Religious and advocacy groups urge General Assembly to pass budget and stalled bills

By Steve Ahlquist

Over twenty religious and advocacy organizations have sent a letter to members of the General Assembly urging them to reconvene the 2017 session to pass the budget and complete work on several bills that were left unfinished.

“This year hundreds of your constituents came to the State House to testify on bills and speak with you about issues that were important to them,” says the letter. “They fought to disarm domestic abusers, guarantee earned sick days, adopt proven reforms to criminal justice, allow workers to form co-ops, reduce toxic substances, protect health care, and more. Before the abrupt adjournment, there seemed to be agreement in both chambers on the necessity of these bills, but the differences remain unreconciled.

“Constituents are now frustrated that these important policy changes are left in limbo. Failure to enact these bills will have a real and painful impact. Victims of domestic violence will be in mortal danger. Working parents will continue to need to choose between the job they need and the sick child they need to care for. Some Rhode Islanders, ready to begin productive lives in the community, will wait longer behind bars.”

The organizations cite the real human harm this delay is causing everyday Rhode Islanders and the financial strain the lack of a budget is putting on cities and towns throughout the state.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has met with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and there are talks of the budget being resolved, maybe as early as next week.

“Every day that goes by without a budget makes it harder to have a good revenue and spending plan for 2018,” said Rachel Flum, Executive Director of the Economic Progress Institute. “We’re glad to hear there is movement toward coming back into session and urge leaders to keep those conversations going.”

On Rhode Island Public Radio this morning Mattiello said that the General Assembly might reconvene in the Fall to deal with some of the bills held up during the budget impasse. So even if the budget is passed next week, serious work on the stalled bills might not begin for a month or two.

“Despite popular support among lawmakers for legislation that affects hundreds of thousands of state residents, change is stalled until the General Assembly can come back together to complete their work,” said Georgia Hollister Isman, director of Rhode Island Working Families. “Based on what we have been hearing in the news, we’re hopeful the House and Senate will come back soon. Rhode Islanders really want that to happen.”

Here’s a list of the groups that signed the letter:
The American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island
Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights
Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE)
Dorcas International Institute
Economic Progress Institute
Fuerza Laboral
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
Mental Health Association of RI
Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Progreso Latino
Religious Coalition for a Violence-Free Rhode Island
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
RI Community Action Association
RI Council of Churches
RI Jobs with Justice
RI Racial Justice Coalition
RI Regional Adult Learning (RIRAL)
RI Working Families
Sierra Club, Rhode Island Chapter
Step Up Center International
United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP)