What’s in…What’s out…1-26-18

 

What’s in…what’s out…this week…

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What’s in….

 

The verdict is in…..A Providence Elementary school principal has been found guilty of failing to report to the RI Department of Children, Youth and Families a complaint by students of inappropriate touching by a gym teacher at the Harry Kizirian Elementary school. Violet LeMar, was convicted Monday of a single misdemeanor charge after a bench trial before District Court James Caruolo. She was sentenced to probation and community service in a sexual abuse facility. LeMar had said that she was not familiar with the law enacted in 2016 which requires reporting incidents of abuse to DCYF. She is the first to be found guilty since the law was passed. This decision certainly changes the way the school systems throughout the state will develop policy regarding sexual and physical abuse in the schools. Teachers and principals will have to be informed and educated about the laws regarding these matters, something that should have been done when the law was passed.

The Patriots are in….The New England Patriots are on their way to the Super Bowl. Kudos to Tom Brady, Danny Amendola and the entire team who rocked New England Sunday night. It was another nail biter but they pulled it through. Special thoughts go out to “The Gronk” who suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the game. Here’s hoping he’s okay to play in the Super Bowl.Go Pats!

In a recent Quinnipiac University National poll, 84 percent of voters say that the recent government shut down was not necessary while only 13% found it “mainly necessary”. The feelings were shared by both parties, with 89% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats saying it was not necessary to shut down government. This means the people are paying attention and will remember in November!

What’s out…

The Senate Paw Sox bill ..is D.O.A. In the House according to the speaker. The Speaker has stated that amendments are needed to make the bill better. A meeting in Speaker Matiello’s District had a turnout of about 60 people but it was invitation only. The speaker has said he wants the PawSox to hold open meetings throughout Rhode Island to let all the people voice their concerns. My guess is that the House will conduct Finance Committee hearings and come up with their own version of a bill with less obligation to the taxpayer. If not, the proposal will be back next year with limited time for review.

 

Larry Nassar, the former Olympic sports doctor, received his sentence of 40 to 75 years for sexually assaulting Olympic gymnasts. Over 150 women and girls have testified in court about being molested by Nassar. Showing no remorse, Nassar accused the presiding Judge of being too hard on him by letting all the victims testify. Nassar molested some of these girls when they were children and continually abused them. There is a special place in Hell for him and those like him.
These girls and women were brave and that is the true meaning of the “Me too” movement. Real courage is being brave enough to tell your story and expose the abuser so he cannot abuse again.

 

Candid cameras… smile you’re on candid camera…If you go through the City of Providence, you are already familiar with the red light cameras at certain intersections. We also have seen the addition of police body cameras. Now in the hopper Is the proposal for cameras for speed detection in 15 areas in Providence. One council person has also proposed cameras for schools to be used as a form of surveillance. The use of public cameras has become a way of surveillance in roads, highways and intersections. One could argue that it simply is really to generate more revenue to a city which is distressed. But cameras have begun to shed the light on traffic violators and can be a crime deterrent.
Like it or not the cameras are growing in volume and are here to stay.

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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month!

IMG_0690.jpg(January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month)

 

It’s hard to believe that it has already been nine years since the General Assembly passed laws to ban human trafficking and indoor prostitution.  Many people do not know the history of these two bills and just how important they are to Rhode Island.  It seems to be an all too common occurrence now, as we watch newscasts where sex predators are trafficking underage girls here for prostitution.  It’s hard to believe that our little state continues to be a haven for sex trafficking.

In 2007, I introduced the first piece of legislation in the House of Representatives to ban Human Trafficking.  This bill was in response to young girls being brought here to work in Asian message parlors.  They were promised lives of good fortune, careers and bright futures, but instead they were forced to live in one room cooking on sternos and sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Living conditions were deplorable. Pimps and managers was making a great deal of money on the backs of these young girls.

