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Rhode Island political news: February 2022

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee delivers his State of the State address to lawmakers and guests in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

March 3, 2022

Raimondo will give speech at Brown March 15

PROVIDENCE — US Secretary of Commerce and former Rhode Island governor Gina M. Raimondo will speak at Brown University on March 15.

Raimondo will deliver the 101st Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ‘60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs in a presentation titled “Growth, Innovation and Equity: Ensuring American Global Competitiveness in the 21st Century.”

A moderated discussion, led by Brown President Christina H. Paxson, will follow Raimondo’s presentation and will explore topics of economic growth and equity in the United States the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American and global commerce, and Raimondo’s experiences as a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet.

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The March 15 event will begin at at 5 p.m., both in-person on the Brown campus and on the web via a livestream. It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required, and in-person attendees must present a ticket and Brown or government-issued photo ID at the door.

The exact location will be provided upon registration. For tickets and more information, visit www.brown.edu/ogden.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

March 1, 2022

RIPEC hosting gubernatorial forum May 5

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council will host a gubernatorial candidate forum on May 5.

The candidates taking part include former secretary of state Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, Governor Daniel J. McKee, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz. WPRI investigative reporter Steph Machado will moderate the forum as candidates answer questions on taxing, spending, and the additional federal funds coming to the state.

The event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in Warwick, beginning with networking at 11 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.

­­­­­­“Rhode Island is at a critical moment; our economy is continuing to recover from the pandemic and at the same time the state has received an unprecedented influx of federal funds,” RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase said. “The winner of the 2022 gubernatorial election will be tasked with developing long-term policy solutions and investments to improve the state’s fiscal position and expand economic opportunities for Rhode Islanders.”

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— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 28, 2022

Moquin posts draft of congressional announcement

Cameron Moquin, a rescue lieutenant in the Providence Fire Department, is taking steps to run for the open 2nd Congressional District seat as a Democrat.

Moquin has not officially announced his campaign, but he previously opened a campaign account with the Federal Election Commission, and now he has posted a draft of his announcement speech on social media.

“I’m not running because I need a job, I love my job. I’m running because of the issues that keep me up at night,” the announcement begins. “I’m running to bring issues to the table that affect us all, like health care, because of the stories I hear day in and day out on Rescue 5 about how hard it is for good people like you and me to get the care they need when they need it.”

Cameron Moquin, a rescue lieutenant in the Providence Fire DepartmentHandout

Moquin, 39, lives in East Providence, in the 1st Congressional District, but said he and his family are “very enthusiastic about the potential to move back to Cranston,” in the 2nd Congressional District, if he’s elected.

Born in Cranston, Moquin graduated from Rhode Island College, where he received a psychology degree and then returned for a political science degree. He said he has been interested in politics since he was 13 and won an essay contest and visited Washington, D.C., where he met John Chafee, Claiborne Pell, and Jack Reed.

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Moquin would join a Democratic field that includes Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, former state Representative Edwin R. Pacheco, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, former Langevin communications director Joy Fox, Michael Neary, who worked for former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, and US Commerce Department official Sarah E. Morgenthau.

The Republican field includes former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, and state Senator Jessica de la Cruz.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 25, 2022

Reed compares Jackson’s resume to Thurgood Marshall’s

US Senator Jack Reed on Friday hailed the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, describing her as “a brilliant person with a keen legal mind and impeccable credentials.”

Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, noted Jackson clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, worked as a public defender, and served as a federal district judge and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

“She brings an incredible depth of experience to the court,” Reed said. “In fact, the last justice to have a resume like hers that includes a stint as a criminal defense attorney was Justice Thurgood Marshall,” who was the first Black Supreme Court justice in history.

Reed pointed out a Rhode Island connection, noting that Jackson once served as a law clerk for Judge Bruce M. Selya, a Providence resident and senior judge on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

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“Judge Jackson is an exemplary, history-making nominee,” Reed said. “She has served on the federal bench with distinction and reverence for the law and our Constitution. She has already proven herself to be a fair, independent-minded judge. She is someone who all Americans can count on to always put the Constitution first and serve justice.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 25, 2022

Democratic Women’s Caucus hosting gubernatorial candidate forum

The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus will host a “Meet the 2022 Gubernatorial Candidates” event at 7 p.m. Sunday via Zoom.

