Somehow, it is still January! I have some items of interest up top for people who care about public transit, soccer fans, and local cultural heritage and historical organizations, followed by a recap of the Rt. 4 traffic issues presentation. Then a review of what's been in my inbox from constituents and an overview of what the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) has been working on. Plus: supporting our pharmacist workforce to stregnthen health care delivery in Rhode Island!
Thanks for reading,
Local News & Updates
Storm Damage: If you have a home or business that was damaged by the recent storms, please follow this link to the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) and fill out a Damage Assessment Form for the appropriate storm event. The September storm event has just qualified for federal assistance, completing a Damage Assessment Form helps the State determine if they will seek Federal assistance for these recent events.
RIPTA is holding statewide public hearings on proposed service changes that would reduce public transit access in our area. At a time when we should be increasing the reach of our public transit for workforce as well as environmental concerns, this would bring us in the wrong direction. Please attend a meeting and advocate if you are able.
On a fun note, the Rhode island FC has announced its kickoff times for the 2024 USL Championship season. The 34-match schedule is highlighted by 17 home matches at Beirne Stadium on the campus of Bryant University. My kids are excited for a new Rhode Island team to root for!
Thanks to an allocation from the State of Rhode Island, RI Humanities is excited to announce the THRIVE general operating support grantmaking program. THRIVE provides funding for small cultural heritage organizations and local historical and preservation societies that support and strengthen Rhode Island’s many diverse, dynamic communities.The THRIVE program will offer 18 general operating support grants of $5,000 each to eligible organizations, follow the link to see if your organization qualifies and to apply.
Getting In Touch:
Phone: 401-626-2405 is my direct number. Please leave your name and best contact number as well as the nature of your question or request.
Note that at this time in the session, I receive a large volume of emails and phone calls daily. I do my best to respond in a timely manner, however in addition to my work in the Senate I am also still a practicing therapist and a mom of three busy children. Therefore, there may be a delay in my responses to non-urgent inquiries. Thank you for your understanding!
1. Addressing Route 4 Traffic Issues
On January 22, the North Kingstown Town Council invited the state delegation - Senator Valverde, Rep. Craven, Rep. Casimiro, and myself - to hear North Kingstown's priorities for this year. In addition, there was a presentation on the RIDOT study of Route 4 traffic issues that we had advocated for, and the resulting proposed solutions. To recap, the proposal would eliminate the lights at Oak Hill, West Allenton, and Tower Hill Road making those right turn only in and out, and would add jughandles for traffic changing directions - similar to further down on Rt. 1 in South Kingstown. (Video of the meeting is linked.) There were significant concerns raised from the public safety standpoint as well as robust public comment that flagged issues for cross-town bicycle riders among other issues. There is consensus that in the short-term adding right turn only lanes at West Allenton and Oak Hill could help, and further discussions between town officials and RIDOT will continue. In other Rt. 4 news, this week the federal delegation brought the news that the "Missing Move" will be missing no longer, and these new interchanges will alleviate some traffic on Rt. 4 as well.
2. What's In My Inbox?
Even though it is early in the session, constituents have been reaching out with their thoughts about proposed legislation and other concerns. Here is a sample of what's been in my inbox and my position on these issues:
Healthy School Meals for All - Many constituents have reached out to express their support for universal free school meals, and I agree with them! I was happy to cosponsor this legislation again this year.
Changing the CRMC - While I was supportive of the improvements we accomplished last year by appointing a Hearing Officer, making the Director a Governor-appointed position subject to advice and consent from the Senate, and filling two seats on the Council with qualified appointees, I agree that more changes are needed to ensure the CRMC is structured and resourced appropriately to carry out its important work. I expect a bill to be introduced shortly proposing more changes, stay tuned.
Restoring COLAs/Pension Issues - I fully support relief for people who have been negatively impacted for so long by the pension changes. The Pension Advisory Commission is in progress and a report is due March 1st. I expect there to be a bill that provides relief, and I will support giving the maximum relief and COLA restoration possible.
3. Highlighting the Work of the EC4
As we start considering legislation in the Environment & Agriculture Committee to address climate change and its impacts in Rhode Island, it's helpful to understand the current state of climate change work in Rhode Island. It's also important as we consider budget allocations for this year to make investments that will be effective in helping us reach the goals outlined in the Act on Climate. To this end, the E & A Committee joined with Chairman DiPalma and the Finance Committee to hear an update on the work of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) To view the presentation and discussion, click here. Well worth the watch if you are interested in what Rhode Island is doing about climate change.Our major takeaways: The EC4 is on track to complete the 2025 Climate Action Strategy, which will more finely tune the action steps Rhode Island needs to meet the greenhouse gas reduction mandates by the specified targets. To help accomplish these goals, the state is maximizing federal funding for programs to address greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including transportation and building emissions. In addition, resiliency efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change are underway. I look forward to working with my colleagues this session to ensure funding for the work of the EC4, facilitate their work via related legislation, and publicize information about incentive programs available for people, businesses, and municipalities.
Photo of the Week
I am grateful to the Rhode Island Society of Health-System Pharmacists for the honor of receiving their Friend of Pharmacy Award for 2023! The best legislative solutions are informed by the people closest to the problem, and it was a pleasure to work with RI Pharmacists Association last year to pass a licensure restructuring bill that streamlines pharmacist licensure and keeps more money in the pockets of workers here in Rhode Island each year. Pharmacists play an increasingly key role in our health care delivery system, and we need policy changes like this to help develop and retain this workforce here in Rhode Island.