- 1 Ways to Resist
- 2 Updates
- 3 Actions Taken by the State Government
- 4 Key Upcoming Elections
- 5 Healthcare
- 6 Policing
- 7 Immigration
- 8 Voting Rights
- 9 Mass Incarceration
- 10 Benefits / Tax Cuts
- 11 Housing/Infrastructure
- 12 Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- 13 LGBTQ+ Issues
- 14 Educational Justice
- 15 Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- 16 Climate / Environment
- 17 Disability Rights
- 18 Organizations and Events
- 19 Local News Sources
- 20 Relevant City and County Information
Ways to Resist
- Contact your elected officials:
- Get involved with local organizations.
- Find organizations with state and local presences working in your area.
- Check out our Tools of Resistance.
- Look for upcoming events and opportunities and state and local events.
There are no recent updates.
To see past updates for Rhode Island, click here.
Actions Taken by the State Government
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
Important bills proposed by Rhode Island lawmakers this legislative session that should be supported:
- SB 507 Incrementally increases from the $3.89 per hour subminimum wage for tipped workers to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2021. Starting on January 1, 2022, the minimum hourly wage for tipped workers would be equal to the state's regular minimum hourly wage.
- SB 510 Gradually increases the hourly minimum wage from $9.60 to $15.00 on January 1, 2022, as well as gradually increasing the hourly minimum wage for employees receiving gratuities from $3.89 an hour to $15.00 an hour on January 1, 2026.
- HB 54000 would require candidates to release their tax returns from the past five years to appear on the state's ballot.
Harmful bills proposed by Rhode Island lawmakers this legislative session that should be opposed:
- No harmful bills identified.
See also the main policy pages for federal legislative tracking.
Key Upcoming Elections
Click here to find out if you're registered to vote. Register to vote here. The deadline is 30 days before Election Day. Same-day in-person registration is only available when there is a presidential election. Bring proof of identification the first time you vote. A non-photo ID is requested every time you vote.
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) is up for reelection in 2018.
- Governor Gina Raimondo (D) is up for reelection in 2018.
In Rhode Island, 5% of the population remains uninsured compared to a national average of 9%. Rhode Island is a state that has expanded Medicaid coverage to more people as allowed under the ACA.
- If there is a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 108,202 people in Rhode Island (or 10.2% of the population) are estimated to lose coverage, whereas 96,000 people (or 9.1% of the population) will lose coverage with a partial repeal. (Retrieved 1/26/2017 from ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state.)
- Not covering preexisting conditions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities.
- The number of uninsured people in Rhode Island is predicted to be 58,000 by 2021 under the ACA. Without the ACA, that number is expected to rise to 137,000, a 136.5% increase.
- Rhode Island is among the states that lost the ability to place lifetime limits on coverage, because that practice is banned by the ACA; those limits are likely to be reinstated under a full repeal.
- Given that a repeal of the ACA would also change payment structures and subsidies, 12,000 jobs could be lost in Rhode Island. When federal funding is cut, it creates a ripple effect that affects local and state revenue, thus creating losses in economic activity and employment.
- Under the ACA Repeal-and-Delay strategy, young adults in Rhode Island could pay $514 more in 2018.
5 people were killed by the police in Rhode Island from 2013 to 2016, which puts the state last per capita in the country. Black people were killed at a rate 7 times higher than the rate for all people in Rhode Island.
- In 2013, Rhode Island had 135,972 immigrants, making up 12.9% of the population.
- There are estimated to be 30,000 undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island, making up 2.9% of the population.
Rights of Non-Citizens
- Rhode Island does not allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers’ licenses.
- Rhode Island allows undocumented immigrants to attend public college at the same in-state tuition rate as legal residents and citizens.
- In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order (DACA) that defers deportation for children who were brought to the country as children. The action allows them to work lawfully but does not create a pathway to citizenship or give them legal status in the United States. In Rhode Island, 1,819 individuals have benefited from this executive action.
- 6.4% of K-12 students in Rhode Island had undocumented parents in 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island made up 4.0% of the labor workforce in 2014.
- If all undocumented workers were removed from Rhode Island, the state would lose $698 million in economic activity.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $33.1 million in state and local taxes in Rhode Island in 2012.
- Rhode Island’s state legislature has introduced a bill similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 (which requires police to check detained/arrested people's immigration status if it is suspected that they might not be in the US legally) and another requiring E-Verify use, but both failed to pass.
- Rhode Island has a statewide law limiting police cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
- Rhode Island resettled 188 refugees in 2014.
- Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services has a Refugee Assistance Program.