The event will include four Democratic candidates: former secretary of state Matt Brown, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, and Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

Governor Daniel J. McKee, a Democrat who just announced he is running for a full four-year term, was invited to participate but said he was not available, according to a member of the group’s executive committee, Linda Ujifusa. McKee was expected to return Sunday from a Democratic Governors Association meeting.

The Women’s Caucus has not endorsed any of the candidates for governor at this point, and it asked all of the Democratic candidates to participate.

“The mission of the Women’s Caucus is to support RI political candidates who advocate for Democratic principles and identify as and with women,” the group said. “The goal of this event is to educate Women’s Caucus members and the public about the gubernatorial candidates’ important priorities and policies.”

To register for the online event, go here.

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— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 25, 2022

Cicilline calls Jackson nomination ‘long overdue’

US Representative David N. Cicilline on Friday said the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court is “long overdue.”

Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called for swift confirmation of Jackson, a member of the the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Jackson’s demonstrated commitment to justice, dedication to the Constitution, and knowledge of the rule of law make her highly qualified to serve as our nation’s next Supreme Court Justice,” Cicilline said. “Her previous experience on the US Sentencing Commission and as a federal public defender would be a welcome addition to the court. Her historic nomination as the nation’s first Black woman to serve on the court is long overdue.”

Feb. 25, 2022

Whitehouse calls Jackson ‘thoroughly qualified’ Supreme Court nominee

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on Friday praised President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill the US Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.

Whitehouse – chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights – called Jackson, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a “thoroughly qualified nominee. "

“She will bring to the court a wealth of experience, a sharp legal mind, and a firm commitment to equal protection under law,” Whitehouse said. “I look forward to considering her nomination in the Judiciary Committee in the weeks ahead.”

Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, addressed the opposition he expects from Senate Republicans.

“I hope my colleagues across the aisle consider Judge Jackson in good faith, as our Founders envisioned when entrusting the Senate with the responsibility to provide advice and consent,” he said. “Even before this nominee was named, the right-wing donors who packed the court under President Trump sought to disparage Justice Breyer’s replacement, alleging the same dark-money scheme that they, themselves, hatched and executed. I urge my Republican colleagues not to give in to those false attacks, and to perform their constitutional duty faithfully.”

Feb. 24, 2022

R.I. Senator Jack Reed urges White House to stabilize gas prices

Morgenthau will run for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat

Sarah E. Morgenthau, a U.S. Commerce Department official, on Thursday joined a crowded slate of candidates vying for the open seat in Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District.

“These unprecedented times demand leadership with global experience, but Ocean State perspective and that’s exactly what I’ll bring to Congress,” said Morgenthau in her video announcement.

Morgenthau helped raise money for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and aided President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020.

She serves as the deputy assistant secretary for Travel and Tourism Industry and Analysis for the International Trade Administration, which is part of the Commerce Department led by former Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo. — ALEXA GAGOSZ

Feb. 23, 2022

Darlington won’t run for governor

David A. Darlington, a North Kingstown Republican who was once chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, on Wednesday announced he won’t run for governor in 2022 after all.

In October, Darlington had said he planned to run and that the filing of the necessary paperwork was “imminent.” But he never filed with the state Board of Elections, and on Wednesday he issued a statement saying he must put his family and business responsibilities first.

Darlington, managing partner at Fletcher Granite, based in Westford, Mass., said, “I had planned to offer myself up to serve our state as a governor with a no-nonsense, back to basics approach. As a lifelong Rhode Islander, having served in both state government and private sector, I believed my balanced perspective and experience could make a difference for the better of us all.”

But over the last several weeks, he concluded he needs to “put first things first,” he said. “Although excited and motivated by the early response to my candidacy, my family and my business kept pulling me back, and, at least for now, they must take priority over my plan to re-enter public service.”

The only Republican who has filed with the Board of Elections to run for governor is Ashley Kalus, an executive at Doctors Test Centers who bought a house in Newport last year and registered to vote in Rhode Island in January. Cranston Mayor Kenneth J. Hopkins issued a statement in January saying he was exploring a run.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 23, 2022

Former Rep. Segal weighing a run for Congress

Former state Representative David A. Segal, a progressive Providence Democrat, is considering running for the 2nd Congressional District seat that US Representative James R. Langevin is vacating.

