10 Fast Facts About Being a State Senator
Hello Neighbor -
It has been a too-dry July for our area, anyone else hoping for rain soon?
This week I have information about the upcoming Duffle Bag Bash to benefit youth in foster care, plus how to submit public comment on short-term rental regulations and a new heat pump incentive program up top, followed by a peek into what it's like to be a State Senator.
I hope you have been able to take the time to enjoy some of the public parks, shore access points, summer concert series, art festivals, and other fun events we have had in District 36 these past few weeks!
Stay safe and stay cool,
Community Programs & Assistance Duffle Bag Bash 08/07: Join me in supporting the 7th Annual Duffle Bag Bash for youth in foster care! Sunday, August 7th 12 to 3pm, Matunuck Community Association. Always a ton of fun! In exchange for your donation of a rolling duffle, suitcase or a gift card for a foster child, you will enjoy an afternoon that includes great food, games, music, touch a truck, face painting, therapy dogs and more.
Registration is free, but please sign up on Eventbrite so they have an idea of how much food they will need! https://DuffleBagBash.eventbrite.com Public Comment on Short Term Rental Regulations is OPEN: Last year the General Assembly passed a bill requiring that short term rentals (e.g. AirBnBs, etc.) be registered with the Department of Business Regulation. DBR is now developing the specifics of that process, and is accepting public comment before they finalize the rules. Many people in D36 have been interested in this legislation so I wanted to share this information:
"Please be advised that the Department of Business Regulation has proposed to adopt a new regulation entitled, Short-Term Rental Property Registration, 230-RICR-30-20-4. Written comments on the proposed adoption should be submitted no later than August 27, 2022, by clicking on the “Comments” tab on the Secretary of State’s Website or by email to DBR.REInquiry@dbr.ri.gov."
The proposed regulation and notice of proposed rulemaking can be accessed by the links above.
High-Efficiency Heat Pump Program - Public Comment OPEN: Many homeowners (like me!) are choosing to install high-efficiency heat pumps in their homes for an energy and cost efficient way to heat and cool their homes. This year we funded an incentive program to help Rhode Islanders who are looking to make this switch. The Office of Energy Resources (OER) has the drafted $25 million High-Efficiency Heat Pump Program design for a 30-day stakeholder comment period. Here is the link if you'd like to give input on how this program will be implemented: https://energy.ri.gov/heating-cooling/high-efficiency-heat-pump-program
What's It Like Being a State Senator? 10 Fast Facts From My First Term
I've gotten this question a lot over the past two years, and as I pause to reflect on my first term and recommit to this job by running again, it's a good time to share some thoughts. There is an important element of transparency here too, because it's important that people understand how our state government is structured. So, a few facts that you might or might not know:
We have a "part-time" legislature in RI, meaning we are only in session January to June, with hearings and sessions Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons and evenings. And sometimes Mondays. And Fridays last year. And we also meet informally in the "off" season to work on things like the Universal Pre-K package, budget proposals, and other timely issues. Also, we regularly meet with town councils and school committees and other departments and organizations in our districts. I have kept rough track and I spend on average about 25-30 hours a week on Senate related work, some weeks much more.
The salary for a State Senator is $16,000/year, which means I need a separate job. Fortunately I own my own therapy practice and can set my own hours to a certain extent, but surprise changes in the Senate schedule don't always work well with pre-scheduled client appointments. That said, I never missed a committee or floor session or a vote in my first term.
We don't have any type of budget to use for constituent communications, maintaining a website, sending newsletters, etc. That's all from campaign funds and my own "free" time. Candidates running for office don't get paid for their time campaigning either, so keep that in mind when one knocks on your door this summer or fall. I answer all my own calls, and read and send all of my own emails (sometimes during session I received a few hundred a day!)
There are amazing national organizations for legislators to learn from each other on policy issues and best practices from states across the country, I make use of these resources a lot.
So many of the good things we do are the result of close work with community advocates and experts on different issues, and a lot of my Senate work time is spent consulting with them to help draft, amend, and advocate for passage of bills.
We have a fantastic Constituent Services department at the State House that helps us connect constituents with the services they need, usually things like navigating issues with different state departments or finding resources.
We also have a knowledgeable and helpful policy staff that helps us pull together our ideas into workable legislation that addresses a problem we are trying to solve.
There have been over 1000 bills introduced in the Senate each of the last two years. This means 1000 bills have been drafted and introduced, assigned to and then heard in committee for consideration. This year in Health & Human Services we heard 121 bills, in Environment & Agriculture we heard 52.
Legislating is definitely a team sport. While I have focused on policies related to health care, early childhood, environmental resiliency, and transportation, I have colleagues who have focused on housing, economic development, education, and other key areas. Our General Assembly benefits from having people from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise to bring ideas and solutions on a broad range of issues.
I'll share more thoughts in future issues, but if you have something you'd like to know about how this job works, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to answer it!
Photo of the Week
I was invited to be a part of a statewide working group facilitated by national experts to address inequities in our juvenile justice system, meeting through this summer and fall (and for as long as it takes to develop and implement plans to meet our goals). Before starting in private practice, I was the director of an intensive, home-based intervention program for court-involved youth and their families. I bring from that experience a strong belief in the importance of early intervention and diversion - equitably applied - to my work as a legislator, and policies related to juvenile justice system reform are on my list for next term. Grateful for the chance to learn from both the expert community partners in the group as well as our professional facilitators!