The way our state legislature chooses its leadership is broken. Legislators may technically be free to vote according to their principles, but in reality the existing club of upper leadership wields the demonstrated threat of stonewalling any legislator who doesn’t vote for their chosen candidate. The current process is an undemocratic display of passing unchecked and unchallenged power from one elite politician to the next. This hurts our state by eliminating new ideas, new solutions, and new voices from the political process. The current system especially marginalizes women; Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color; queer and trans people; and working class Rhode Islanders.
Over the past year, presumptive Speaker Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio have failed to lead our state through a historic pandemic in which we’ve seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Both have continually prioritized handouts for wealthy donors and corporate lobbyists instead of the people of this state. Their refusal to support a living minimum wage, expand healthcare access, and address climate justice before the pandemic left Rhode Islanders, particularly communities of color, extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.
In fact, Representative Shekarchi has spent the last year profiting off the eviction of his own constituents during a pandemic.
Meanwhile, Senate President Ruggerio refused to convene the Senate for most of 2020, denying Rhode Islanders desperately needed pandemic relief.
Sunrise RI supports and thanks the Senators and Representatives who have committed to abstain from the leadership vote in order to stand by their principles and commitments to their constituents.
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Sunrise RI calls on all Senators and Representatives to abstain from the undemocratic vote for House and Senate leadership. We call on them to find courage and build political leadership that represents and will work for the common good of all Rhode Islanders, not special interests and corporate lobbyists. We know that the people of Rhode Island deserve more.