Segal is a former Providence City Council member who served in the state House of Representatives from 2007 to 2010, when he launched an unsuccessful bid for the 1st Congressional District seat won by US Representative David N. Cicilline. He is the co-founder and executive director of Demand Progress, a progressive public interest group.

“People expect that government should be able to do more for us and they are right,” Segal said in a statement Wednesday. “This is a moment when people are understandably anxious and frustrated and think they need stronger allies in elected leadership. They expect that we should be able to build coalitions to make progress in ways that help working people in all of our communities, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole career, including as a local and state elected official.”

So, Segal said, that’s why he is exploring a run for Congress. “I hope to make my intentions known over the coming weeks,” he said.

Segal now lives in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood, which is part of the 2nd Congressional District.

He would join a Democratic field that includes Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, former state Representative Edwin R. Pacheco, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, former Langevin communications director Joy Fox, and Michael Neary, who worked for former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich. The Republican field includes former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, and state Senator Jessica de la Cruz.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 22, 2022

Mayor Polisena endorses Diossa for treasurer

Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena on Tuesday endorsed former Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa for general treasurer.

Polisena said Diossa, a fellow Democrat, helped Central Falls emerge from bankruptcy.

“In almost 16 years as mayor, I have seen what it takes to move our state’s economy forward, and I know that James Diossa is the right choice for our next general treasurer,” Polisena said. “Too many Rhode Islanders are feeling squeezed, and James will fight every day to make sure that we have a secure pension system, our state’s finances are well managed, and everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Feb. 19, 2022

Matos names Graf as chief of staff

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos on Saturday announced that Yvonne Graf will become her new chief of staff, replacing Ernest Almonte.

On Friday, the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns announced that Almonte will serve as the group’s next executive director.

Graf has been working as the senior deputy chief of staff for the Providence City Council, and Matos is a former City Council president.

Previously, Graf served the City Council as director of legislative affairs and intergovernmental relations, acting chief of staff, and director of legislative affairs and communications. She has also worked for the Providence Public School District as director of policy and planning and as school board policy adviser.

“Yvonne is a dedicated public servant whose skills will serve our state well,” Matos said. “I am delighted that she is joining my team. Her knowledge and experience will be an asset to the office’s initiatives, and I am eager to continue working for the people of Rhode Island with her contributions.”

Graff will assume the chief of staff position on March 7.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 18, 2022

R.I. League of Cities and Towns Appoints Ernest Almonte as Executive Director

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns announced that Ernest Almonte will serve as the organization’s next executive director after approval by the executive board on Friday. He will succeed Brian Daniels, who served as executive director for five years.

Almonte is currently the interim chief financial officer of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Transition Support Team, where he provides managerial support on department finances, budgeting, and other fiscal operations. Prior to this role, he served as Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Sabina Matos.

“I would like to thank Ernie for his tireless work on behalf of all Rhode Islanders during his time at my office and RIDOH,” Matos said. “Everywhere Ernie goes, he brings a breadth of wisdom and experience, and a steady hand. I want to congratulate him on his new position and wish him the best.”

“Ernie has decades of experience in business, government, and fiscal management and I know he will be a strong asset to the League,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I wish Ernie the best in this new endeavor and look forward to continuing to work with him as my Administration continues to engage municipal leaders in all 39 cities and towns to ensure Rhode Island comes out of this pandemic stronger than we went in.”

Almonte will start in his new position no later than Oct. 1.

Feb. 16, 2022

Ironworkers endorse Magaziner for Congress

Ironworkers Local 37 on Wednesday endorsed Democratic General Treasurer Seth Magaziner in his campaign for the open 2nd Congressional District seat.

“Seth is a proven job creator and champion of working people,” Ironworkers Local 37 business manager David Langlais said in a statement. “Seth’s school construction initiative has put Ironworkers to work around the state as we proudly build and renovate the schools our own children and our neighbors attend. We know he will fight in Washington for working families and we enthusiastically support him.”

Magaziner was co-chair of the School Buildings Task Force, which led a $1.7 billion investment that has improved nearly 200 schools in the state.

