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7/1/2016 Rep. Diaz looks back on successful session; lauds colleagues on initiatives to help working families
STATE HOUSE — Expressing gratitude to her lawmaking colleagues, Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) is lauding the legislation and budget passed by the General Assembly as a tremendous boon to Rhode Island’s working class families.

“It is very encouraging to me that all the hard work that went into this session has borne such positive fruit,” said Representative Diaz. “I am extremely grateful that my colleagues in the General Assembly saw the merits of these worthwhile measures and voted to make them law.”

In particular, Representative Diaz was gratified that the legislature extended the child care assistance transition program by one year. The budget also includes language for the rate increase for home child care providers.

The program provides child care to families with income below 180 percent of the federal poverty level on a short-term basis when it is needed for a parent to participate in training, an apprenticeship, internship, work experience or other work-readiness program sponsored or funded by the Governor’s Workforce Board or other state agencies with related programs. The investment, Representative Diaz said, allows hard-working families to balance child care and the process of working toward a career.

“I am grateful that my colleagues have extended the program so that families — especially single parents — can access affordable child care,” Representative Diaz said. “Each year when we have Child Care Day at the State House, I look around and think about how many people are still in need and what it takes to keep families strong.”

Also, the budget fully funds the sixth year of the 10-year phase-in of the state education funding formula, increasing that aid by a total of $49.3 million. In response to an issue identified by a panel that studied the formula earlier this year, the Assembly included a one-year pilot program to send more funding to schools with high numbers of English language learners, although legislative leaders, including Representative Diaz, suggested that the funding formula should be tweaked to create a permanent fix in future years.

Representative Diaz is also applauding the state income tax exemption to all retirees who have reached the full Social Security retirement age beginning in the 2017 tax year as a means to provide tax relief to seniors living on fixed incomes. The program would exempt the first $15,000 of income from state income taxes for retirees earning up to $80,000 as single tax filers, or up to $100,000 for joint filers. 

The General Assembly also passed — and the governor signed — a law introduced by Representative Diaz that seeks to curtail racial disparities in school discipline. 

The law (2016-H 7056aa) directs all school superintendents to review discipline data for their school districts, to decide whether there is an unequal impact on students based on race, ethnicity, or disability status, and to respond to any disparity.

“While we have made great strides in stamping out racial bias in our schools, we still need to be mindful of the ways racism and discrimination against the disabled can still take root in our educational system” said Representative Diaz. “If we analyze the data regarding school discipline and see its impact on race, we’ll have a better understanding of the source of the problem so we can do something about it.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903