The first bill to ban Human Trafficking passed the House of Representatives but failed to  pass in  the Senate. I also filed a bill to ban indoor prostitution which met great opposition in the General Assembly.  I was accused of trying to stop women from making a living and targeting women unfairly.  That was never my intent. My intent was to stop a growing cancer I saw coming called sex trafficking which was targeting our young girls and young men right here in Rhode Island.

Within that year, more media coverage exposed the living conditions of these girls.  Many could not speak English and when interviewed by police, they were afraid to tell their stories. More and more massage parlors were popping up around the state.

At that time, no one really wanted to believe that Human Trafficking existed in our state. Along with the trafficking of young women came the act of prostitution.  The two acts usually go hand in hand.

Young girls are trafficked to places where they are forced into prostitution.  They are usually runaways, abused and homeless underage adolescents who are seeking a better life.  What they get in return for their services is a life of misery, sexual and physical abuse, disease and sometimes even death.Rhode Island was a safe haven for pimps, johns and sexual predators because of a loophole in the prostitution law.  And we were the only state to have this loophole and word quickly spread.

In 2008, we passed the first Human trafficking bill in the General Assembly to ban Human Trafficking in Rhode Island. But while that passage was hailed as an accomplishment, I found out that without a law to ban indoor prostitution, the human trafficking law was hard to enforce. Prostitution indoors was legal and only illegal outdoors due to a rewrite of the prostitution laws in the 1980’s which focused on outside solicitation of prostitution and did not give reference to prostitution indoors.

It was two days before Thanksgiving in 2008 when I received a telephone call from then Superintendent Brendan Doherty telling me how much we needed the indoor prostitution bill in order to enforce the Human Trafficking bill. Along with that telephone call, came a tremendous amount of support for passage of the bill from Colonel Doherty, Governor Donald Carcieri and  various law enforcement agencies.

Colonel McCartney of Warwick also was very supportive and told of the “Craigslist killer” coming to a Warwick hotel in an attempted plot against a massage therapist.  The State Police and Warwick Police testified at committee meetings, attended press conferences and verified what we knew all along. Sex trafficking in Rhode Island was growing because of the loophole in the prostitution law and we needed to stop it.  Support continued from the public, law enforcement and community groups such as “Citizens Against Trafficking”, started by Professor Donna Hughes and attorney Melanie Shapiro.
After much debate, a law banning indoor prostitution was passed in October 2009 as well as a amended ban on Human Trafficking. I also introduced a third bill to ban minors from working in the adult entertainment industry which was becoming a common occurrence in Providence. These three bills passed both chambers and were signed into law by Governor Donald Carcieri.

Even though the three laws passed, we realized this was only the beginning.  The Human Trafficking bill also created a task force made up of  general assembly members,  law enforcement, social agencies, trafficking advocate groups and state agencies including Human services and the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

One of the most important components of the task force was to promote public education and awareness is to warn parents about the dangers of the Internet and the use of certain websites and newspapers which advertise the sexual  services of young women and men.

More education is also needed for our young women and men who fall prey to these predators because they are uninformed about the dangers of sex trafficking. We also need  to ensure victims of trafficking are getting the services they need.
The bans on Human Trafficking and Indoor prostitution that passed are good laws but we need to always remember that laws are only good if they are implemented. Law enforcement must stay vigilant in their effort to stop sex trafficking. The focus needs to be not only on the pimps and traffickers but the johns who purchase the services of these underage victims and the landlords and property owners who permit these crimes on their premises.

Finally, the Providence police said one of the homeless underage victims that was trafficked here to Providence from Massachusetts and sold for sex told the investigators, “Today, Is the best day of my life…you all saved me. “They did save her and should be commended for acting swiftly and professionally in the continuing fight against sex trafficking.

We look forward to the day when there will be no more trafficking victims in Rhode Island and our young people can look ahead and not back to remember the best day of their lives.

