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6/29/2023 Sen. Mack highlights successful legislative session
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence) is highlighting the end of a successful legislative session.  Senator Mack sponsored and introduced seven bills that were approved by the General Assembly, including legislation addressing tenant protections, lead poisoning, African American history preservation and correctional reform.
In addition to the seven bills passed by the Assembly, Senator Mack also cosponsored 23 pieces of legislation that were approved by the legislature this session.
“This was a successful legislative session where serious issues that affect everyday Rhode Islanders were addressed and rectified by the General Assembly.  I thank my colleagues for their support in approving the legislation I put forth this year that will protect tenants, that will reform our correctional system and will honor and celebrate the rich history and culture that African Americans have contributed to our state and country,” said Senator Mack.      
At the beginning of the legislative session, Senator Mack introduced a six-bill package of legislation that would address and strengthen tenants’ rights in Rhode Island.  Three of the six bills were approved by the General Assembly.
“I am proud to celebrate these wins at the end of the session and looking forward to the work ahead to push toward passing more of these tenant rights,” said Senator Mack.
The first piece of legislation (2023-0912Aaa) in the tenants’ rights package would seal eviction court records in residential eviction proceedings upon the filing of a motion and the meeting of certain requirements. 
“Rhode Island’s housing crisis is very real and it is having a devastating impact on too many residents, particularly renters, residents of color and individuals and low-income families.  This legislation is critical because eviction rates are at an all-time high in Rhode Island and increasing on a daily basis.  Publicly available eviction filing records do not reflect what actually happened and cases can be dismissed or resolved, but these records continually negatively impact the tenant for years, unfairly preventing them from getting suitable housing.,” said Senator Mack.

The second piece of legislation (2023-S 1099) would increase the amount of costs for repairs that a tenant may deduct from rent from $125 to $500 in the aggregate per year and would take effect on January 1, 2024.  Senator Mack also cosponsored legislation (2023-S 0311A), introduced by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), which would eliminate housing rental application fees. 
“With housing affordably growing worse by the day, we cannot afford to have tenants in problematic or unsafe homes that are often putting our residents in economic or physical danger.  This bill will protect Rhode Island tenants who have the least while also keeping them in safe, warm and dry housing by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money while also addressing repair issues within their homes. This is an important tool for tenants that has not been updated since before I was born and it will give tenants the ability to make their apartments and homes safe, habitable and livable. It is a significant win for tenants and property owners,” said Senator Mack.
She also sponsored a new law (2023-S 0729aa) which allows tenants to pay their rent into an escrow account when there are unaddressed lead hazards in their homes. The legislation ensures that tenants remain current on their rent obligations, and that landlords won’t be able to access the funds until they address the lead hazards.

“Everyone deserves safe, quality housing and that includes having a lead-free environment. If property owners choose not to remedy these dangerous lead poisoning situations, they should not have access to a renter’s money until the lead problem is resolved. The Pioneer case shows that this inexcusable poisoning of children has been allowed to happen in Providence and Rhode Island for too long, and this will empower tenants to fight back,” said Senator Mack.

She also saw legislation (2023-S 0444A) pass that will establish “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” as a paid state holiday that will be held annually on June 19, beginning in 2024.  Senator Mack also introduced legislation (2023-S 0445) would include all books, periodicals and papers in the keeping of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society to be placed under the care of the state librarian.
“Juneteenth is a holiday that recognizes the violent horror of slavery that still impacts and harms African Americans in today’s society. It is also a joyous event when we celebrate the freedom and humanity finally granted to all Americans. By establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday, we will have a day to solemnly recognize and learn from the horrors that were perpetrated upon generations of Black Americans, while also embracing the vibrant culture and history that African Americans have contributed to our diverse and vast country, and more specifically, right here in Rhode Island.  Not all chains of oppression were broken on June 19 and there is still much work to be done to reach a truly equal and just society.  However, by officially recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth as a state holiday, we have an opportunity to come together toward that better tomorrow,” said Senator Mack.

Senator Mack also saw a bills (2023-S 0727, 2023-S 0635) she sponsored pass the General Assembly that would provide additional earned time for good behavior or program participation or completion for prisoners not serving a life sentence and legislation which would increase the maximum amount maintained in a prisoners account from $1,000 to $2,000, with said funds to be turned over to the prisoner at the time of their release from incarceration.

“Rhode Islanders are still struggling and there is much more work to be done to ensure that all individuals and families in Rhode Island can have the quality of life that they deserve.  With that being said, I am proud of what we accomplished this session for Rhode Island’s families and residents and I thank everyone for their advocacy and support in making these important bills law,” concluded Senator Mack. 

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903