Healthcare is personal to Sam. Sam’s wife Samantha has type 1 diabetes, and Sam has Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia. Their son Jake suffers from FARS2 mitochondrial disease, an ultra-rare disorder. Sam strongly believes that every Rhode Islander deserves the best quality Medicaid care.
Unfortunately, in budget after budget, Rhode Island has made deep cuts to Medicaid. After hundreds of millions of dollars slashed from the program, we’ve seen heartrending suffering in our state. Provider after provider has closed, including Park View Nursing Home on Dexter Park. Memorial Hospital has gone under, and others are teetering on the edge of collapse. Sam believes it is time to stand up and demand change.
Sam believes it is time to repeal the Medicaid cuts, and stopping the cuts and beginning to reverse them has been central to Sam’s work in the Senate. He works hard to scrutinize the Medicaid budget, propose solutions, and advocate for improvements at every stage of the process. Because of its cruel Medicaid cuts targeted at nursing homes (as well as other issues), Sam voted against the FY2020 budget. Working with activists and other legislators, Sam was proud to defeat the Medicaid cuts the Governor proposed in the FY2021 and FY2022 budgets. Working with the Medicaid Director, Sam saw his initiative to repeal Medicaid co-pay authorization signed into law as part of the FY2022 budget. In the FY2023 and FY2024 budgets, he is excited to have real successes at beginning the process of rolling back these devastating cuts. In particular, he is pleased that the Medicaid shift plan he and others have advocated for was able to deliver more than $120 million a year in new federal Medicaid funding to the hospitals–at no net cost to the state.
In the Senate, Sam has consistently fought the health insurance companies and their lobbyists. He strongly supports legislation to prevent insurance companies from abusing patients and denying coverage. Sam vocally opposed the nomination of controversial former health insurance executive Patrick Tigue to be Health Insurance Commissioner, warning of the damage that would be done to Rhode Island families if Tigue gained the ability to ram through rate hikes. Unfortunately, despite an unusually strong showing of opposition in the Senate, Tigue was confirmed in a lame duck session before a more progressive Senate could be seated. Tigue since went on to raise health insurance rates during the pandemic despite massive insurance company profits showing that rates needed to be lowered, not raised. Sam supports the leadership of current Health Insurance Commissioner Cory King, and he especially salutes Commissioner King’s initiative to triple commercial market insurance companies’ investment in the childhood mental health crisis.
Sam believes that healthcare is a human right. No Rhode Islander should have to worry that they won't be able to afford care. That's why Sam is the lead sponsor of legislation to create a Medicare for All system here in Rhode Island. In 2021, he was part of the coalition of Senators on the Health and Human Services Committee that successfully passed Senator Calkin’s resolution to push congress to pass Medicare for All at the federal level. It was the first major piece of legislation passed against the wishes of the Senate leadership in many years.
As part of the movement towards Medicare for All, Sam believes much work must be done to transform healthcare in our state. Most importantly, Sam supports deprivatizing Medicaid in Rhode Island, as Connecticut did in 2010. Sam also supports an array of healthcare policies, including: expanding eligibility for Medicaid coverage of long-term care, expanding Medicaid eligibility for young people up to the federal maximum, robust public health measures like vaccination, deep investments in harm reduction and treatment beds to combat substance use disorder, healthy nutrition incentives through SNAP, and a URI medical school to improve our local doctor supply.
Finally, Sam is available to help constituents navigate the healthcare system, especially when it comes to state programs like Medicaid and state-regulated commercial insurance. A considerable percentage of his time goes into working with constituents on healthcare system navigation issues.
Sam worked hard to fight the drive for brutal cuts during the height of the pandemic crisis. In the last economic crisis, the Great Recession, Rhode Island slashed taxes for the rich and made brutal cuts that crippled Rhode Island’s economy. For months, we had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. This time around, the same forces fought for brutal cuts, but Sam worked with activists and fellow legislators to successfully defeat the majority of the proposed cuts. It wasn’t a total victory. For the most part, while the cuts were mostly defeated, Rhode Island did not do nearly enough to provide the economic relief Rhode Islanders desperately needed. But compared to the damage Rhode Island’s government did to our economy last time around, things were much better this time, and Sam believes that matters. As a result, Rhode Island’s recovery has only mildly underperformed the national average. Sam will always fight for direct relief in economic crises. He will always oppose brutal budget cuts that would harm struggling Rhode Islanders.
Our state's approach to economic development is broken. Sam believes that we need to replace the corporate welfare model with the proven techniques that have worked so well in Massachusetts. Instead of just giving companies cash, we need to invest in public infrastructure, in creating great places where people want to be. We need to develop an environmental cleanup fund, push for more European-style planning rules, and invest in affordable housing. The results in Massachusetts speak for themselves. Sam opposes the Fane Tower and voted against a special deal zoning override bill tailored for the Fane Tower.
