Hello Neighbor -
This last month has been a sprint to the finish of the legislative session, and there are some big accomplishments to report! This week I have a public Meet & Greet and signature gathering event, Wavemaker Fellowship Tax Credit information, and news on the new DRIVE Electric vehicle rebate program up top, followed by highlights from the budget we just passed and a look ahead to Campaign Season! In future summer and fall newsletters I'll cover some of the bills we passed this past term (and the ones we have to get back to next session!) in more detail. I hope you enjoyed a safe and restful holiday weekend, take care and be well.
Community Programs & Assistance
Meet & Greet & Signature Event Sunday 07/10: This Sunday between 1:00 and 4:00pm, Narragansett residents can come out to 963 Point Judith Road in Narragansett to chat with me and other candidates for Narragansett Town Council and School Committee! We will be collecting signatures to make sure we can get on the ballot, so if you are a registered voter of any affiliation in Narragansett stop by to sign and say hello!
Wavemaker Fellowship OPEN: Every year, talented graduates are faced with the decision of where to start their careers. The Wavemaker Fellowship provides a financial incentive for graduates pursuing a career or starting a business in Rhode Island in technology, engineering, design and other key sectors (now including mental health care professionals!), by defraying student loan payments for up to four years. This application cycle is now open through 08/22/2022, click the link above for more information and to apply. Share with the young professionals in your life!
DRIVE Electric Vehicle Rebate Program: If you are in the market for a new or used car and are considering going electric, Rhode Island has reopened its popular rebate program. Rebates up to $4500 are available on a first come, first served basis for new and used electric and plug in hybrid vehicles with purchase prices under $60,000 ($40,000 used). Many new electric models now have MSRPs equivalent or below gas powered cars, and Rhode Island's charging infrastructure is ramping up to meet demand. The rebate program starts 07/07/2022, complete details can be found here.
1. Smart Investments in Rhode Island - FY 2023 Budget
Years ago, then-Vice President Joe Biden famously said “Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." With that in mind, here are the pieces of the FY2023 budget I worked on and advocated for:
Funding for the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority to conduct a study to develop a comprehensive, statewide plan to meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities and seniors. With this study due back to the General Assembly in January, we can design and implement a plan, leveraging available federal funds to make it a reality.
A pathway for Cottage Food makers to legally start a business from their home with minimal up front costs and barriers. This opportunity for Rhode Island entrepreneurs to start their own business from home and scale up to a commercial kitchen when and if they want to is long overdue, and I am proud of the work I have done for the past two years to bring together people who want to start home food businesses and their advocates, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and partners in the Governor's office and the House of Representatives to reach a consensus on a plan that is both safe and accessible.
Significant Investments in the Port of Davisville in Quonset and the Port of Galilee in Narragansett. The ports in District 36 are huge economic engines for Rhode Island in many sectors. The Port of Davisville is also poised to become a crucial piece in the rapid expansion of offshore wind development that will benefit Rhode Island in the form of both jobs as well as energy generation. The Port of Galilee, home to the largest fishing fleet in Rhode Island and the Block Island Ferry, creates business for dozens of associated industries. Both rely on solid infrastructure to operate and grow, and these investments in our ports will pay off for Rhode Island.
Expanded Access to Child Care Subsidies, Increased Wages for Child Care Workers, and An Accelerated Pathway to Universal Pre-K for 3 and 4 Year Olds. Working families need affordable, high quality child care. Rhode Island's children benefit from a stable system of professional early childhood educators to help them get off to the best possible start in life. Professionals in this sector deserve wages that reflect their expertise and the importance of their work. Our industries from retail to health care need available workers to fill vacancies, but too often the calculation of child care expenses versus wages keeps these professionals out of the work force, not by choice. As the Co-Chair of the Child Care Commission I am proud of the progress we made on all of these fronts with this budget priority.
Inclusion of Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Social Workers in the Wavemaker Fellowship. The Wavemaker Fellowship was created as an incentive to keep needed professionals working right here in Rhode Island, and I successfully advocated to have these essential workers included in the list of professionals eligible for this credit.
Funding to immediately expand residential care for adolescent girls currently in out of state placements, and adequate funding to build an appropriate, dedicated facility here in Rhode Island. This article from my colleagues and I back in December outlined the situation and explains why we have supported using available federal funds to solve this problem, and I am so glad this made it into the final budget.
2. Other Budget Highlights
One thing I have learned these past two years is that legislating is a team sport, and my colleagues worked on and advocated for so many significant investments that I was proud to vote for, such as:
A long overdue comprehensive overhaul of the way we set rates for state contracted human services
Funding the Unemployment Insurance system to relieve the burden COVID-19 put on small businesses with that increased expense
Immediate elimination of the Car Tax and Taxes on Military Pensions
A pilot program that increases the purchasing power of SNAP benefits spent on fresh fruits and vegetables
Fully funding our public libraries
Creation of a Mental Health Court Calendar to address the mental health needs of many people who encounter our criminal justice system
Historic investments in housing development
Addressing the risks to safety and property posed by high-risk dams
A $250 per Child Tax Credit
Increasing the "Circuit Breaker" Tax Credit for low-income seniors
Funding for expanded enforcement for the Department of Environmental Management
For many of these initiatives we have taken important first steps, and I am eager to get back to work next session to continue us on the path of economic recovery and growth!
3. It's Campaign Season! Election 2022
This past week I declared my candidacy for a second term in the Rhode Island Senate, representing the newly-expanded District 36: North Kingstown (the eastern half), all of Narragansett, and New Shoreham (Block Island). If all currently declared candidates get the required signatures to appear on the ballot, I will face a Republican and an Independent challenger in the election on November 8th. I am proud of the work I have done in my first two years in the General Assembly, and I would be honored to have your support to do this work for another term. As a mental health care provider and a working mom of three school aged children, my voice is a unique one in our state government. I have been an effective champion for expanded health care access, protecting our environment, and making Rhode Island a place for working families, professionals, and seniors to live and thrive. I work hard at this job and dedicate my time to continually listening and learning to community experts and advocates so I can best represent our community. I have built successful working relationships within the General Assembly and have a proven record of getting things done for our community and all of Rhode Island. I look forward to speaking with more of you at your door or at an event this summer and fall to learn about how I can best represent our community at the State House!