“I am honored to earn the support of the Ironworkers,” Magaziner said. “Together, we have rebuilt schools so that our students are able to succeed in a modern economy. As Rhode Island’s member of Congress, I will continue to fight for working people by investing in infrastructure, prioritizing safety standards for workers, and protecting the right to organize.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 16, 2022

Three mayors endorse Diossa for treasurer

Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, North Providence Mayor Charles A. Lombardi, and East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva are endorsing former Central Falls mayor James A. Diossa for state treasurer.

Diossa, a Democrat, is the only announced candidate in the race to replace General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who is term limited and running for the open 2nd Congressional District seat.

“I will work closely with all 39 cities and towns, using the relationships built in my over a decade in public service,” Diossa said in a statement Wednesday. “I couldn’t be prouder today to be announcing the support from the elected mayors and my former colleagues who, like me, have been integral in the economic growth and stability that their cities have undergone.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 16, 2022

Ruggerio bill calls for 100% renewable energy by 2030

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio on Tuesday introduced a bill to require that 100 percent of electricity sold in Rhode Island be generated from renewable sources by 2030.

The Senate approved similar legislation last year, but the House did not pass it. And a companion bill sponsored by Representative Deborah L. Ruggiero, a Jamestown Democrat, died in committee.

Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, said the bill would build on last year’s passage of the Act on Climate, which which makes the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions mandatory and enforceable.

“Here in the Ocean State, we know that action to address the climate crisis cannot wait,” Ruggerio said. “Rhode Islanders are already feeling the effects of climate change, and the risks facing our communities will grow increasingly dire in the years ahead.”

Current state law requires annual 1.5 percentage point increases in the amount of electricity required to be generated from renewable sources through 2035. Ruggerio’s bill would speed up those increases to reached the 100 percent renewable energy standard in 2030. The rate of increase would be: 4 percent increase in 2022; 5 percent increase in 2023; 6 percent increase in 2024; 11 percent increase in 2025, 2026, and 2027; and 11.5 percent increase in 2028, 2029, and 2030.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 11, 2022

Jallow succeeds Bah as Refugee Dream Center director

Omar Bah will step down as executive director of the Refugee Dream Center now that he is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, and his wife, Teddi Jallow, will succeed him.

The Refugee Dream Center board of directors voted to appoint Jallow, who has been the group’s director of partnerships and community building, to fill the executive director position. Bah will now serve as director of programs.

Originally from The Gambia, Jallow arrived in Rhode Island as a refugee in 2009. She and Bah established the Refugee Dream Center in 2015. The post-resettlement refugee agency offers services targeting gaps within the refugee community and advocates for the rights of refugees.

“I am grateful to be a part of the lives of so many refugees in Rhode Island and help them succeed in their journey in a new country,” Jallow said.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 11, 2022

Taveras endorses Diossa for state treasurer

Former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras on Friday endorsed former Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa in the state treasurer’s race.

Taveras, a fellow Democrat, was the first Latino mayor in Rhode Island history, and Diossa was the first Latino mayor in Central Falls history.

“As one of the only elected officials in the country to help bring a city out of bankruptcy, James knows how to tackle challenges head-on and can bring different parties together to solve problems,” Taveras said. “He also knows how important public pensions are to employees and retirees who worked for years and always did their part.”

He said Diossa understands the role the treasurer’s office can play in helping cities and towns improve their infrastructure, rebuild their schools, and secure retirements for their workers.

“James believes in public service and has a record of ethical leadership and success,” Taveras said. “I have no doubt he will continue to make Rhode Islanders proud.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 10, 2022

Solomon, DiPalma introduce bill for bridge barriers

Representative Joseph J. Solomon Jr. and Senator Louis P. DiPalma this week introduced legislation that would require safety barriers or netting on the Newport Pell, Jamestown Verrazzano, and Mount Hope bridges.

Last week, advocates called for placing temporary barriers on those three bridges, plus the Sakonnet River Bridge, until permanent barriers are installed. They say a dozen people have jumped from the four bridges over the past year.

The legislation calls for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to design the safety barriers, to report to the House and Senate finance committees by April 1, and to begin construction by Jan. 1, 2023.

