights issue of our time. It may also be the top economic issue of our time. At recent Senate economic summits, the economists who offered their various positions were clear and unified about one topic - we need an educated workforce in Rhode Island, to draw industry and jobs. What has been lost in the recent academic rhetoric is that there are different methods for how to reach that objective. No one has a monopoly on the methods and ideas to get there.
The General Assembly continues to recognize the critical impact that small buinsesses possess as powerful economic engines in building culturally vibrant communities for future generations. Within the small business community is the rich and diverse creative sector that encompasses nationally distinguished organizations as well as hidden gens with over 3,000 arts-related businesses that employ more than 13,000 individuals statewide. From galleries to acclaimed performing arts establishments, the creative sector continues to grow and flourish in the Ocean State.
Streetlights may not sound exciting, but the Municipal Streetlight Investment Act, which I championed this legislative session and is now law in Rhode Island, can save our cities and towns about $3 million a year.
My first session in the Rhode Island State Senate is over and the question I am often asked by family and friends is "So, is it what you expected?" I understand why people get frustrated that problems aren't solved faster or decisions don't meet their expectations, but I can confirm the people in the legislature spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it right for Rhode Island.
Rhode Island is not alone in acknowledging its debt to our nation's military veterans. Rhode Island citizens, like citizens around the nation, appreciate the service they have given, the sacrifices they have made. But actions speak louder than words and the General Assembly has acted this session to pass several important pieces of legislation, that have all been enacted into law. These new laws are designed to assist veterans with their reintegration into society, increase their access to educational opportunities and help them obtain essential medical and human service benefits.
We have the utmost respect for Bryant University and know that the Town of Smithfield is pleased to have the school as a resident. But it is not equitable that a property owner exempt from paying what would be about $2 million yearly in property taxes should at the same time receive services that are paid for by all the other residents of the town, both homeowners and businesses. That is why we sponsored legislation (which has become law) that will require the school to reimbuse the town for the actual cost of police, fire and rescue services to the campus.
We have been proud to work together to create a vibrant economic environment in Rhode Island and to encourage job creation by business. Changes we have made in recent years included overhauling the income tax, establishing the new Office of Regulatory Reform and addressing workforce development. With the economy still stagnent and too many Rhode Islanders unemployed, we came into the 2013 session with a renewed sense of urgency to build upon these recent reforms and improve economic development in Rhode Island.
In January the Senate and RIPEC released a joing report, called "Moving the Needle." This report took an unflinching look at where we need to improve, such as the poor quality of our roads and bridges and the state's regulatory climate. In March, a package of 27 bills was submitted based on the recommendations in the report. The legislation addresses issues in the categories examined in the report, including commerce, workforce, education, health, energy, codes and regulations and tax reform. The comprehensive approach we have taken recognizes that varied initiatives will combine to improve our economic competitiveness.
When I introduced legislation to eliminate the Rhode Island sales tax, I indicated that I had one goal in mind -- to start a serious conversation. Will Rhode Island eliminate the sales tax? Likely not. Should Rhode Island have a serious discussion about where we stand and where we should or could be? Absolutely. Doing nothing is doing a disservice to the taxpaying citizens of our state and to the small businesses that are suffering.
Rhode Island's coastal resources rank among its greatest treasures. We are named the "Ocean State" for good reason, as our coastline has shaped our history and culture, and is vital to our state's economy. I have introduced legislation to improve and streamline the state's primary agency responsible for protecting this precious asset, the Coastal Resources Management Council.
More than $1.73 billion of state revenue was given up through tax expenditures in 2009. Many of these expenditures were written decades ago and are in desperate need of review. I have and will continue to propose creating a finance sub-committee to review all existing tax expenditures and make recommendations over time as to whether to maintain, strengthen or repeal the 235 preferences that currently exist.
Have you ever had trouble getting public information from your government? You shouldn't, but it has at times been a problem here in Rhode Island. Legislation pased by the General Assembly and signed by the governor took effect on September 1, making significant improvements to the Access to Public Records Act (more commonly known as the open records law) will fix that.
There is not one simple action that can be taken to improve Rhode Island's economy, some magical financial panacea or a better business climate silver bullet. Yet thanks to actions taken by the State Senate in recent years, Rhode Island is already making the concerted effort and taking the steps necessary to restore prosperity to our state.
In light of last year's release from prison of murderer Michael Woodmansee, it was clear that Rhode Island's system of awarding time off to prisoners for good behavior was too generous to people who had committed very serious crimes. Under legislation I introduced, the only way a serious offender could earn time off his or her sentence would be by actively participating in rehabilitative programs, such as substance abuse or educational programs that teach useful life or career skills.
Businesses large and small are worried. Too many are surviving, but not thriving. East year about this time they get the quote from their health insurance coverage and each year it worries them more. With increases of 15 percent to 22 percent, they simply can't squeeze the additional cash out of their budget anymore. An easy, short term answer to soaring healthcare costs is to reduce the number of mandates.