“I commend the House of Representatives for sending a clear message today that we as a state will not cower in the face of threats at the national level and that Rhode Island will stand strong in protecting women’s access to critical reproductive services.”– Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence)
Welcome to The Uprising! One day late and maybe one dollar short too.
1a. Reproductive Rights
A week ago the prospect protecting a woman’s right to abortion by codifying Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law seemed as remote as ever. Then, suddenly, it all started to shift. The reworked Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA) from Representative Anastasia Williams(Democrat, District 9, Providence) gained the support of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island and The Womxn Project last Friday.
When the RPA was first introduced, it seemed like a lesser cousin to the established, often submitted Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) from Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence). But after being amended, Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) amended the Senate version of the RHCA to match the language of the RPA.
On Tuesday the House Judiciary Committee passed the RPA onto the House floor on a 9-7 vote. On that same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the newly amended RHCA in marathon session that lasted until 6am. On Thursday, the full House voted on the RPA, passing the legislation on a 44-30 vote.
Advocates for reproductive rights are not finished yet. As of now the Senate RHCA is not scheduled for a vote in Senate Judiciary. After the bill is voted on it will proceed to the Senate floor, where amendments might throw the bill out of whack with its sister legislation in the House. If that happens the House will have to vote on an amended version of the bill before the legislation reaches the desk of Governor Gina Raimondo. So the strategy for proponents is to try to get the bill through the Senate unscathed, because the entire point of the bill is protect access to safe legal abortion in the event that Roe v Wade is undone by a Trump appointee filled United States Supreme Court.
1b. Peter Neronha
One person who played a pivotal role in defending abortion rights in Rhode Island last week is newly elected Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha. He played a key role in refuting some of the misinformation being advanced by opponents of the legislation to codify Roe v Wade in the General Assembly and he also entered the arena in the national fight to preserve Title X spending for planned Parenthood and other health clinics that provide a wide range of women’s health services, including abortion.
When House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) maintained that the Reproductive Privacy Act due to the fact that it removes the so-called “quick child statute,” would not allow the Attorney General enough latitude to fully prosecute a defendant who assaulted a woman with the goal of inducing an unwanted abortion, Representative Robert Craven (Democrat, District 32, North Kingstown) reached out to Neronha to get an expert opinion. Neronha responded that h fully supported the legislation as written. Neronha also wrote:
“The repeal of the Quick Child Statute will not impede this Office’s ability to prosecute crimes against pregnant women. In fact, based on our review, the Attorney General’s office has not charged a defendant under this statute in at least 20 years, ad, due to significant concerns about its constitutionality, would be hesitant to do so in the future. Furthermore, in my judgment, this Office has other sufficient prosecutorial tools at its disposal to protect pregnant women.”
On Tuesday, Neronha also joined a coalition of 21 State Attorneys General in filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new rule Title X “Gag Rule” that will significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families.
Title X is the only federal grant program that funds family planning programs to help patients access contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.
The lawsuit alleges that the Title X rule, if implemented, would reduce access and erode the quality of reproductive health care that Title X was originally intended to provide care for low income individuals. The new rule would also interfere with the health care provider and patient relationship, by limiting what a doctor can say to a patient.
1c. John Lyle Jr
“I am announcing today that I proudly support the amended version of Chairwoman Anastasia Williams’ Reproductive Privacy Act (H 5125 Sub A),” writes Representative John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln). “This vital legislation achieves an important yet modest goal – preserving the current legal framework protecting the right to safe, legal abortion as it exists today under Roe v Wade, subsequent Supreme Court decisions, and Rhode Island law.”
Lyle was the only Republican in the House to vote for the RPA.
“As a Republican, I believe in the values of individual autonomy and freedom. The rhetoric from leaders of the Rhode Island Republican Party, including Chairman Brandon Bell and former Governor Donald Carcieri, is unacceptable. Building on the false assertions of organizations opposed to safe, legal abortion, too many of my fellow Republicans are making empty claims that these bills go beyond the current parameters of safe, legal abortion in a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion through fear-mongering and dishonesty.”
1d. Blake Filippi
Representative Blake Filippi is not pro-choice. He made that very clear when he called me a liar on Twitter for writing, back in August 2018, that he and then Senator Paul Jabour had both told me that their inclusion on Rhode Island Right to Life‘s 2018 endorsement list was in error. Somehow, I must have misunderstood our conversation.
2a. June Speakman
The new Representative for District 68 (Bristol, Warren) is Democrat June Speakman. Speakman took 40 percent of the vote in a four-way special election on Tuesday, easily brushing aside the three men in the race, two Independents and one Libertarian. Speakman, who is pro-choice, missed her chance to vote on the Reproductive Privacy Act on Thursday, since she will be sworn in next Wednesday.
