Is the General Assembly Finally Moving to “Protect Our Kids”?


Updated June 8, 2022, 11:20 AM EST

It appears as if Rhode Island’s General Assembly has finally been convinced to take action of the the “Protect Our Kids” legislation.

Under intense pressure from the ParentsUnitedRI.com coalition, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi has now allowed H8230 to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee at the Rise of the House, this Thursday, June 9, after indicating that he would not allow any action on the bill until the Senate moved to pass its companion bill, S2219. The public is encouraged to testify in person or via email (see below).

The fact that Shekarchi has scheduled a hearing can only mean that he is aware of Senate plans to bring its companion bill to a full-committee vote, and presumably, a full Senate floor vote. What those exact plan are, The Current has not been able to confirm, but there are rumblings that a Senate Judiciary Committee vote may be scheduled soon.

Both Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio have been under ongoing pressure from concerned parents at ParentsUnitedRI.com to allow the bills to move forward.

TESTIMONY: Written testimony can be sent to: HouseJudiciary@rilegislature.gov ; testimony must include your name, bill number (H8230), and viewpoint (for/against/neither). In person testimony can be provided in Room 101 at the State House at approximately 4:30PM (see sign-up sheets) there.

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Do RI Democrats Really Want to “Protect Our Kids”?

For the past few weeks, the left’s national battle-cry has become “protect our kids,” a call to disarm law-abiding Americans as their prescription to stop school shootings.

For the past few months, the battle-cry among concerned parents in Rhode Island has been to “protect our kids” from sexual contact in schools, religious institutions, camps, and workplaces.

Nationally and here in the Ocean State, there are multiple pieces of gun-control legislation that are being fast-tracked by Democratic leadership. Yet, bi-partisan sexual-predator-control legislation has stalled in the Rhode Island General Assembly, while the state’s leading gubernatorial candidates are silent on the issue, despite public support from the Attorney General Peter Neronha.

In a conversation with one of the founders of the ParentsUnitedRI.com movement, Laurie Gaddis Barrett, The Ocean State Current was informed that House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi has no plans to hold a committee hearing on H8230, a bill that would close a loophole in the law and make it a form of criminal sexual offense for an adult to have any form of sexual contact with a minor, over whom that adult has supervisory authority.

According to Barrett, who has held direct conversations with Shekarchi, until the Senate passes its companion bill, S2219, House Democrats will not consider moving Rhode Island’s version of the “protect our kids” legislation; legislation that the House actually passed in 2019.

The Senate, which held a hearing for its bill in April, has also now stalled the legislation, as Senate President Dominic Ruggerio has refused to allow the bill go before the Judiciary Committee for a vote. Speculation as to why centers around teachers unions, which have actively opposed such legislation in the past, but who this year offered a neutral public position.

Are General Assembly Democrats more concerned about protecting their relationship with unions than they are about protecting our kids? Barrett intends to find out, as she plans to soon contact Ruggerio

Union head, Patrick Crowley, told Barrett in a cordial conversation that the union position will remain neutral and the driving factor is a desire to remain “out of the debate” on whether the bills in question would help the AG prosecute the reported/alleged incidents in RI that are currently under investigation.

Where are the candidates for Governor? In what should be a major campaign event this summer and fall, the issue of protecting our kids from inappropriate sexual contact has gone almost completely ignored by high-profile candidates for public office. In a recent story, The Current documented how only one of the five major gubernatorial candidates from either party responded to an inquiry about the legislation … and a very tepid response at that.

Even the state’s Attorney General has publicly supported the common-sense reform in an open letter, suggesting that there would be many more cases to prosecute if the legislation became law. Current state law does not make it a criminal offense for an adult to have sexual contact with a minor over 14 years of age, if the minor provides ‘consent’ and if there is no ‘penetration’.

Over 1700 emails in support of the legislation have been delivered to General Assembly leaders via a form on the Action Center published by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

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Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?

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