”Too many people have lost their lives on those bridges in the last decade,” said Solomon, a Warwick Democrat. “Due to technological advances, there are various types of barriers and netting available to increase safety without hindering access for routine inspection and maintenance of the bridges.”

”This is an all-too-frequent tragedy,” said DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat. “The cost of suicide is great. Not only is there a tragic loss of life, but those left behind can spend their lives struggling with grief, anxiety and guilt.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 9, 2022

House passes Cicilline bill to protect LGBTQI+ community

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 227-206 for the Global Respect Act, a bill introduced by Representative David N. Cicilline to protect the LGBTQI+ community worldwide.

Cicilline, a Democrat who chairs the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, has introduced a version of the bill since 2015.

“In the past few years, we have seen a dangerous trend of increasing violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people and their families,” Cicilline said. “In too many places, violence against LGBTQI+ communities is pervasive, and even sanctioned or directed by government officials.”

He said the bill aims to protect LGBTQI+ people “from murder and torture and makes clear that abusers cannot act without consequence.”

The act would deny visas to those who commit human rights abuses against LGBTQI+ people abroad; codify reporting requirements on these issues in the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report; and apply to state and individual actors.

The House bill was backed by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican. A companion Senate bill was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 8, 2022

Assembly committees vote for 45-day extension of powers

House and Senate committees on Tuesday voted for allow Governor Daniel J. McKee to exercise emergency powers to respond to the pandemic through March 31, rather than through April 15.

The House State Government and Election Committee voted 11 to 5 for the concurrent resolution, trimming a proposed extension of those powers from 60 days to 45 days. The Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs voted 8 to 4 for the resolution.

“I think it’s adequate and gives the governor a lot of latitude and certainly gives him the time to do what he has to do,” Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio said.

Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, said he met with McKee on Tuesday and the governor plans to hold a news conference on Wednesday to address emergency measures. As other states in the region begin to relax COVID-19 restrictions, McKee is facing pressure to lift mask mandates for school children and businesses.

The resolution, which will go before the House and Senate on Thursday, states that, “Present conditions reasonably indicate that the health and safety of the citizens of this state would benefit from a limited continuation of the judicious use of executive emergency powers by the governor.”

But nothing stops McKee from ending his use of those powers sooner if he “finds that the threat of danger has passed to the extent that emergency conditions no longer exist,” the resolution says.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 8, 2022

Senate Republicans propose cutting R.I. gas tax

With the state budget surplus topping $618 million, the Senate Republican caucus is calling for elimination of the state gas tax in 2022.

“We want to direct the influx in tax revenue back to residents and provide relief from the crushing pain at the pump,” said Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican. “Our state budget is benefiting from inflation as the gas tax brings in new, unexpected revenue. Meanwhile, the people of Rhode Island are struggling to balance their budgets with no relief in sight.”

Republicans said eliminating the gas tax, of 35 cents per gallon, in 2022 would save residents a total of $150 million.

Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, a Westerly Republican, said Rhode Island can afford the tax cut given the current budget surplus, and he said the gas tax cut would spur consumer spending and increase sales tax revenue.

“If people aren’t spending as much on gas, they’re spending it elsewhere in the community,” Algiere said. “And that spending will not only help families when it comes to kitchen table economics and reducing financial strain, it will help the economy, too.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 8, 2022

Bah to receive Wheeler Community Spirit Award

Omar Bah, founder of the Refugee Dream Center and a Democratic candidate for Congress, will receive the Wheeler Community Spirit Award on Friday.

The Wheeler School, a private school in Providence, and its its Students Involved in Cultural Awareness club are recognizing Bah, a torture survivor, former journalist, and refugee from The Gambia in West Africa who founded the Providence-based Refugee Dream Center along with his wife, Teddi Jallow.

“It is an honor to be able to celebrate Omar Bah and the incredible work he has done with and for refugees,” Wheeler Head of School Allison Gaines Pell said. “He works and leads with empathy, compassion, and a drive for a better world that speaks to our mission and we know will resonate with and inspire our students.”

To learn about the experiences of refugees in Rhode Island, Wheeler students interviewed Bah as part of the Cityside program and decided to develop a podcast. “Our goal is to inform the local community about the experiences of refugees, what we can do as a community to help them succeed and feel welcomed,” said Hailey Nickerson, a member of the Class of 2026.

