Dear District 28 Neighbors,
As your State Senator in District 28 (Cranston/Providence), I am writing to update you on progress I have made during the last legislative session, and to thank you for voting in the 2018 General Election on November 6th.
During the 2018 legislative session, I sponsored a number of bills to improve the lives of Rhode Islanders. Unfortunately, there are many important bills that did not pass, and I will continue to work on these issues and move toward progress in the areas of healthcare and homelessness, gun safety, education, consumer protection, and the environment. Please read on for a detailed explanation of the work I have done during the previous legislative session.
Safe Schools & Education
I was a proud sponsor of Senate Bill 2179A, which was signed into law. This bill ensures that all schools will be required to install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors. This change aligns with new national fire code standards and will help to promote the health and safety of students and school staff.
I also sponsored Senate Bill 2182, and this bill was signed into law, requiring that substance abuse and suicide prevention are included in health education curriculum. Suicide and substance overdoses are preventable, and with the right tools, we can help our children protect themselves and their classmates.
I intend to reintroduce S2115, which would allow children to bring in sunscreen without a doctor’s note. This bill did not pass in during the 2018 session, and I will also reintroduce Senate Bill S2338, which would have mandated elementary and secondary school libraries to be open one hour before, during, and after school, so that all students have access to research materials, literacy tools, the internet, and library staff.
Environment & Consumer Protection
Senate Resolution (S3011) requesting that the RI Attorney General, Dept. of Labor & Training, Public Utilities Commission, and Office of Energy Resources work together to generate a solar consumer rights guide passed. This resolution provides requirements and guidance to RI homeowners who wish to install residential solar panels.
Senate Bill 2534, the Plastic Waste Reduction Act, did not pass. This bill would have prevented large retail establishments from providing plastic checkout bags and styrofoam containers. As a member of the Governor’s Plastic Waste Task Force, I will continue to advocate for a statewide plastic bag ban. This waste is an increasing problem here in the Ocean State, and we must do what we can to help prevent it.
S2508 would have required fossil fuel facilities to also invest in renewable energy, but was held for further study and did not pass out of committee. This bill would require any new LNG facility or natural gas generation plant to provide matching funds for significant renewable energy projects.
Healthcare & Homelessness
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires that insurers provide medical coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and defines ten essential benefits that must be covered, including prescription drug benefits, maternity care, mental health and addiction treatment, among others, is constantly under attack at the federal level. This legislation, S2785, was my priority, as I feel that it is critically important to codify into state law the protections provided by the ACA. This bill successfully passed the Senate, and I look forward to advocating its passage in 2019.
S2934A was signed into law. This bill authorizes HealthSourceRI to create the RI Reinsurance Program to help stabilize the health insurance market. This program’s goal is to provide reinsurance to commercial insurers to lessen the impact of high-risk patients on health insurance rates and premiums.
Additionally, S2930 was signed into law, and will help increase access to life-saving naloxone (Narcan). We can decrease the number of opioid overdose deaths by increasing individual and community access to naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication. The Dept. of Health will work to develop guidelines to allow for reimbursement of naloxone that is dispensed in non-pharmacy settings.
As the Senate member of the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, I will continue to work on both short- and long-term solutions to this critical issue important to so many Rhode Islanders. The Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act of 2016 (S2896), an example of the Task Force efforts, was signed into law in 2018. This bill allows for the use of fentanyl test strips to help people determine whether substances they obtain include fentanyl. At the cost of about $1 each, these test strips are a cost-effective way to help prevent overdose deaths in RI.
S2545 and S2546, bills that I sponsored to help increase access to recovery services for individuals with substance use disorders, did pass the Senate, but did not pass the full legislature. S2545 would have streamlined admission for both inpatient and outpatient treatment. S2546 would have helped implement and maintain a real-time database of substance use disorder services. Recovery for substance use disorders requires immediate access to treatment, and without it, we will continue to see opioid overdose deaths and RI residents unable to move toward a better life in recovery.
Senate bill 2228 was passed into law and will now ban electronic smoking and vaping in the workplace and any public place where nicotine products are not allowed.
For several years, I have sponsored legislation such as S2895 to regulate and tax the adult use and cultivation of marijuana, similar to laws now in effect in nearby states (MA, ME) and Canada. Revenue that is being collected elsewhere needs to be collected here in RI. This revenue stream could be used for historically underfunded youth prevention efforts, law enforcement priorities, our public schools, and infrastructure. This bill did not pass in 2018, and I will continue to work with legislators and community partners on its passage.
Senate bill 2129 would have established the RI Pathways Project, a program designed to increase access to funding via Medicaid for housing for the chronically homeless. This bill passed the Senate but did not pass the full legislature last session. I am committed to pursuing additional housing solutions for the homeless in 2019.
The RI legislature made progress this year in passing Senate Bill 2492, the “Red Flag” law, and S2292, which bans the possession of bump stocks. However, I believe that this is not enough. Other gun safety bills that I sponsored did not pass, including S2493, a ban on assault weapons and a limit on magazine capacity to 10 rounds or less, S2615 a bill to prohibit the purchase for illegal transfer of a firearm, and S2797 which would increase the legal age to purchase a rifle or shotgun from 18 to 21. Gun safety is not only a priority of mine, but a major concern of my constituents and their children.
As we move forward into 2019, I thank you for your continued support. I am committed to improving gun safety, access to mental healthcare, codifying federal protections of Roe V Wade and reproductive rights, and working toward marijuana legalization, safer schools, and more stringent environmental protections.
Please feel free to contact me via the form on my website, www.joshuamiller.org, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing your comments and concerns.
Senator Josh Miller
District 28, Cranston/Providence