Rhode Island was one of 14 states that had new voting restrictions in place for the first time during the 2016 presidential election. New laws included: strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions.
- In 2014, 1,880 people were incarcerated in Rhode Island, plus a probation population of 22,988 and parole population of 435.
- Of the prison population, 207 people were serving life sentences, and 32 were serving life sentences without parole.
- 159 juveniles were in custody in Rhode Island in 2013.
- In Rhode Island, a black person was 8.3 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person in 2014.
- Rhode Island does not have private prisons.
- Corrections expenditures in 2014 were $206 million.
Benefits / Tax Cuts
- Rhode Island residents who face a tax increase under Trump’s plan:
- Households: 29,000
- Adults and children: 77,000
- Children: 44,000
- In 2015, an average of 100,949 households and 175,025 individuals received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) in a given month in Rhode Island. In 2011, approximately 19% of the population of Rhode Island was receiving SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit per Rhode Island household was $230 per household and $130 per person in 2016.
- In 2016, an average of 9,542 households, including 4,047 families and 6,964 children, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is direct financial assistance, in a given month. The average monthly benefit for a single parent with three children residing in Rhode Island was $554 in 2014. Average benefits in Rhode Island have fallen in value by 34.4% since 1996.
- In 2016, an average of 4,430 women received funds from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month.
- In December 2015, there were 3,182 Social Security recipients in the "aged" category who received $374.92 per person on average, for a total of $1,193,000.
- 37,200 low-income households in Rhode Island spent more than half of their income on housing.
- In 2014, Rhode Island had 40 units of affordable and available housing for every 100 households categorized as “extremely low income” (at or below 30% of area median income.)
- In Rhode Island, there were 1,160 homeless people in 2016, which is 0.21% of the total national homeless population.
- Of the homeless population, there were 93 families, 89 veterans, 64 unaccompanied young adults (18-24), and 144 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Rhode Island received $290 million in federal rental assistance funding in 2014.
- In Rhode Island, more than 37,000 families relied on federal rental assistance in 2014.
- Nearly all Rhode Island households using federal rental assistance included children, elderly people or disabled people.
- In 2013, the Department of Transportation found that 56.5% of Rhode Island’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 70% of Rhode Island’s roads were in poor or mediocre condition.
- Driving on these roads leads to an additional $467 per motorist per year in increased vehicle repairs and operating costs.
- According to Governor Gina Raimondo (D), roads and bridges are major infrastructure goals for Rhode Island.
Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- Rhode Island has one Planned Parenthood center.
- In 2015, that one center was in a rural, medically underserved, or health provider shortage area.
- On average, there is one Planned Parenthood for 211,000 women of reproductive age.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There were five abortion providers in Rhode Island in 2015.
- In 2014, 13.3 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in Rhode Island had an abortion. The national abortion rate is 14.6.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- Parental consent is required for minors.
- Abortion is prohibited after 24 weeks except in cases of life or health endangerment.
- Private insurance coverage is limited.
- State Medicaid does not fund most abortions.
- TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws exist.
Women and Wages
- In Rhode Island, 13.7% of women live in poverty. 40.6% of single mothers live in poverty, as do 11.5% of women age 65 and older.
- For every dollar made by men, women are paid $0.86, which is six cents above the national average of $0.80.
- African American women are paid $0.57 for every dollar paid to white men, while Latina women make $0.48 for every dollar made by white men.
- In 2014, 8,876 victims of domestic violence were served by domestic violence programs in Rhode Island.
- Children were present in 28% of Rhode Island’s 2010 domestic violence incidents.
- 11% of Rhode Island high school students have been physically hurt by a significant other, higher than the national average.
Religious freedom law
Religious freedom laws protect people's right to practice their religion and limit laws imposing on that right, and were intended to protect religious minorities. However, after same-sex marriage was legalized, conservative states have attempted to enact similar laws with provisions that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. A State Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted in Rhode Island in 1993 to protect religious minorities; the state provides separate legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. 
Rhode Island has nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, adoption, foster care and credit. The state does not have specific policies protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in education, insurance or jury selection.
Rhode Island has laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in foster care and de facto parent recognition, but lacks nondiscrimination laws covering second-parent adoption, surrogacy, and parental presumption for same-sex couples.
Hate crime laws
Rhode Island has anti-bullying laws and a law requiring transgender inclusion in sports. The state does not have laws that protect youth from conversion therapy, address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, or provide for LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education or LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies.