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 8, 2022

R.I. GOP submits amendment to end school mask mandate

Rhode Island House Republicans will submit an amendment to the Joint Resolution on Emergency Powers which, if passed, would effectively end the Governor’s school mask mandate on Feb. 14, 2022.

“The overwhelming testimony last week from parents, students and teachers confirmed the negative impacts that masks have on Rhode Island’s children,” the caucus said in an emailed statement. “Instead of recognizing the fact that school masking does not make sense, it appears that many of our leaders are intent to continue this harmful policy rather than admit they were wrong all along. Our amendment will demonstrate which Representatives and Senators elevate politics over our children’s health.”

The amendment is to be debated on the House Floor on Feb. 10.

Feb. 8, 2022

Sheehan blasts change to Senate district boundary

Former state Senator James C. Sheehan, a North Kingstown Democrat, on Tuesday criticized a proposed Senate district map that carves his house out of District 36, questioning whether the change is meant to undercut support for Senator Alana M. DiMario.

Sheehan said he is not planning to challenge DiMario, a Democrat who now represents District 36. In fact, he said he and his wife sit on the District 36 Democratic committee and backed DiMario in the 2020 election.

But he said that removing his and his wife and myself from the district could allow Democratic leaders to replace them before the district committee makes endorsements in this year’s election. Also, he noted Senate District 36 has been redrawn to extend farther south to include more of Narragansett and, for the first time, Block Island.

“It is highly probable that the leadership may be setting up a primary challenge to freshman Senator DiMario,” Sheehan wrote in an email. “That person would likely come from Narragansett. Sadly, such a would-be petty political move would have come at the expense of my neighbors who would be separated from a long-standing community of interest – the heart of the Forest Park Elementary School neighborhood.”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 4, 2022

General Assembly sets hearings on new district maps

General Assembly committees will meet next week to hear testimony on proposed new House, Senate, and congressional district maps.

On Jan. 12, the state redistricting commission voted for new maps that redraw the state’s political boundaries to reflect the latest census figures. But the Assembly has final say.

The House Committee on State Government and Elections will meet at 4 p.m. Monday in State House Room 35 to hear testimony on the House bill (2022-H 7323). Written testimony is strongly encouraged and may be submitted via HouseStateGovernmentandElections@rilegislature.gov. Masks are mandatory in committee hearings and in the State House.

The meeting will air live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15 and 61, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. The meetings will also be live streamed at http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet virtually at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the rise of the Senate to take up the Senate version of the bill (2022-S 2162). This meeting will be streamed live streamed at http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

All public testimony for this hearing will be virtual. Written testimony can be submitted to the committee by emailing it to: slegislation@rilegislature.gov.

Feb. 4, 2022

Senators Mack, Bell endorse Sanchez in House race

Enrique Sanchez, a Democratic candidate challenging long-time Representative Anastasia P. Williams in House District 9 in Providence, on Friday announced endorsements from state Senators Tiara Mack and Samuel W. Bell.

Williams, who chairs the House Labor Committee, has represented the district since 1993. But Sanchez, 25, a Spanish language teacher at Central High School and political director of the Black Lives Matter RI PAC, criticized her for opposing a vaccine mandate deadline for health-care workers, backing a voter ID law, and questioning how the state can house and support Afghan refugees.

“The constituents of District 9 deserve a representative who will bring transparency, dialogue and community leadership to the State House,” Sanchez said. “We are facing an education crisis, a housing crisis, and a healthcare crisis in our community and across the state. COVID-19 has inflicted so much pain and damage in our communities, and I will fight for the relief working families deserve.”

Mack and Bell, both Providence Democrats, represent Senate districts that overlap with House District 9, which includes the West End, Silver Lake, Olneyville, Manton, Wiggin Village, Upper South Providence, and Hartford Park neighborhoods.

“Enrique is the kind of energetic young voice we need to bring change to a political system that’s been dominated by career politicians for far too long,” Mack said. “We need bold, new voices to help shape a Rhode Island that works for everyone.”