Most importantly, Sam believes we need robust macroeconomic management. Much of his policy work focuses on exposing the places where the state rejects federal funding needed to address core problems. By injecting more federal funding into the state, rather than funding programs by raising state taxes, we can stimulate macroeconomic growth. Sam also believes that the state needs to finally do its part when it comes to creating jobs by directly creating more state jobs–not just relying on the private sector to do it.
REPEALING THE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH
In 2006, Rhode Island passed one of the biggest tax cuts for the rich in American history. Only one red state--North Dakota--has ever cut income taxes for the rich by more than Rhode Island. In North Dakota, they had oil money to balance the budget. Here in Rhode Island, we’ve dealt with budget crisis after budget crisis ever since those tax cuts for the rich.
That is why Sam believes we must repeal the tax cuts for the rich and oppose proposals for further cuts, so we can fund programs that help the rest of us.
Here in Providence, we face a legacy of bad housing policies that have resulted in a crippling affordability crisis. Everyone deserves a warm, dry bed to sleep in. We must take action on the housing crisis. That is why Sam is working to reduce housing costs by addressing zoning and fighting for drastically increased funding for affordable housing. Sam is proud of the work that reformers have done on zoning laws at the statehouse, and he is fighting for additional legislation to prevent existing dense housing from being shut down under zoning due to the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Cigarrilha v. City of Providence ruling.
Sam believes that housing is a human right. Reducing market costs through zoning reform is important, but it is not enough to make housing affordable to our low-income neighbors. That is why Sam has worked so hard to expand our housing safety net. With his intern Phoebe Dragseth, he released a detailed report revealing how Rhode Island turned away $1.38 billion in federal affordable housing funds from 2014 to 2020. Since the publication of the report, and detailed work behind the scenes to win over policymakers and affordable housing developers, Rhode Island has begun to finally take these federal funds, leading to the state’s investment in affordable housing more than doubling and continuing to grow.
Sam also champions the expansion of low-income housing, and he has studied the federal rules in detail to refute those who have claimed that we cannot legally expand this critical resource. Sam supports taking free federal funds for FYI vouchers to provide housing assistance for young people aging out of our foster care system. Additionally, Sam has proposed a plan for building the 731 units of public housing that Rhode Island can build without hitting the federal limits. In Providence specifically, Sam also supports expanding low income housing by converting studios into multi-room apartments for large families, who often have nowhere to go in our system.
Finally, Sam opposes efforts to funnel state housing subsidies towards more high-income families at the expense of more low-income families. He has proposed replacing the enormous amounts of city and state funds currently used to subsidize luxury housing with investments in affordable and low-income housing.
The most disturbing part of the Trump agenda has been the increased tide of racism. It is an issue we must confront. Our country has made great progress, but systemic racism remains one of our greatest challenges. Everyone in our country--no matter their race or ethnicity--must be treated equally. We must dismantle the school to prison pipeline, address mass incarceration, and protect our immigrant neighbors. Sam believes that Black Lives Matter, and he is deeply concerned about police misconduct.
Sam has worked hard to improve his Spanish so that he can work with constituents who only speak Spanish on addressing problems with state services.
A staunch supporter of reproductive rights, Sam has spent years fighting to protect the right to choose. Sam was proud to have signed on to the original Reproductive Healthcare Act and stood with the inspiring activists to codify Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island Law. And he was proud to vote for Senator Valverde’s proposal to allow Medicaid and state employee insurance plans to cover abortion. Sam believes we must increase access to contraception and sex education. He supports Senator Cano’s proposal to improve insurance coverage for IVF to expand reproductive options for families.
After 20 first graders were murdered in the tragedy at Newtown, Sam felt heartbroken. He knew he had to do something to protect Rhode Islanders from gun violence. When he talked to people about the NRA’s power in our statehouse, the conversation always came back to one thing: all of the money that the NRA was funneling to top Democrats in our state. So he launched an investigation into where the NRA’s funds came from, uncovering an illegal scheme to funnel national money into our state. As a result of his investigation, the NRA's Rhode Island PAC had to shut down until they paid a $63,000 fine, and the flow of illegal money stopped.
After Sam got the NRA's illegal funding scheme shut down, and after years of inspiring activism by countless Rhode Islanders, our state has finally been able to pass some much-needed gun control. But we need to do more. Sam supports banning military-style assault weapons, strengthening our mental health background checks system, and banning guns from schools and bars.
When designing gun control legislation, Sam believes we must always guard against overcriminalizing communities of color. He has spoken out against excessively long sentences, mandatory minimums, and bans on sentence suspension in gun control laws. He believes in a vision of gun control that does much more to go after guns and much less to incarcerate yet more Rhode Islanders.