2b. Kenneth Marshall
Representative Ken Marshall‘s last vote in the House was against the Reproductive Privacy Act. It was Marshall’s last day at the Representative from District 68 (Bristol, Warren). His replacement, June Speakman, who beat Marshall in the special election, is avowedly pro-choice. Had the vote been delayed a week then Speakman would have made the vote 45-29, all other things being equal.
Marshall’s vote reminded me of the doomed Captain Ahab, tangled in netting and harpooning Moby Dick even as he vanishes beneath the waves of the ocean…
“…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee…”
Here’s Marshall saying his goodbyes at the end of session on Thursday:
3. Solemnization of Marriage
On Tuesday four Representatives, Samuel Azzinaro (Democrat, District 37, Westerly), Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence), Robert Phillips (Democrat, District 51, Woonsocket) and Sherry Roberts (Republican, District 29, Coventry) voted against a routine solemnization of marriage bill on the House floor because two women wanted to be married in Rhode Island.
Marriage Equality has been legal in Rhode Island since before the United States Supreme Court made it the law of the nation.
Rhode Island’s archaic process of issuing solemnizations of marriage through a legislative process is in serious need of reform, since the legislature continues to treat same-sex marriages as separate but equal, and gives bigoted, homophobic legislators the option of voting against marriages they disapprove of. In Massachusetts, if you want to perform a marriage, all you need to do is apply online on the Secretary of State’s website and pay a small fee.
In testimony on a bill to reform the process this year, Ange Strom-Weber explained why she would not seek legislative approval for her wedding. “One reason is that the current practice of separating the gay solemnizations from the straight ones is degrading, and like any bride in the world I just want my wedding to be perfect, not separate but equal, because separate is never really equal.”
4a. Women’s Economic Justice platform
The Women’s Economic Justice platform, includes raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023, guaranteeing fair pay for all workers, protecting Rhode Islanders from sexual harassment, ensuring access to affordable childcare, and improving paid family leave policies. It was introduced in the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Andy Boardman suggests in an oped that House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) might want to show as much concern for low-income Rhode Islanders as he does for “small” businesses that might be hurt by President Donald Trump‘s so-called tax cuts.
Shekarchi introduced legislation that counteracts a recent federal tax change included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) which limits the amount of state and local taxes (SALT) that can be deducted from one’s federal liability.
While quick to intervene when the profits of businesses and pass-through corporate real estate holdings are threatened, Shekarchi has yet to act on legislation that may help low-income Rhode Islanders adversely affected by Trump’s erosion of the value of Earned income Tax Credits.
“As state lawmakers introduce legislation responding to the TCJA, they should not forget about low-income Rhode Islanders,” writes Boardman. “By raising the EITC, lawmakers can counteract one of the most pernicious parts of the Trump tax law.”
5a. Mario Monteiro
“Over 17 and a half years ago, at the age of 17, I made a regrettable decision that resulted in the death of Rom Peov. Although it was not my intent to cause a loss of life, nor could my 17 year old self comprehend the ramifications of my decisions, I however take full responsibility for my actions and will forever be remorseful and sorry. The reality is that there is no amount of apology or deeds that can atone for my actions.”
Monteiro is one of a handful of people at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) in Rhode Island who was sentenced to life without possibility of parole as a juvenile. House Bill 5333, introduced by Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) seeks to provide the opportunity for parole to juveniles sentenced to life in prison. The act “would provide that prisoners who committed offenses prior to age 18 and were sentenced as adults would be eligible for parole after completing 15 years of their sentence. This act would not lengthen their parole eligibility should the prisoner be eligible for parole earlier than 15 years.”
Monteiro’s testimony was read by his cousin, 17 year old Anastasia Patterson.
I also testified on the bill:
5b. Solitary Confinement
The Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) has held four men for over ten days in solitary confinement at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) for allegedly possessing union literature, according to a statement released by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).
The ACI never responded to my request for comment.
6a. Green New Deal
Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence) and Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) are introducing resolutions to solicit a report from the Rhode Island Green New Deal Research Council (RI GNDRC) “in order to inform smart, local policies that position Rhode Island for success in the face of climate change and a shifting economy.
The RI GNDRC is a collaboration of researchers, civic leaders, and community organizations exploring Green New Deal-related frameworks that meet Rhode Island’s conditions and needs through community engagement and research. Think of it as developing a state version of the Green New Deal, which is focused nationally.
“I see how pollution has disproportionately affected people of color in this community,” said Dunya, a student at Lincoln School in Providence, speaking in support of the resolutions. “The LNG facility being built on the South Side of Providence is completely unacceptable, and tells us that enough is enough.”
Invenergy wants to build a $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant among the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island. To do so, they will need copious amounts of water, and that has been a problem for the company. Invenergy has publicly acknowledged the water deals it has with the City of Fall River in Massachusetts and the Town of Johnston in Rhode Island, but five other water sources that the company is contracted to draw upon are redacted.