Bell said he was excited to endorse Sanchez. “I’m especially excited about the change he will bring as a supporter of public health measures to combat this pandemic, including vaccination,” he said.

In response, Williams tweeted, “Today’s endorsement announcement is Sam bells personal well thought out contribution to Black History (on) our Celebration of it from a chapter of the Willie Lynch’s letter. DO NOT think for a second Sen. Bell did not think the timing of it thru 1st. Ur exposed!”

— Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 4, 2022

Sen. Whitehouse calls for leadership shakeup at USPS

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, called for the speedy approval of the two pending nominees to the US Postal Service Board of Governors Friday, and said there’s an “urgent need” for change in the agency’s leadership.

The news comes after a new Washington Post report recently reported that the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality warned USPS that its plan to replace its massive fleet with thousands of polluting gas-powered delivery vehicles does not comply with National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

“The Postal Service urgently needs a change in leadership,” said Whitehouse. “Under Postmaster General [Louis] DeJoy, the Postal Service is actively choosing to ignore science and the law in order to make sure one of the world’s largest fleets of government vehicles continues to be a major source of pollution. Postmaster General DeJoy has messed around with our mail system for too long and he’s caused real harm to the Americans who rely on it. This cannot continue.”

DeJoy was appointed by former President Trump. The nine-seat USPS Board of Governors has the authority to remove the Postmaster General. President Biden nominated two board members, but they have not yet been confirmed. — Alexa Gagosz

Neary enters 2nd Congressional District race

Michael Neary, a former political strategist who worked for former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, on Friday announced that he will run for the 2nd Congressional District seat as a Democrat.

Neary, 28, now works as a senior analyst at CVS Health. He described himself as a sixth-generation Rhode Islander who has been part the Coventry and West Warwick community. He now lives in Columbus, Ohio, but said he will be moving back to Coventry soon.

“My path led me to travel the country, advocating for Governor John Kasich in his bid for President of the United States,” Neary wrote. “I later had the chance to work directly in the Office of the Governor where I learned up close what it means to truly govern effectively.”

Neary noted that while Kasich is a Republican, he spoke in favor of President Joseph Biden at the Democratic National Convention. “Like many Rhode Islanders, I vote for candidates from both parties,” he said, adding that he voted for Biden for president and James Langevin for Congress. He said he is now unaffiliated but plans to enroll as a Democrat.

Neary said his campaign “will be about providing the urgent assistance that Rhode Island families, as well as millions of Americans, desperately need.”

For example, he called for an “emergency one-year rescue plan for those making under $100,000: housing, food, medicine, childcare and continued debt relief guaranteed for one year, to be paid out in the form of a People’s Bond to allow people the breathing room necessary to truly recover.” And he called for raising the federal minimum wage to at least $20 per hour.

On Jan. 18, US Representative James R. Langevin, a Democrat, announced he will not seek re-election after 22 years in office. Neary joins a Democratic field that includes Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, former state Representative Edwin R. Pacheco, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Joy Fox, a former communications director for Langevin and former Governor Gina M. Raimondo. — Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 4, 2022

Domings joining Providence public schools

Nick Domings, a spokesman for Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea’s office for the past three years, will join the Providence Public School District as chief of communication, beginning Feb. 9.

Domings, who previously worked at WPRI-Channel 12 as a producer of investigative reports, has served as deputy communications director and communications director at the secretary of state’s office.

“For the past three years, Nick has done a fantastic job of demonstrating how government can communicate clearly and effectively,” Gorbea said. “It’s bittersweet to see him moving on to a new chapter, but we are all grateful for his work. I know he will continue to serve Rhode Islanders well in his new role.”

Johnathan Berard will start working as deputy director of communications and strategy at the secretary of state’s office on Feb. 21. He previously served as state director of Rhode Island Clean Water Action for six years.

“Throughout his career Johnathan has shown dedication to Rhode Island’s communities through his efforts at Clean Water Action and as part of the Voter Access Coalition,” Gorbea said. “I’m excited to have someone join the team who shares my commitment to improving civic engagement and making government work for people.” — Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 3, 2022

Lancia loans his congressional campaign $65,000

Former state Representative Robert B. Lancia, a Cranston Republican, has put $65,000 of his own money into his campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Lancia loaned the money to his campaign on Dec. 31, according to his latest Federal Election Commission report. He also raised $7,735 and spent $33,456, leaving him with $67,114 at the end of the reporting period.

