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 resist. Sam believes it is time to repeal the Medicaid cuts, and it is a major reason he voted no on the 2019 budget, which contained yet more cuts to Medicaid.
During the height of the COVID crisis, Sam called for the General Assembly to convene remotely to appropriate emergency funding for public health, and he released a plan to cover those investments at no cost to the state by creatively leveraging federal funds. Sam strongly supported the Governor’s social distancing protections, which saved lives from this pandemic.
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 introduced a Rhode Island Medicare for All bill, a resolution to study single-payer in Rhode Island, and a resolution to push congress to pass Medicare for All in 2019. He is continuing to fight for universal healthcare as your State Senator.
COVID RELIEF AND RECOVERY
Sam believes we need to fight for a real recovery from this crisis, one that leaves no one behind. As we fight against brutal cuts and for investments in economic relief for struggling Rhode Islanders, Sam has released 19 ideas for solving the budget crisis.
repealing 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 to fund programs that help working families.
Here in Providence, we face a legacy of segregationary housing policies that have resulted in a crippling affordability crisis. Everyone deserves a warm, dry bed to sleep in. We must roll back our city’s outdated housing policies. The 2004 housing law was a small step forward, but it focused on the suburbs and largely excluded Providence.
That is why Sam is working to mitigate the crisis by addressing zoning and fighting for drastically increased funding for affordable housing. He has introduced a systemic reform to Rhode Island's zoning laws to prevent housing from being abandoned. He also introduced an important protection for people living in an apartment who aren't the official leaseholder, such as live-in caretakers or family members. Currently, when the leaseholder dies, if you aren't on the lease, you have no protections, and you can be homeless the next day. Sam introduced a bill to give people in that terrible situation a right to extend the existing lease for up to three months. Most importantly, he believes that we need to put real money behind addressing this crisis.
The most disturbing part of the Trump agenda has been the increased tide of racism. 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. He was the only Senator to vote against a bill that sends people who "tease" or touch police dogs to jail with no provision for self defense. Police dogs are involved in some of the worst cases of police abuses.
A staunch supporter of reproductive rights, Sam has spent years fighting to protect a woman's right to choose. He has spoken out vocally against the recently enacted abortion coverage restrictions. Unfortunately, many sitting Rhode Island State Senators, including the Senate President and Senate Majority Leader, are pro-life. Sam was proud to have signed on to the original Reproductive Healthcare Act to codify Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island Law. And he was proud to stand with the inspiring activists and vote for the codification of Roe v. Wade. Sam strongly supports Senator Valverde’s proposal to allow Medicaid and state employee insurance plans to cover abortion services.
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 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, Rhode Island was finally able to pass some much-needed gun control, specifically a bill taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Sam was proud to volunteer on that campaign, along with so many incredible activists from around our state. 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. He also introduced a senate resolution to study the impact of trauma inflicted on children exposed to this kind of violence, echoing Rep. Ranglin Vassell in the house.
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 the Providence Public Schools, and he has fought very hard against cuts to the schools in the Senate.
As a scientist, Sam knows we need to combat the climate crisis. He supports carbon pricing and an aggressive expansion of solar and wind power. He supports the Block Island wind farm. Sam opposes expanding fossil fuel infrastructure in our state, and he has fought hard against the reckless proposal to build a new natural gas pipeline to Aquidneck Island that would increase pipeline capacity by a factor of five. Sam has spoken out against the Department of Environmental Management's failure to enforce basic pollution controls against businesses that harm our environment, and he was proud to vote against the reconfirmation of the director of that department. 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.
Sam believes that Rhode Island needs a state Green New Deal, one that will fully decarbonize our state economy. The climate crisis is extremely urgent, and we need to do our part here in Rhode Island.
Because of the Trump presidency, many of our immigrant neighbors live in fear of deportation and harassment. 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 sanctuary state policies to protect undocumented Rhode Islanders, and he introduced sanctuary state legislation.
For Sam, this is personal. As a bisexual, he knows first-hand how important acceptance and love are to the LGBT 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.
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.
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 has fought hard for rules reform in the Senate.
Resisting the Trump Agenda
Since the disastrous election of Donald Trump, true American values have been under attack. Sam believes that we must resist the Trump agenda here in Rhode Island. He served as a board member of Indivisible Rhode Island, and he is working to build the resistance movement in our state. As State Senator, Sam has resisted implementing Trump policies such as cooperation with ICE and state implementation of the Trump tax cuts for the rich.