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D - District 23
(401) 222-2447
State House, Room 323
Providence, Rhode Island 02903

Representative K. Joseph Shekarchi

House Speaker

K. Joseph Shekarchi (D) was elected Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives in January 2021.

From November 2016 through 2020, he served as House Majority Leader; previously, he was Chairman of the House Labor Committee. He has served the residents of District 23 in Warwick since first being elected in November 2012.

Upon his election as Speaker, he pledged to make housing issues the cornerstone of his administration, putting forth a seven-bill package of legislation designed to tackle the state's housing crisis from multiple angles. Legislation he successfully enacted into law in 2021 includes the creation of Rhode Island's first-ever dedicated funding stream for affordable housing; the establishment of a new position for a state “housing czar" to serve as the state's lead official to coordinate and facilitate housing production; a ban on housing discrimination against individuals who receive government assistance to pay their rent; and the reduction of regulatory barriers that deter development. Also in 2021, Speaker Shekarchi supported a pilot program to create permanent supportive housing for 125 chronically homeless Rhode Islanders.

Speaker Shekarchi has also been a strong proponent of economic development. During the 2021 legislative session, he played a key role in negotiating the agreement between the State of Rhode Island, IGT and Bally's Corporation​, which resulted in a $250 million economic development plan, secured 1,100 well-paying Rhode Island jobs, and proactively protected Rhode Island's third-largest source of revenue. Previously, he sponsored the Qualified Jobs Incentive Act​, which created more than 3,000 new well-paying private sector jobs with no fiscal impact to the state.

In 2021, Speaker Shekarchi championed the passage of landmark pay equity legislation​, the passage of which had been sought by the bill's sponsors and supporters for years. The legislation comprehensively addresses wage discrimination based on gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Speaker Shekarchi also supported the Act on Climate, which is one of the most influential environmental bills approved by the General Assembly in decades. The Act updates Rhode Island's climate-emission reduction goals and makes them enforceable, positioning the state to boldly address climate change and prepare for a global economy that will be shifting to adapt to clean technology.

Under Speaker Shekarchi's leadership, legislation was enacted into law in 2021 which set safe minimum staffing levels for Rhode Island nursing homes while providing funding to raise wages for direct care staff to help recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce; made the Rhode Island Promise program permanent, which provides up to two years of free tuition at Community College of Rhode Island for eligible graduating high school seniors; and continued the phase-out of the state car tax as part of the budget that was enacted with no broad-based tax increases.

He has sponsored a law requiring health insurers to cover mastectomies without copays or deductibles. He was also the sponsor of several good government reforms, including the long sought-after law eliminating the “master lever" option on the ballot.

Speaker Shekarchi has been a leader in protecting animals, receiving the Golden Paw Award from Animal Rescue Rhode Island for his advocacy. He was presented the National Council for Behavioral Health's Excellence in Advocacy Award for the passage of legislation he sponsored that requires training for law enforcement officers on mental health and substance abuse emergencies. He was also honored by the Hospitality Association as Ambassador of the Year, by the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, and by AAA New England with a Traffic Safety Leadership Award.

He is a graduate of Mount St. Charles Academy, Class of 1980, and graduated from Suffolk University in 1984. He returned to Suffolk to earn his law degree in 1990. In addition to his duties as a legislator, Speaker Shekarchi is a successful attorney in private practice for over 25 years. He has been the legal counsel to the Warwick Housing Authority for over 25 years and is a former Warwick solicitor. Speaker Shekarchi is a lifelong Warwick resident.​​