RI Legislative Black and Latino Caucus unveils legislative priorities


STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus today unveiled its 2021 legislative priority list at a press conference held at the State House.  The caucus is chaired by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket).

“Rhode Island’s community of color has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, harder than most, and the caucus has much work ahead ourselves to help and support those struggling right now.  This legislative package will address the struggles and hardships that too many of our residents of color continually face and as we emerge from this global pandemic, these bills will support and lift up our community of color so that they have every chance and opportunity to succeed and live their lives with fairness and equality in our society’s new normal,” said Chairwoman Alzate.

One bill (2021-H 5257aa) on the list, the RI Fair Housing Practices Act, has already passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by the governor.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), prohibits housing discrimination against those who receive government assistance to pay their rent.  The bill adds “lawful source of income” to the list of statuses — such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and marital status —  that landlords may not use as a basis for their decisions about to whom they will rent, or which units they will rent to them.  Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) introduced the legislation (2021-S 0561) in the Senate.

The following bills are of priority importance to the caucus:

·         2021-H 5305, sponsored by Representative Williams, allows the RI DMV to issue driving privilege licenses and driving privilege permits to individuals who are unable to establish a lawful presence in Rhode Island and the United States.  Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) has introduced the bill (2021-S 0190) in the Senate.

·         2021-S 0001aa, sponsored by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), gradually increases the state’s minimum wage from $11.50 per hour to $15.00 per hour over a 4-year timespan.  Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) introduced the bill (2021-H 5130A) in the House.

·         2021-H 5787, sponsored by Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), provides for abortion coverage in the Medicaid program and it repeals the abortion coverage exclusion for state employee insurance plans.  Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown) introduced the bill (2021-S 0267) in the Senate.

·         2021-H 5929, sponsored by Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence), provides for medical assistance health care for expectant mothers and would establish medical assistance coverage and reimbursement rates for perinatal doula services.  Senator Quezada has introduced the bill (2021-S 0484) in the Senate.

·         2021-H 5714, sponsored by Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), expands the Rite Track Program to provide health care coverage to children up to age 19 funded by federal funds, if available, or if not available, by state funds.  Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), a member of the caucus, has introduced the legislation (2021-S 0576) in the Senate.

·         2021-S 0611, sponsored by Senator Cano, increases the amount of parental or family leave available to an employee from 13 weeks to 26 weeks in any two calendar years. Rep. Joshua Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), a member of the caucus, has introduced the bill (2021-H 5720) in the House.

·         2021-S 0511, sponsored by Senator Cano, establishes procedures for the Supreme, the Superior and District Courts to establish non-monetary bail and/or pretrial release of detainees.

·         2021-H 5285, sponsored by Representative Williams, requires that the state use the actual residences of persons in government custody for census and redistricting purposes. Such information would be determined by the Department of Corrections and the Secretary of State, and forwarded to the United States Census Bureau.  Senator Quezada has introduced the bill (2021-S 0334) in the Senate.

·         2021-H 6152, sponsored by Representative Williams, amends the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and renames the legislation to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act.  The bill increases the amount of time an officer can be suspended without pay and the hearing committee responsible for discipline would also increase to five members.

·         2021-H 6153, sponsored by Representative Williams, also amends the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights to provide greater accountability in the disciplinary process over law enforcement officers.  One notable difference between this bill and 2021-H 6152 is that the bill allows the hearing committee to sustain, modify, or reverse discipline imposed by the chief or commanding officer.

·         2021-H 5993, sponsored by Rep. Jose F. Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence), is titled the Rishod K. Gore Justice in Policing Act of 2021 and it provides police reform by requiring body cameras and making certain methods of restraint a felony, such as chokeholds, and using the foot as a weapon.  Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), a member of the caucus, has introduced the legislation (2021-S 0597) in the Senate.

·         2021-H 5994, sponsored by Representative Batista, would reduce the imprisonment of drug dealers from life to 20 years and makes the possession of schedule I through V controlled substances a civil violation punishable by $100 fine for a first offense and up to $300 for subsequent offenses. Offenders would also have to complete drug counseling and community service. Possession of controlled substance for personal use would not constitute reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a search of a motor vehicle or the premises where the controlled substance is discovered.

·         2021-H 5291, sponsored by Representative Williams, amends the conditions of bail and recognizance to permit the release of a person charged with a misdemeanor without financial conditions.  Senator Quezada has introduced the bill (2021-S 0315) in the Senate.

            “Everyone has had an extremely trying and difficult year and our state’s community of color has been affected and suffered more than most.  With so much division and fear within our society today, these bills represent a positive step in the right direction for so many of our residents, especially those of color, who are simply trying their best just to stay afloat and provide for themselves and their families.  We urge our colleagues to support these important bills that will foster equality, fairness and diversity, which in turn, will make our state stronger and more unified,” said the members of the caucus.

            The caucus also includes Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown); Rep. Nathan W. Biah (D-Dist. 3, Providence); Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence); Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket); Rep. Brianna E. Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence); Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence); Rep. Ramon A. Perez (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston); Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket); Sen. Tiara T. Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence); and Sen. Cynthia Mendes (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

            The Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus (RILBLC) represents and advocates for the interests of disadvantaged people throughout the State of Rhode Island. It seeks to increase a diverse participation and representation in all levels of government. The goal is to close, and ultimately to eliminate, disparities that still exist between white and non-white Americans in every aspect of life.



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