With the start of the legislative session, I reached out to the area’s legislative delegation to survey what legislation is important to each of them, the challenges ahead, and their perspective on the upcoming legislative session.
Initially, I expected to wrap the answers into a single story. But the responses were so extensive and informative that I decided it would be more beneficial running these separately. This is the second segment. Our first was Rep. Lauren Carson. Over the next several days to few weeks, these will appear as a feature: “Under the Dome.”
Rep. Terri-Denise Cortvriend, Dist. 72 (Portsmouth, Middletown)
What legislation do you hope to introduce in the 2020 legislative session? Please give a brief description, and why it’s one of your priorities.
- New Legislation
- I will be submitting a bill protecting shoreline access to Rhode Islanders.
- I will be co-sponsoring a bill directing DOH (Department of Health) to set up standards for PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in drinking and surface water. (editor’s note: full discussion of PFAS can be found on the Rhode Island Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency websites).
- I will also be sponsoring a bill banning the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging.
What legislation did you introduce in the last legislative session and what was the outcome?
- At the request of the Portsmouth Town Council I submitted legislation to authorize the tax assessor to use the last revaluation as the assessed valuation. It did not pass and I plan to re-introduce the bill.
- Preservation of Families with a Disabled parent – this would prevent the disability of a parent from serving as the sole basis for denial or restriction in that parents’ right to parent. I plan to re-introduce this bill.
- Climate Literacy Resolution – this resolution requested that RIDE (Rhode Island Department of Education) develop a set of key environmental and climate principles and concepts to be infused across K-12 curriculum. I plan to re-introduce this bill.
- Suicide Prevention: Working with the students with the “Be Great for Nate” group I introduced the Jason Flatt Act in memory of Nathan Bruno that would require all student involved school personnel and volunteers to receive two hours of suicide prevention training annually. I plan to re-introduce a version of this bill.
What did you feel were the legislature’s greatest accomplishments in 2019?
- Codifying Roe v Wade, which protects a woman’s right to privately make appropriate choices about her reproductive healthcare with her doctor.
- Education Reform, particularly expanding Pre-K education and curriculum alignment with the standards and establishment of Frameworks
- Extending the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault
What were your greatest disappointments in the 2019 legislative session?
- That no environmental bills were brought to the floor of the House, including the plastic bag ban and Save the Bay’s legislation to establish the OSCAR Fund by collecting a nickel on every barrel of fuel to set aside for resiliency projects. Many of my constituents wrote to me expressing support for both measures.
- That we authorized new medical marijuana facilities to also be growers when we already have many licensed cultivators that have invested millions of dollars in their business development. We grew their competition without expanding their customer base.
What do you see as the state’s greatest challenges in 2020?
- Balancing the budget is always a complex challenge to solve, funding the
phase out of the car tax will grow again this year which will put more of burden on the programs designed to help our most vulnerable citizens.
- Having recently received a presentation on the most recent storm tools has me very concerned that we have not developed the strategies that we need to plan for a 100-year storm, factoring in the sea level rise we are already experiencing. It is a goal to make more of my colleagues in the House aware of this threat.
- We need to address the lack of affordable housing locally and statewide.
- We need to address nicotine addiction in our youth. The federal government just raised the age to 21 for the purchase of nicotine products, but the state must pass legislation to update our own laws so that we are able to enforce the new Federal law.
- School Funding Formula – I have been attending all the meetings of the Senate’s study commission and look forward to seeing the report and recommendations about how we go forward.
What do you see as the region’s greatest challenges in 2020?
- My concern about the potential damage posed by the increased frequency of larger, stronger hurricanes and our preparedness to address the emergency and aftermath of a large storm raises concerns for me.
No doubt the most challenging event in 2019 was the gas crisis.
Were you satisfied with the outcome of investigations by the state, feds, and National Grid, including the time it took to complete and release these reports?
I think the report was released in time to allow us to prepare for this heating season. I want to make sure that the temporary LNG facility in Portsmouth does not become permanent. I think the moth balled facility located on the Navy base is a more appropriate location. I do have concerns with building new fossil fuel infrastructure when we should be developing and incentivizing programs that move us toward electrification of heating systems powered by renewable energy.
Do you feel enough has been done to prevent a repeat of the gas crisis?
In the short term yes. The DPUC has been very active on this and has made it very clear to the Aquidneck Island delegation that preventing a reoccurrence is a top priority for them.
What do you believe still needs to be done long-term to assure an uninterrupted gas flow on Aquidneck Island?
Please see my comments above. This is not my field of expertise, so I will be talking to experts to get their perspectives on the best way forward and I will follow Senator DiPalma’s study commission.
Is there anything you feel is important for constituents to know at the start of this legislative session?
I have a survey on my website asking my constituents what their opinions are on some of the timely issues that may come up this session.