The General Assembly began its 2020 session this week, and will conclude business in time for the election season. It’s going to be a big year, and UpriseRI will be covering as much as possible, from our unique perspective. Let’s break it down:
1. The Washington Park community wonders: How can we prevent a new business from further destroying our children’s health?
Local politicians, academics and community members gathered in the Washington Park Community Center on Wednesday evening in opposition to a new transfer station proposed for the corner of Allens Avenue and Thurbers Avenue in the Port of Providence. Applications are in with the Providence City Planning Commission and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for the new business, which will bring an estimated 188 diesel trucks in and out of the area every day, and is expected to bring large quantities of dust and exhaust to an area that is already the epicenter of asthma in Rhode Island…
“Air and traffic pollution in and around Allens Avenue and the Port of Providence is out of control,” said Linda Perri, President of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association. “Increased truck traffic has grown exponentially to create a very serious health and structural safety issue that needs to be addressed immediately. This issue, as well as other pending projects here, overwhelm the Washington Park residents and the city as a whole.”
The 2020 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly began with a visit from religious leaders representing a range of faiths taking over the State House rotunda to announce their legislative priorities as part of the 12th Annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil. Governor Gina Raimondo and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) addressed the assembled faith leaders. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) declined to speak at the event.
“We come because we share a passionate concern for those entrapped and oppressed by poverty in our state,” said keynote speaker Reverend Tom Wiles. “These are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations and parishes. Many of them are personal friends and some are family. Sadly, most of them remain nameless and faceless in a society that both devalues and ignores them… We are here to call for justice; economic justice and yes, legislative justice.”
3. The Womxn Project holds panel on state funded healthcare prohibitions against paying for abortion services
On Tuesday evening The Womxn Project presented a panel in the State House library about how, despite last year’s passing of the Reproductive Privacy Act, which codified the protection of Roe v Wade into state law, many Rhode Islanders are still denied abortion services though their state healthcare plans. This state ban on abortion coverage forces both state employees and state Medicaid recipients to pay for abortion services out of pocket, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant woman.
“The fact that state employees don’t have abortion coverage is actually a relatively well kept secret,” said Rhode Island College professor Mikaila Arthur. “Many of my colleagues don’t know that they don’t have abortion coverage until somebody tells them or until they, or a family member, needs abortion care.”
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission had a discussion towards the very end of their meeting this week under the agenda item “New Business.” The discussion was initiated by commission member Dr Robert Salk, who made the surprise suggestion that the Ethics Commission be less transparent and not announce the complaints the commission is acting on until after the commission has completed an investigation.
“I just can’t say strongly enough how much of a reversal it would be viewed as for us to suddenly take a complaint process, which, when the ethics commission began in 1986, was a secret process,” said Rhode Island Ethics Commission Executive Director/Chief Prosecutor Jason Gramitt. “There were court cases over this. We went to federal court over this. There were hearings and workshops. In the early nineties, the commission reversed course, opened up the complaint process, and it’s been open since then. To bring it back to the late eighties situation of transparency – honestly, I think it would be impossible to do and…“
4b. Ed Fitzpatrick picked up the story for the Boston Globe
- R.I. Ethics Commission, known for transparency, talks about keeping complaints secret until investigations done
5. Reversing course, Senator Whitehouse now believes it is proper to involve himself in rule of law proceedings
Now that the Rhode Island Energy Facilities Siting Board has rejected Invenergy’s application, Whitehouse has seemingly changed his position on the wrongness of interfering in “a rule of law proceeding like a trial, in which you have lawyers and evidence and appeal to courts.”
On Friday Whitehouse released a press release announcing a friend-of-the-court brief he filed with Senators Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) and Ed Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts) in Rhode Island v Shell Oil Products Company, “a case brought by the state of Rhode Island seeking to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for costs associated with climate change.”
“I have a very strong belief that when something is subject to a rule of law proceeding like a trial, in which you have lawyers and evidence and appeal to courts, that that’s not a really good place for political pressure to be brought to bear,” said Senator Whitehouse about why he wouldn’t involve himself in the fight against Invenergy’s proposed power plant.
Here in Rhode Island, groups such as Brown War Watch, Providence Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay Citizens for Peace, Rhode Island Anti-War Committee and No Endless War or Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) came together for a rally outside the Rhode Island State House. About 150 people gathered in the cold drizzle to rally against the looming war.
“We’re here because we are very concerned about the escalation of Trump’s war with Iran with the assassination of one of the top Iranian leaders,” said Jonathan Daly-Labelle from NEWEM. “We want to build pressure and awareness on this to keep us away from another disastrous war in the Middle East.”
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea today announced several initiatives in celebration and remembrance of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined a woman’s right to vote into law, including a collaboration between her office and the Rhode Island Council of Humanities around the 19th Amendment, XIX: Shall Not Be Denied, which seeks to encourage “the use the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage to promote civic literacy and engagement throughout 2020.”
It was on January 6, 100 years ago, that the Rhode Island General Assembly passed, on its first day of a new legislative session, state legislation ensuring women’s suffrage. (That vote was 89-3 in the House and 38-1 in the Senate.) By August of 1920, 36 states ratified the amendment, ensuring that the right to vote could not be denied based on gender.
“One hundred years ago today, the Rhode Island General Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment, giving American women the right to vote,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, kicking off a year long statewide celebration.
7b. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea addresses the Rhode Island League of Women Voters on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage
9a. Is Anyone Sitting Here?: Joshua Giraldo will have a hard time losing his bid for the House District 56 seat
My first piece in a new series for Motif.
“The surprise resignation of Representative Shelby Maldonado (Democrat-C, District 56, Central Falls) puts an important General Assembly seat into play, but the election for the open seat has just one declared candidate, Joshua Giraldo, who currently serves as Central Falls Mayor James Diossa’s chief of staff.
“As a result, Giraldo is almost guaranteed to be sworn in to the General Assembly in March, where he will serve for about three months before having to run for the same office again in November. Although most of the important votes taken by the General Assembly happen later in the session, Giraldo will be weighing in on some important legislation and the 2021 budget…”
- Reed and Langevin fail the people, serve military corporations instead
- Amtrak and Climate Change?
- Nuclear power plants on federally subsidized life support
11. College Hill Independent
13. Picture of the week:
UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:
Become a Patron!<