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Friday, January 27, 2017

Local state reps join effort for bills to benefit working families

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

2017-01-12 Fair Shot Agenda 03The Fair Shot Agenda is four pieces of progressive legislation that 21 members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives endorsed today. The agenda includes a $15 minimum wage, school building repairs, earned paid sick days and a more progressive car tax.

Endorsing the package were:

Rep. Edie Ajello (D-Providence), 
Rep. Joseph Almeida (D-Providence), 
Rep. Gregg Amore (D-East Providence), 
Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Pawtucket), 
Rep. David Bennett (D-Warwick), 
Rep. Chris Blazejewski (D-Providence), 
Rep. Helder Cunha (D-East Providence), 
Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Providence), 
Rep. Susan Donovan (D-Bristol, Portsmouth), 
Rep. Kathy Fogarty (D-South Kingstown), 
Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston), 
Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-East Providence), 
Rep. Jason Knight (D-Barrington, Warren), Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Central Falls), Rep. Michael Morin (D-Woonsocket), 
Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Providence), 
Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence), 
Rep. Evan Shanley (D-Warwick), 
Rep. Scott Slater (D-Providence), 
Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-South Kingstown, Narragansett), and 
Rep. Moira Walsh (D-Providence).

“In the aftermath of the November elections and in the midst of decades of economic policy that has continually tilted the scales toward the wealthy and large corporations, a group of House Democrats came together to craft an economic agenda that gives voice to the many, many working Rhode Islanders who believe their government has been unresponsive to their struggles,” said Rep. Gregg Amore, in a press release. 

“Today we are here to announce that, together, we will work this session on this concrete agenda to make sure that every Rhode Islander has an opportunity to succeed.”

Said Rep. Aaron Regunberg, “The idea behind this agenda is simple: everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent life. You shouldn’t get a shortcut just because you were born rich, and you shouldn’t get shut out just because you weren’t.”

He spoke to the need for earned paid sick days.
“Our state government can be the vehicle that makes sure everyone gets that fair shot, and one way we can do that is through earned paid sick days,” said Regunberg. “Every worker should be able to take a day off work when they’re sick or when their kid is sick. That’s it – it’s not complicated. The fact that so many of our neighbors have to go to work sick, have to tell their kids to wait in the school nurse’s office with a fever for the next 5 hours because they can’t leave work to pick them up early – that reality should be morally unacceptable to all of us. And this year, we plan to change it.”
Rookie Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, speaking about the need to increase the minimum wage, said,
“No Rhode Islander who works full time should live in poverty. Yet we know that many of our constituents, despite working hard every day, remain stuck in poverty. That’s not right. Legislation to increase the minimum wage to a $15 per hour living wage by 2022, including a first step to $11 this year, will help working families get by. When families in my district have a little more money in their paycheck, they can put food on the table, they can pay their bills, they can care for their children. And every cent that our minimum wage workers make is put right back into the local economy, which helps us all.”
Rep. Katherine Kazarian spoke to the need to fix decrepit urban schools, where money to build new schools is sparse.
“Every day we are sending our children to school in buildings that do not meet the most basic criteria of being safe, warm and dry,” she said. “There are schools where buckets are placed to catch leaks in the halls when it rains. There are schools that lack heat in the winter.  There are schools where mold and asbestos are a constant threat to the health of our children and our teachers. My colleagues and I who support the Fair Shot Agenda are no longer willing to sit by and wait, and we will fight with everything we’ve got to secure the greater state investment that is desperately needed.”
Rep. Jean Philippe Barros spoke to the tax policy changes in the press release.
“Over the course of time our tax system has been redesigned to benefit the wealthy by shifting the tax burden onto working families,” he said. “We know that in recent years, most new income is going to the top 1 percent. To change this, we need a fairer tax system – one that does not ask the most from working families who least can afford it. That’s why the Fair Shot Agenda proposes to reduce the regressive car tax for the middle class in what we believe is the most responsible way, by asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.”
Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.