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D - District 19
Cranston, Warwick
(401) 941-8319
23 Howie Avenue
Warwick, RI 02888

Representative Joseph M. McNamara

Chair, House Education Committee

Member, House Labor Committee

Member, House Rules Committee

Member, House Conduct Committee


Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D) represents District 19 in Warwick and Cranston. First elected in November 1994, he is the chair of the House Education Committee. He also serves as a member of the House Labor Committee and the House Rules Committee.

During the 2024 session, he introduced a law to re-establish the Sheila C. “Skip” Nowell Academy, an institution that focuses on the diverse needs of pregnant and parenting teens, as a state school. The law also changes the operating structure of the academy to establish a cooperative agreement among school districts. Under the legislation, it will become a public school and cease operating as a charter school.

Representative McNamara also worked closely with BASF, an international chemical company that owns land on the banks of the Pawtuxet River that housed the Ciba-Geigy Chemical Company and is now the subject of an EPA corrective action plan. At his urging, the company has submitted a sediment sampling workplan to the Environmental Protection Agency to determine if sediment along the Pawtuxet River in the Warwick/Cranston area contains volatile organic compounds or PCBs. A website to keep the public informed of ongoing remediation efforts was also launched.

2023 was a productive session for Representative McNamara, with several education-related bills he sponsored becoming law. He introduced the Hope Scholarship pilot program, which provides the cost of two years of tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students during their junior and senior years at Rhode Island College. He also sponsored a law that improves access to school-based psychological services by including services provided by school social workers and certified school psychologists as health care-related services eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement. He also introduced a new law that requires the state’s public higher education institutions to establish ways of awarding academic credit for students’ participation in registered apprenticeship programs.

Several bills he sponsored in 2022, including four education bills, became law. The first created a joint study commission to examine the governance structure of Rhode Island’s public education system. The second allows speech therapy services to be provided in school to children who need them, regardless of age. The third requires the attorney general to publish information on school resource officers. A fourth addresses the unique educational challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has generated by providing that in developing alternative-learning plans, consideration would be given to the unique difficulties and interruptions that many students have experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representative McNamara also saw several health-related bills pass in 2022, including one that increases public access to professional psychological services by allowing for telepsychological practice across state lines as well as temporary in-person, face-to-face services in a state where the psychologist is not licensed to practice psychology. Another law creates a way to redistribute unused medication to aid people who cannot access or afford their prescriptions.

In the 2021 session, the General Assembly passed a law sponsored by Representative McNamara to allow school committees to budget funding for school field trips. The new law guarantees that all students have the same ability to attend those trips and allows schools to raise money to supplement the funding.

Representative McNamara is a member of the Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan think tank that consists of governors, educational commissioners, and legislators from all 50 states.

He is a founding board member of College Unbound. He is a member of the Irish Social Club, the former President of the Governors Golf League, a member of the Warwick Firefighters Association, and a board member of Friends of Salter’s Grove. He also previously served as an Explorer Advisor for the Boy Scouts of America and the Committee Chairman of Pack 4. Additionally, he is involved with Save The Bay, the Gaspee Day Committee, the Wyman P.T.A., and the Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scouts.

Representative McNamara is a retired educator, previously serving as the director of the Pawtucket School Department’s Alternative Learning Program. He received his Master of Education degree from Providence College. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Boston University and graduated from Pilgrim High School in Warwick.

Representative McNamara was born on September 7, 1950. He is married to Diane and they have two children, William and Katie, and two grandsons.