Valarie J. Lawson is a Democrat representing District 14 (East Providence) in the Rhode Island Senate.
First elected to the Senate in November 2018, Sen. Lawson has been an active voice on a range of issues, including education, public health, protections for senior citizens, and the East Providence community.
In 2023, she sponsored laws to protect seniors from Medicare discrimination and protect children from lead poisoning. She also helped secure significant state funding for public schools, including for multilingual learners, special education students, and high-poverty districts. And she supported a package of new laws to address the state's housing crisis.
Sen. Lawson also served as co-chair of the Sherlock Center Vision Services Joint Task Force, which studied services for Rhode Island’s blind and visually impaired students. With Sen. Lawson’s support, the FY 2024 state budget helped secure an additional $1.8 million for these services.
In 2022, Sen. Lawson helped create a program to provide an extra $0.50 of SNAP benefits for every $1.00 spent on fruits and vegetables to help families afford healthier food. She also sponsored a law to require insurers cover treatment for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) and a law that requires public higher education institutions accept AP test scores for college credit.
She was the Senate sponsor of the Senior Savings Protection Act, a law that requires enhanced reporting of suspected financial exploitation of people over 60 or those 18 to 59 with a disability.
She was part of a group of legislators who sponsored new laws focused on women’s equity and health, and she sponsored a law requiring public schools to provide feminine hygiene products at no cost. She also sponsored a law requiring that private and public schools maintain the opioid overdose antidote Narcan on site.
Bills sponsored by Sen. Lawson and signed into law have also added East Providence to the Blackstone Valley tourism district, provided a personal income tax exemption for writers, composers and artists residing within the East Providence art district, increased temporary caregiver benefits for families, and exempted those with chronic intractable pain from restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
She has advanced legislation to create a Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund to assist local families, eliminate the sales tax for face masks, and urge the state to assist East Providence with the costs of acquiring Metacomet Golf Course.
Sen. Lawson is a lifelong East Providence resident.
She earned both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree from Rhode Island College. She taught in East Providence public schools for 32 years and is the former President of the East Providence Education Association. In 2023, she was elected President of the National Education Association Rhode Island.