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1/4/2022 Senate President Ruggerio's opening remarks to the 2022 Senate
Opening Day Address to Chamber
January 4, 2022

 

Dominick J. Ruggerio

President of the Senate

 
It is a privilege to welcome all of you to the 2022 legislative session.
 
Serving as President of the Rhode Island Senate is the honor of a lifetime. Each and every member of this chamber shares an abiding commitment to improving the lives of their constituents.
 
A few moments ago, we concluded the most productive Senate session that I can remember – and I’ve been here for quite a few. Countless initiatives that the Senate had championed for years – sometimes decades – were enacted into law. I especially want to thank my leadership team, including Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, Whip Maryellen Goodwin, and our committee chairs.
 
Rhode Island workers and families are better off because of your efforts.
 
  • We passed a $15 minimum wage;
 
  • We created a dedicated funding stream for affordable housing, and banned housing discrimination based on source of income;
 
  • We enacted the historic Act on Climate;
 
  • We capped insulin co-payments and prohibited co-payments for colorectal cancer screenings;
 
  • We required insurers to cover telemedicine;
 
  • We made Rhode Island Promise permanent;
 
  • We funded a statewide body camera program;
 
  • We passed a strong Equal Pay Act and expanded family leave;
 
  • We increased Rhode Island Works benefits for the first time in 30 years;
 
  • And, for the first time, this chamber passed legislation to legalize adult cannabis use.
 
These issues were priorities for you and your colleagues, and working together, we delivered results.
 
But there is still unfinished business. Last year’s bill to legalize cannabis included substantial measures to rectify the wrongs associated with a decades-long policy of prohibition.
 
Throughout this fall, Leader Michael McCaffrey and Chairman Joshua Miller continued to work with our colleagues in the House to negotiate a proposal that maintains the core principles of our proposal. Because of those efforts, I anticipate that General Assembly will legalize cannabis this session.
 
Last year, the Senate also passed legislation to bring our state to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. That is a bold but achievable goal that builds on the historic Act on Climate championed by Senator Dawn Euer. We need to see it enacted, and I know that Chairs Sosnowski and Euer have a bevy of proposals that further seek to remediate the impacts of Climate Change.
 
Last year, we allocated unprecedented federal funds to provide relief to hard hit Rhode Island workers and small businesses.
 
While we need to continue to meet immediate needs to help those struggling from the pandemic, the federal funding also provides our state with the opportunity to make transformational change.
 
More than a billion dollars in federal funds can be truly impactful for our small state. We will work to make transformational investments with these funds.
 
We will put Rhode Island on a path to achieve universal pre-k within five years.
 
We will reinvest in the “Care Economy,” including through tuition forgiveness for those who enter fields such as nursing and teaching.
 
Beyond tuition forgiveness, we will work to strengthen our health care system, which was challenged before the pandemic and today is in crisis. The Senate has a commission exploring health and human service delivery, and we need to comprehensively reform everything from rates to service models.
 
We will consider a comprehensive package of climate jobs legislation, and shore up our water infrastructure … replacing lead pipes, repairing deficient dams, and protecting against sea level rise.
 
We will continue to invest in longstanding Senate priorities, including affordable child care and affordable housing.
 
We will commit the resources needed to construct a girls’ residential psychiatric treatment facility.
 
We will continue to support the small businesses that are the backbone of Rhode Island’s economy.
 
Our priorities and accomplishments are always driven by all of you.
 
I look forward to continuing to work together with you, and towards a 2022 legislative session that is transformational for our state.



For more information, contact:
Greg Pare, Press Secretary for the Senate
State House Room 112
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 276-5558