John G. “Jay” Edwards (D) represents District 70 in Tiverton. First elected in November 2008, he has served as both the House Majority Whip and the Senior Deputy Majority Leader before being named the Majority Floor Manager in January 2021. He is a member of the House Finance Committee, the House Labor Committee, and the House Municipal Government and Housing Committee.
A strong champion of victims’ rights, Representative Edwards sponsored a new law in 2022 that codifies the rights of rape victims by regulating the use of
sexual assault evidence kits and enumerating the rights of victims in relation to those kits.
A longtime advocate of opioid reform, he sponsored a law in 2021 that
authorizes a two-year pilot program to prevent drug overdoses through the establishment of harm reduction centers, which are a community-based resource for health screening, disease prevention and recovery assistance where persons may safely consume pre-obtained substances. In 2022, he was also appointed to the newly formed
Opioid Settlement Agreement Advisory Committee, which is tasked with recommending how to utilize funds from several settlement with opioid manufacturers amounting to $185 million.
During the 2021 session, he introduced legislation that was signed into law amending the state building code to require that any single-user toilet facility in a public building or place of public accommodation be
available for use by persons of any gender.
The National Conference of State Legislatures named him a fellow in its
Maternal and Childhood Health program, which is designed to support legislators who are experienced or emerging leaders on MCH-related issues.
In 2019, Representative Edwards was selected as a
2019 Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which focuses on health policies and programs being addressed throughout the country. When he returned, he sponsored a law that allows hospitals to contact the patient’s emergency contact and a certified peer recovery specialist in certain situations. The change will improve support for those hospitalized for drug overdoses and mental health emergencies by increasing the likelihood that their families or others wishing to assist them with treatment are aware of their hospitalization.
During the 2018 session, he sponsored the
Rhode Island Market Stability and Reinsurance Act, which stabilizes health insurance rates and premiums in the individual market and provides greater financial certainty to consumers. Another law he sponsored requires each public institution of postsecondary education to establish a plan for addressing the mental health needs of its students, requiring policies aimed at identifying a student exhibiting suicidal behavior or tendencies.
Representative Edwards served on the Tiverton Town Council from 2006 to 2008 and the Tiverton Zoning Board from 1996 to 2006. He served as vice chairman of the town’s Elementary School Building Committee from 2004 to 2008 and as chairman of Tiverton’s Landfill Sub-Committee from 2006 to 2008.
An outspoken advocate of blood donation, as well as an active platelet donor, Whip Edwards has donated more than 100 gallons of blood.
A 1983 graduate of Northeastern University, he works as a senior project manager for Site Specific, a Providence construction company. He was the director of Caritas RI, a former member of the Rhode Island Builders Association and the former chair of the Rhode Island branch of Associated Builders and Contractors. He has also been involved in the Tiverton Land Trust, Save the Bay, Maine Island Trail Association, the Sierra Club, the Tiverton Democratic Town Committee and the National Eagle Scout Association.
Edwards was born on April 7, 1958. He resides in Tiverton with his wife, Donna. The couple has three children: John, Kelsey and Mae, and two granddaughters, Amelia and Sloan.