Getting to Know Block Island, Protecting Choice, & the First Wind Farm Turns 5!
Hello Neighbor -
It's officially fall! The start of autumn is always one of my favorite days of the year since it also happens to be my birthday. I head into my 44th year especially grateful for the chance to serve our community in this role, and for how much I have learned in the past two years working alongside so many passionate public servants and advocates and hearing from constituents like you. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me about the issues you care about, every email and phone call and meeting helps me be a better voice for our community in the State Senate.
This week I have information about an upcoming Meet & Greet, the Federal Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program, and how to submit Public Comments on the proposed Cottage Food regulations up top, followed by a recap of my trip out to Block Island, where I stand on reproductive choice, and the first offshore wind farm turns 5!
As the November election draws closer, I look forward to hearing from you about the issues that are most important to you right now, and sharing my thoughts for solutions to some of the problems I see facing our community. As always, please reach out at any time to make sure we connect! Take care,
Community Programs & Assistance Upcoming Narragansett Public Meet & Greets: If you want to discuss the issues on your mind and you're worried I might not catch you at your door, come meet up with me and other town candidates! Sunday 09/25: Sprague Park in Narragansett from 1-3 Swing by, say hello, get your questions answered, and pick up a yard sign! Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Under temporary changes made by the Biden-Harris Administration to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, it’s easier than ever for public servants – including veterans and servicemembers – to get loan forgiveness.
Apply by October 31. Visit http://PSLF.gov. Cottage Food Regulations - Public Comment OPEN: This past session we created a pathway for home food makers to legally make and sell shelf-stable foods if they follow regulations set by the Rhode Island Department of Health. We were the last state to create this opportunity for people to start a home food business with few cost or other barriers. The advocates accomplished so much in shaping these regulations, and I was proud to work with my colleagues in government to ensure we got this right and got it done this year. Currently the Department of Health has proposed regulations and they are open for public comment before they are finalized. If you are a home/cottage food producer and would like to look at the regulations and give feedback, the link is here:
I am so excited for this to be finalized and for this new, accessible entry point to creating a small business to go into effect!
1. 36 Hours on Block Island Due to redistricting following the 2020 Census, Senate District 36 will include a whole new town, New Shoreham! Though I have visited many times over the years, this change has given me the opportunity to see Block Island through new eyes. I have met with a variety of groups representing the interests of seniors, health care, public safety, environmental concerns, and town government. I have prioritized maintaining good communication and relationships with town officials in Narragansett and North Kingstown in my first term, and it has been so helpful to have the opportunity to understand the needs and priorities of New Shoreham as well. Senator Sosnowski has represented Block Island for many years, and I am grateful for her support and guidance in this transition. I spent a day touring some of the conservation lands on the island and learning about some of the research on marine life that is giving insights into the effects of climate change and other human activities on ecosystems. I also had the chance to cheer on the runners and walkers for the Run Around the Block fundraiser, and to meet with the Committee for the Great Salt Pond and the Sea Level Rise Committee. From my discussions with residents and different town officials I have come away with the understanding that Block Island is facing many of the same struggles as Narragansett and North Kingstown when it comes to balancing tourism and year round resident needs, affordable housing, climate change effects, public safety, and health care access - just magnified due to the uniqueness of its geography. I am looking forward to continuing to work with the community to represent them effectively at the State House!
2. Reproductive Choice With the overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court, state level protections for reproductive health care are more important than ever. Though we codified these protections into state law in 2019, I have understandably been getting many questions about whether I support reproductive choice. My unequivocal answer? Yes. Will I work to protect access to abortion care for all Rhode Islanders? Yes. Will I work to protect access to contraception for all Rhode Islanders? Yes.
3. The First Five Turns 5! Rising energy costs are on my mind, along with the rest of our region. Our heavy reliance on natural gas to power our grid means we will all be paying more this winter for our electricity. For the sake of our household budgets and our environment, the need to transition to renewable energy sources is more critical than ever.
This week, the Block Island Wind Farm turned 5! I had the chance to visit the first-in-the-field wind farm this week and reflect on what has happened since the 5 turbines came online in 2017. Takeaways?
A million gallons a year of diesel *haven't* been burned
Commercial and recreational fishing hasn't been significantly impacted
The turbines have created artificial reefs that have resulted in an increase in some fish species
Block island residents have had steady energy costs and reliable power, and won't be paying more this winter
It was amazing to see this example of Rhode Island's innovation and leadership up close, and to hear about the lessons learned from this pioneering project that will be incorporated into the planned offshore wind developments launching from Quonset and other ports in the coming years.
Photo of the Week
In addition to the trip to the wind farm this week I also attended a forum from ISO New England's Consumer Liaison on our current energy grid and ways we can work to protect consumers as well as the environment. I will be attending another ISO conference in October to better understand how those of us in state government can assist in a fair transition to renewable energy while maintaining a reliable energy grid.