Health and safety laws
Rhode Island bans insurance exclusion for trans health care and covers transition therapies for its state workers. However, it lacks nondiscrimination laws protecting the health and safety of its LGBTQ+ citizens, including nondiscrimination protections in the ACA exchanges.
- Rhode Island is ranked ninth in per-pupil spending as of 2013, with an average expenditure of $14,415 per student.
- As of 2013, Rhode Island ranked 10th in teacher pay, with teachers earning an average of $63,474 per year.
- 88% of students in Rhode Island attend public schools. As is the case in other states, students who attend private schools come from wealthier families, with private school families earning an average 73% higher income.
- As of 2014, public charter school enrollment accounted for 4.2% of total public school enrollment.
- 85% of white students, 72% of Hispanic students, 72% of Black students, and 88% of Asian/Pacific Islander students graduate from high school in four years. These rates are approximately equal to nationwide averages.
Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- Rhode Island's state minimum wage is $9.20, higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
- Rhode Island has no state law for paid sick leave.
- Rhode Island has a "Temporary Care Giver" law, which provides one year for parents to bond with children and for workers to care for sick family members.
- Rhode Island is a state with no Right-to-Work laws, which means that the state cannot prohibit unions that collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers from requiring union fees for the services they provide to all workers they represent. Such laws are designed to reduce unions' income and power.
- Rhode Island is not a state with an at-will exemption. "At-will" means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason, without breaking the law. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
- Rhode Island has no public policy exemption. A public policy exemption means that an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the state's public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute, including refusing to perform an act that state law prohibits (e.g., refusing an employer's request to commit perjury at a trial), reporting a violation of the law (e.g., reporting an employer's fraudulent accounting practices or use of child labor), engaging in acts that are in the public interest (e.g., joining the National Guard or performing jury duty) and exercising a statutory right (e.g., filing a claim under the state workers' compensation law).
- Rhode Island does not allow for implied contract exemptions.. An implied contract can be created in several different ways: oral assurances by a supervisor; or handbooks, policies or practices as written assurances by the employer. This means that if there is no written contract between the employer and employee, that employee may have an exception of fixed term or even indefinite employment based on an employer's statements. As a general rule, courts disregard language promising long-term, lifetime or permanent employment as aspirational and consider the relationship to be at-will.
- Rhode Island does not support the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Courts have interpreted the covenant in different ways, from requiring just cause for termination to prohibiting terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice.
Climate / Environment
- Approximately 95% of Rhode Island’s electricity generation is from natural gas.
- Rhode Island has 12 sites on the National Priorities List.
- Less than 1% of Rhode Island’s land is federally owned.
- In 2014, the Black and Latino populations had the highest air pollution exposure indices—of 49—compared to an overall index of 33 and a White index of 29.
- In 2012, Native American adults in Rhode Island were most likely to have asthma—22.6%, compared to 10.9% overall and 10.8% of the White population.
- The environmental agency in Rhode Island is the Department of Environmental Management, whose goals are expanding the green economy and acting on climate change.
- Rhode Island established a “Greenhouse Gas Action Plan” in 2002 and a “Greenhouse Emissions Inventory” in 2010.
- In 2016, Rhode Island established a renewable energy goal of 38.5% renewable energy by 2035.
- 13.4% of Rhode Island's residents are disabled, compared with the national average of 12.6%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1810]
- The employment rate among disabled adults in Rhode Island is 35.8%, compared to the national average of 34.9%. People without disabilities in Rhode Island have a 78.1% employment rate. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Tables R1811 & B18120]
- Approximately 16.1% of eligible voters in Rhode Island have one or more disabilities, compared to a national average of 15.7%.
- Of adults with disabilities in Rhode Island, 28.1% live in poverty, as opposed to 11.1% of non-disabled adults. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B23024] The poverty rate for disabled children under 5 is 33.6%, as opposed to 19.2% for non-disabled children. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B18130]
- In Rhode Island, 7.0% of adults between 18 and 64 receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), compared to the national average of 5.4%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B19056]
Organizations and Events
Find state/local chapters of national organizations here.
State and Local Disability Rights Organizations
- Rhode Island Disability Law Center
- POINT Network Program, Rhode Island's Resource Place for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities
- Rhode Island Legal Services
- Rhode Island Statewide Independent Living Council
- New England ADA Center
- Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council
- AccessPoint RI
- National Alliance on Mental Illness of Rhode Island
- Mental Health Association of Rhode Island
- Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES)
- OlmsteadRights page on disability resources in Rhode Island
Environmental Justice Groups
- Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
- Environment Rhode Island
- Groundwork Providence
- Rhode Island Environmental Education Association