Can Lawmakers Become Rhode Island’s Heroes?

Everyone concerned about the well-being of our state’s families should be alarmed by our unacceptable 48th-place ranking on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). The FPI demonstrates quantitatively the undeniable link between economic and social policy in determining family prosperity. Whether it is criminal justice reform, taxation, or education, if we are to improve our state’s dismal 48th place ranking in overall family prosperity, we must make helping families the focus of our public policy and private advocacy. Lawmakers can become heroes if they can construct policies that actually address the real needs of real families.

A more holistic measure than the one-dimensional unemployment rate or GDP, which only considers economic data, the FPI makes it possible to measure U.S. progress every year and rate states against each other according to how well they are providing an environment for families to flourish. Instead of greater tax burdens on families and increased mandates on small businesses, broad-based relief that opens the door for more and better businesses to create more and better jobs is what we need if we want a better quality of life for Rhode Island families.

At our recent Family Prosperity Leadership forum, there was a salient moment. We stood alongside civil rights and political leaders from the left and right in support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). This act which would modernize the state’s over-burdened probation system. The proposed JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration, which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to live a productive life for themselves and their families. Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey spoke words of praise for those on all sides of the philosophical spectrum who are supporting this vital initiative.

Rhode Islanders must say that enough is enough. We must demand that the status quo changes, before it is too late. Only family friendly ideas, like the JRI, can transform our home state by allowing our families to seek the prosperity they need. Your voice is powerful. By engaging in the public debate you can make sure to have a seat at the table. Now is not the time to be on the sidelines. The broken system in the Ocean State has kept too many people out of the process. Now is the time for change, things do not have to be this way.

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