Two of those water sources have now been tentatively identified. Since Invenergy has contracted with Benn Water and Sons to haul water to their proposed power plant, it was relatively easy to determine that both Newport Water Division and Suez Water in South County are likely candidates. Both have contracts with Benn Water.
The primary source of water for Invenergy’s project is Johnston, which plans to resell water it obtains from Providence Water. If that deal is ruled illegal by Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein then Newport and South Kingstown could be on the hook for all the water Invenergy needs. It is estimated that Invenergy will use between 15 and 60 million gallons per year.
6c. Nature’s Trust
Nature’s Trust Rhode Island has filed a request for documents to compel the State of Rhode Island to publish, for public comment action, proposed regulations to directly control the emission of greenhouse gases. These documents must be produced by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to make clear what the basis was for its denial in October of the petition filed with the department in September. In addition, the organization filed two documents with questions to be answered by DEM. This process, known as discovery, is a key step in most civil litigation. It is designed to narrow down, where possible, the differences between the parties. The requests require responses in either 30 or 40 days, consistent with the rules for such litigation.
The hearings on Invenergy‘s proposed power plant resume at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) on March 12. The dates following will be March 13, 20, 21, 26 and 28 and April 2, 11, 12 and 23.
Jerry Elmer, Senior Attorney at Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), writes:
“Here is what we are expecting after the Final Hearing is concluded. First, the parties will be given time to prepare and file Post-Hearing Memoranda with the EFSB. These will be instead of closing arguments. This may take four to six weeks. After that, the EFSB will hold several “Open Meetings” at which they will discuss the case. At the Open Meetings, there are no witnesses, and the lawyers don’t talk. The EFSB members discuss the case amongst themselves. As the name implies, these sessions are open to the public and the press. Then the EFSB will vote on whether to grant or deny a building permit to Invenergy. As you know, at this stage of the proceeding, I am cautiously optimistic that the EFSB will deny the permit. After that vote is taken, the EFSB staff still needs to produce a written Order reflecting the decision. This can easily take a month or two, since the Order must address all of the issues in the case: need, ratepayer impacts, environmental impacts, traffic issues, noise, light pollution, and so forth. It is the Order – not the EFSB vote – that triggers to appeal period for the losing side. The foregoing schedule suggests that briefs may be due in late May, Open Meetings may occur in June, and the final Order may come out between July 4 and Labor Day – but note that all of these times are approximate!
“The losing side has a right to appeal, and that appeal goes directly to the Rhode Island Supreme Court,” continued Emer. “As I have said before, the legal standard applied by the Court is very deferential to the EFSB, and appeals of this kind are rarely successful.”
7. Fatima Hospital
Members of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5110 at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital overwhlemingly voted on Tuesday to authorize its’ bargaining team to issue a 10-day strike notice to the hospital, if necessary.
On Wednesday UNAP members staged an informational picket in the freezing cold to express their concerns.
8a. Bill Kristol
Bill Kristol, former editor of the neoconservative journal The Weekly Standard and chairman of the right-wing think tank Project for a New American Century, was, say organizers of a protest against him at Brown University on Thursday, “an unrepentant proponent of the Iraq War.”
8b. Cornel West
On Thursday, February 28th, Rhode Island College (RIC) played host to Dr Cornel West to close out their Black History Month events. Lauren Nidel was there.
An oped from No Endless War and Excessive Militarism says that “we cannot bomb our way to peace.” The group protested outside the office of United States Representative James Langevin (Democrat, Rhode Island) on Friday.
9. College Hill Independent
- A Lawyer on Broad Street: Providence lawyer José Batista takes on police oversight by Lucas Smolcic Larson.
- “To Hell with the Stadium” : Can building trades and the left find common ground? by Harry August and Michael Shorris
On the cusp of the decision by the Raimondo administration whether or not to renew the contract with Deloitte, which built the faulty UHIP system, ConvergenceRI provides a historical context to what happened, framing the decision.
11. Pie-Corner Talks
In episode 4, Candid Conversation with an Awesome Doc, your Master Baker, Jennifer Rourke talks with Dr Beata Nelken on the work she is doing in the State at a clinic in Central Falls, RI and the ongoing issues with state reproductive limitations.
12. Picture of the Week:
13. UpriseRI Fundraiser
There will be a fundraiser for UpriseRI at the The Parlour, 1119 N Main St, Providence, Rhode Island 02904 on Monday, March 18 from 6-9pm.
UpriseRI is 100 percent funded by people who like the news I work so hard to bring you. The Parlour is a fun place with great food, cold drinks and good company. There will be music and a giveaway or two as well. I’ll give a little speech, and I’ll be mighty grateful if you can come by.
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