In 2020, Lancia lost to Democratic US Representative James R. Langevin, but on Jan. 18 Langevin announced he will not seek re-election this year, after 22 years in office. Since that announcement, state Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, has said she plans to run for the seat, and former Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, a Republican, is expected to enter the race.

On Thursday, Lancia said he began running as soon as the last election was over, and the $65,000 loan “sends the message that we have been committed and we have been at this for three years now.” He said he expects to be able to have money to compete, and he expects to win.

When asked about others entering the race now that Langevin is not running, Lancia said, “It is what it is. This is how government works, and I think this is the best of our democracy.” — Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 3, 2022

Rep. Tanzi decides not to run for Congress

Representative Teresa A. Tanzi, a Narragansett Democrat, on Thursday announced that she won’t run for the open 2nd Congressional District seat.

Since Jan. 18, when US Representative James R. Langevin announced he won’t seek re-election, “a number of talented candidates” have entered the race, Tanzi said. “And I am optimistic that local progressive voices throughout CD-2 are going to determine the nominee, and elect our next representative,” she said.

The Democratic candidates include Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah, former state Representative Edwin R. Pacheco, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Joy Fox, former communications director for Langevin and former Governor Gina M. Raimondo.

“I am so grateful for every call I’ve received about this race,” Tanzi said. “The encouragement has lifted me up, and more importantly grounded me in the work I am currently doing: ensuring access to behavioral healthcare for all Rhode Islanders, working to close loopholes in gun laws, and updating civil rights protections for all employees in our state.”

On Thursday morning, Tanzi said, “I’ll be back in action at the state legislature this afternoon, and am ready to get to work so we can make real progress together.” — Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 2, 2022

Dr. Alexander-Scott won’t run for Congress

Rhode Island’s former Department of Health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, on Wednesday announced she won’t run for the 2nd Congressional District seat that US Representative James R. Langevin is leaving.

Alexander-Scott, who stepped down last week, said, “I gave serious consideration to running because I saw this as a unique opportunity to advocate for change on the national level on the issues that I have committed my career to: health, equity, and the need to give every person and every community an equal opportunity to thrive.

As the first African-American to lead the Department of Health, Alexander-Scott said she also gave running serious consideration because diversity in representation matters.

“While a person from any background or gender could make an exemplary congressperson, we need to work to ensure that the group of people we elect is reflective of all of the communities served,” she wrote.

Alexander-Scott did not say what she will do next, but she said, “I remain as committed as ever to building strong, healthy and resilient communities in every ZIP code from any position I am blessed to serve in. I look forward to still advancing this critical work and having a strong impact on policies at a national level that will benefit the public’s health, as part of the next opportunity that I take on, in this unique moment.” — Edward Fitzpatrick

Feb. 2, 2022

Whitehouse delivers his 280th climate speech

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will dust off his ragged Time to Wake Up poster and deliver his 280th climate speech on the Senate floor. The speech ends Whitehouse’s year-long hiatus from delivering weekly speeches calling on Congress to pass a legislative solution to climate change.

With Build Back Better’s historic climate provisions stalled in the Senate, Whitehouse will detail the lack of momentum behind emissions-reducing legislation one year into the Biden administration, take the corporate world to task for failing to mobilize on climate, and push for an offensive strategy to take on the fossil fuel industry and its dark money allies working to obstruct any major climate bill.

Whitehouse will say in part: “After I stopped these speeches, the Smithsonian asked me if they could have this old poster — it’s the most-used poster in Senate history — and I came this close to handing it over; but something made me hesitate. Well, here it is, back again.”

Feb. 1, 2022

McKee to expand use of National Guard to support hospitals with staffing

Governor Dan McKee announced Tuesday that he plans on expanding the use of the Rhode Island National Guard to support nine hospitals amid the staffing crisis.

Approximately 30 members of the Guard will be sent to state-run Eleanor Slater, Our Lady of Fatima, Kent, Landmark Medical Center, Newport, Roger Williams Medical Center, Rhode Island, South County, and Women and Infants Hospitals. — Alexa Gagosz




Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.