Sam is deeply concerned with the many problems plaguing the Providence public schools. He believes in increased support for English Language Learners, repairing our crumbling school buildings, and comprehensive investments in student transportation to reduce absenteeism. He knows we need to do more to combat de facto segregation, mental health problems, and poor working conditions in our schools. Sam will always oppose the privatization agenda and push for more state funding for our public schools. Sam will never vote for a budget that cuts funding for the Providence public schools, and he has fought very hard against cuts to the schools in the Senate.
Sam believes that it is time to hand the Providence schools to an elected school committee. He believes rule by political insiders has failed our schools for decades, and it is time to give the people of our city a say in how our schools will be run. Watching the way the takeover of our schools has been run has horrified Sam. He believes it is time to replace the current Education Commissioner with new leadership that supports our public schools.
Finally, Sam believes that our public school system must do more to prepare students for the duties of citizenship. Since a strong democracy requires educated citizens, Sam will work with his colleagues in both parties to fight for increased investments in civics education. Knowledge, after all, is power.
As a scientist, Sam knows we need to combat the climate crisis. He believes that Rhode Island needs a state Green New Deal, one that will fully decarbonize our state economy. The climate crisis is extremely urgent. Rhode Island must do our part. Sam supports an aggressive expansion of solar and wind power and a full decarbonization of Rhode Island’s electricity production. Sam opposes expanding fossil fuel infrastructure in our state, and he fought hard against the reckless failed proposal to build a new natural gas pipeline to Aquidneck Island.
Sam believes the fight for environmental justice means taking on the powerful administrators who stand in the way. Working with Representative Lombardi and Attorney General Neronha, Sam fought against the Department of Transportation’s dumping of toxic waste in the Olneyville neighborhood. While getting the toxic waste removed was an important victory, Sam continues to push for removing the officials who exposed the people of Olneyville to chemicals linked to cancer. In 2023, Sam was the only Senator to vote against reconfirming Peter Alviti to run the Department of Transportation.
Sam has spoken out against the Department of Environmental Management's failure to enforce basic pollution controls against businesses that harm our environment. He was proud to vote against the reconfirmation of a former director of that department who voted for the South Providence liquefied natural gas terminal, ignoring neighborhood concerns. He also was proud to oppose the nomination of a former Senior VP at fossil fuel monopoly National Grid for Chair of the Public Utilities Commission.
As the descendant of a Holocaust refugee, Sam will always fight to protect immigrant families from the unfortunate threats they face. He believes that Rhode Island must adopt comprehensive sanctuary state policies to protect undocumented Rhode Islanders. Sam believes that state and local legislation should always seek to include non-citizen Rhode Islanders wherever possible. For instance, he successfully led the drive to make sure non-citizens would have the same rights as citizens to officiate at marriages. He opposed legislation tailored to allow Block Island to ban non-citizens and recent citizens from driving Uber and Lyft. He strongly supported the successful Cover All Kids initiative to expand Medicaid coverage to all Rhode Island children regardless of immigration status. He also strongly supported the successful bill to provide drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants, and he is proud of his work to keep the bill from getting watered down.
For Sam, this is personal. As a bisexual, he knows first-hand how important acceptance and love are to the LGBTQ community. He was proud to make the motion that ended the segregation of marriage solemnization for same gender identity marriages. He spent many long hours volunteering for marriage equality, but he knows the movement for full equality still has crucial work to do. In particular, Sam believes we must pass a comprehensive trans rights bill to remove the many hassles our antiquated laws put in place for our transgender neighbors. With right-wing groups spreading hate, we must stand strong to protect our LGBTQ neighbors.
Our state has seen scandal after scandal. It is time to clean up the culture in the Statehouse, and it starts with doing something about the corrupting influence of money in our politics. For years, Sam has fought to fix our completely broken public financing system, and he believes that we should adopt a system modeled off the New York City clean elections plan. He believes in tougher campaign contribution limits and investing more resources in the woefully underfunded Board of Elections enforcement divisions. He voted against the reckless proposal to double campaign contribution limits. He has fought hard for rules reform in the Senate.
NEW LEADERSHIP IN THE SENATE
Sam believes the Senate needs new leadership that is ethical and supports the core progressive values of the Democratic Party. The President of the Senate, Dominick Ruggerio, voted against marriage equality, is pro-life, took thousands of dollars from the NRA, and cast doubt on congressional Democrats’ efforts to impeach Donald Trump. While in office, Ruggerio was also arrested for shoplifting condoms and vandalizing a car. In the details of these scandals, as well as Ruggerio’s drunk driving and mortgage fraud scandals, Sam has grave concerns about a consistent pattern of abuse of political power for personal gain. Sam believes we can do better.