The Rhode Island General Assembly is now underway for the 2019 session!
This year, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) will prioritize issues related to protection for children who witness domestic violence, access to affordable and safe housing, and wage equity for all Rhode Islanders. As bills are introduced in the legislature, remember to check our website for our 2019 Legislative Priorities and to RSVP for our annual Community Advocacy Day at the State House in May!
The RICADV will also host a Legislative Advocacy Workshop 101 on Tuesday, May 7 from 5-7PM, where participants will learn about legislation that impacts survivors of domestic violence, basic legislative advocacy skills, and tips for testifying in legislative hearings. Click here for more information and to register.
As we continue our work towards social justice, it has never been more important to become actively engaged in our democracy and to collectively raise our voices against all injustice.
2018 Legislative Recap:
The 2018 Rhode Island legislative session included significant victories for domestic violence survivors. While we celebrate these successes, we also recognize the continued challenges we face in our mission to move toward gender equity and freedom from oppression.
The RI Senate and RI House of Representatives failed to act on a number of bills that are crucial to the wellbeing of the undocumented, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. When the ideals of "liberty and justice for all" have been abandoned by many of our institutions nationwide, we must be unified and resilient.
Some positive outcomes from this session:
PASSED: A bill to criminally prohibit nonconsensual pornography, also known as "revenge porn"
A top priority for the RICADV this year, this act prohibits offenders from disseminating sexually explicit or nude images of victims without their consent and also creates a felony offense for using extortion to threaten victims with posting online images or demanding money in exchange for taking down private photos or videos. The bill provides a reasonable balance of strong legal protections for victims' fundamental privacy rights while protecting the free speech rights of individuals and the press.
PASSED: A gun safety law to provide another option for firearm surrender for individuals who present an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others
This "Red Flag" law allows law enforcement to petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order in the Superior Court when they receive sufficient evidence of imminent risk of harm. If granted by the court, the person presenting the deadly threat will have all firearms surrendered to the authorities. Victims of domestic violence could use this process if they are threatened with gun violence from an intimate partner, cohabitant, or family member (in addition to the restraining order process already in effect).
PASSED: A bill to rename the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund after Deborah DeBare in honor of our long-serving former executive director
Click here to watch the RI Senate and RI House of Representatives unanimously vote for the passage of the "Deborah DeBare Domestic Violence Prevention Fund."
Some negative outcomes from this session:
Three pieces of legislation that would have a direct positive impact on victims and survivors of domestic violence and their families were not passed this session by the General Assembly.
NOT PASSED: A bill to create a special commission to study the long-term impact of trauma on children exposed to violence
NOT PASSED: The "Fight for $15" minimum wage bill
NOT PASSED: A fair pay act to help close the wage gap faced by women and people of color
In this time of increased mass shootings and deadly gun violence, there is still much work to do toward firearm safety, yet the General Assembly failed to act.
NOT PASSED: Assault weapon ban
NOT PASSED: High-capacity magazine ban
NOT PASSED: Guns in Schools prohibition legislation
The march toward gender and racial equity took another hit in the RI State House when the House refused to take any action on a strong package of sexual harassment bills, which were the result of a special commission established to improve the civil rights of all Rhode Island workers in the wake of the "Me Too" movement.
NOT PASSED: Act to extend the timeframe within which to bring an action for an unlawful employment practice
While we applauded the passage of a bill to allow full-year access to contraception through health insurance providers, we were dismayed that the Senate and House of Representatives again refused to allow a vote on the RI Reproductive Health Care Act. With a vacancy in the U.S. Supreme Court, the reproductive rights of women have never been more at risk, and we must ensure that we protect true equality and agency for women in our own state by enshrining the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island law.
NOT PASSED: RI Reproductive Health Care Act
Finally, while we were thrilled that the Governor signed legislation to allow DACA recipients in RI to apply for driver's licenses, this measure should be extended to all undocumented folks. Like our state motto, Rhode Island must be a beacon of hope at a time when immigrant families are being torn apart and victims of domestic violence are being denied asylum at our borders.
Thank you to all who testified in support of our priority legislation in 2018, as well as to the many legislators who submitted bills and championed social justice during the course of the session. We look forward to continuing our work together this year.