A Look at UWRI’s Legislative Year  

It’s a Wrap

With yet another legislative session behind us, let’s take a moment and look back at some of what we’ve done this past year, and how working together has affected the community.

Education

Out-of-School Time Commission

Tommy, who starts second grade in September, reads with his parents every day; although he works hard, he still struggles. Unfortunately, students who read below grade level by the end of third grade are less likely to graduate from high school.

Our goal is to ensure 75 percent of Rhode Island third-graders read at grade-level by 2025. An important step toward achieving this is advocating for additional afterschool and summer learning programs — programs that will help children like Tommy succeed.

This legislative session, Afterschool Leadership Circle (ALC) led efforts to form an Out-of-School Time Learning Commission to study ways of increasing youth programming. Their advocacy led to legislation, sponsored by Senator Adam Satchell and Representative Julie Casimiro, that passed both the House and Senate.

What happens next? United Way of Rhode Island and ALC works with the Commission, which will then give its recommendations to the General Assembly at the end of 2019.

Adult Education

When the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education proposed cutting adult education funding by $1.7 million, we partnered with Workforce Alliance to stop it.

Rhode Islanders rely on adult education programs to learn the skills needed to find and retain employment. When graduates enter the workforce, they not only help themselves and their families, they also strengthen the state’s economy.

Instead of simply rallying against these cuts, we advocated for a funding increase. How did we do this? By testifying in front of the House Finance Committee and organizing a postcard campaign that brought 1,000 stories to Governor Raimondo’s desk. After hearing from the people of Rhode Island, she made the correct decision not to include the cuts in her final budget.

Housing

Those who’ve spent time in Rhode Island quickly realize two things: why it’s called the Ocean State and that there’s a severe lack of homes people can afford to live in. At the start of this legislative session we had two housing priorities:

  • Increase funding for the Housing Resources Commission so they can provide capital for long-term construction and maintenance of homes in Rhode Island.
  • Hire a Deputy Secretary of Commerce to focus on statewide housing strategies.
Source of Income Bill

Senator Harold Metts and Representative Anastasia Williams co-sponsored the Source of Income Bill, prohibiting housing discrimination based on the source of a potential renters’ legal income.

Along with testifying in support of the bill, we designed and printed 2,000 postcards to help the Interfaith Coalition’s advocacy efforts. Although the bill passed in the Senate, it was held in the House.

Capital and the Foreclosure Mediation Act

$5 million annually — that’s the amount Representative Scott Slater attempted to have appropriated for affordable housing development. We supported his efforts, but the legislation was held for further study.

Together, we submitted testimony to eliminate the provision that required the Foreclosure Mediation Act to sunset. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Mary Messier and Senator Harold Metts, successfully passed in both the House and Senate.

Deputy Secretary of Commerce

Finally, we advocated for creating the position of Deputy Secretary of Commerce in Governor Raimondo’s FY 2019 budget. The person in this position would focus on building a cohesive strategy for affordable homes in the Ocean State. Unfortunately, it was not included in the legislature’s final budget.

What’s Next?

Although this legislative session was productive, there’s still work to do. As we move forward, we’ll work with our partners in local agencies and the community to ensure Rhode Island children have the tools they need to learn, adults have access to education, and everyone has an affordable place to live.

Yes, it’s true that our success this session demonstrates the power of advocacy — but, more importantly, it highlights what we’re able to accomplish when we stand united.


By: Travis Escobar, Project Manager, Community Investments
Edited by: Jason Boulay, Project Manager, Digital Media and Marketing