What’s in…What’s out…this week,1-19-18

 

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What’s in…What’s out… this week..1-18-18…State of the State, PawSox Fever, For love of money and more….

 

What’s in….

The State of the state address…by Governor Raimondo painted a rosy picture of Rhode Island’s status on Tuesday night. The Governor highlighted accomplishments such as road repairs, the car tax phase out and education improvements but did not share the credit with local officials or lawmakers. Her speech was upbeat and positive but made no mention of the UHIP crisis, the PawSox bill or possible financial deficits. Maybe she is waiting for her budget address to tell us all just how much the UHIP crisis has cost the state and how much of a backlog there still is. And just maybe we will hear an accurate economic forecast for this year’s budget. The economic engines are running and it seems like it will be a steamy ride into 2018.

The PawSox Bill….has passed the Senate overwhelmingly and is on its way to the House Finance Committee. As I write this, Speaker Mattiello is planning a closed Democratic caucus on Thursday afternoon to discuss the PawSox proposal. Will he or won’t he? Inquiring minds want to know!
Even though the speaker has publicly stated that his constituency is against the proposal, he still has to listen to the opinions of his rank and file legislators. Some unions have decided to boycott Matiello’s fundraiser and other legislators. This being election year, that will not sit well with some legislators who depend on union support. Do not be surprised to see a change of heart and a floor vote on this topic. It’s not over till it’s over, or until the fat lady sings as they say!

The Line item veto bill…got a standing ovation from Senate members when the Governor mentioned it during her State of the State speech.
Many Senators seemed to favor the line item veto even though it is unpopular in the House Chamber. Now we all know the House primarily sets the Budget initiatives and this is not a favorite budget item of theirs.
It seems the Senate and the House are having some power plays over who is in charge or should I say, “Who’s the boss”?

What’s out…

The “Me too” movement has changed its name to #nomore in an effort to show solidarity for women abused. We all applaud the courageous women who stood tall and exposed their sexual harassers and abusers. At the recent golden globe awards, women celebrities wore black to show solidarity. One has to ask where was all this support when some of these women who knew of years of continued abuse remained silent. The power of Hollywood to cover up for the rich and powerful is a long standing tradition. The years of silence and turning the other cheek cannot be dismissed because some of these women chose to wear black. There are still sexual predators there and some of these actresses are still working for them. So, let’s be real everyone and not fall for their act. I won’t be watching these actresses, producers and actors who condoned this behavior and remained silent for the love of money. And I think a lot of people feel that way and Hollywood knows it.

 

Will Tom Brady be sitting this Sunday’s big game on bench? ..he has been placed on the injury list for an injury on his right hand. Say it ain’t so Tom! The Patriots have been on a winning streak and we all have Patriot fever! So let’s wish Tom a speedy recovery and hope for a win! Go Pats!

Shooting at Providence Place Mall…In what appears to be sketchy details, we learned that Providence Police have apprehended a 17 year old involved in the Monday night shooting at the mall. A nineteen year old was shot in the leg outside of Nordstrom’s. It is a shame that we have to be concerned for our safety even in a mall. More security inside and outside in the parking lot is needed. There were young children and families there and shootings like this discourage people from going there. It is bad for the businesses, employees and people who enjoy the mall. Our city cannot endure this violence. It’s dangerous, it’s scary and it isn’t what we hope to achieve as a community.

 

 

 

Joanne Giannini is a former State Representative. She is a freelance journalist, consultant and writer. She has previously written commentary for the Providence journal, Golocal Prov and WPRO radio.

What’s in….What’s out…1-4-17, Happy New Year, Snowmaggedeon, UHIP…and more…

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What’s in….

2018 came in with a full moon on Sunday night!….Happy New Year! Here’s hoping all your New Year’s wishes come true!

Arctic blast and “Snowmaggedon”…The store shelves are empty and the media hype is on. The Governor has asked everyone to stay home today on Thursday during this snowstorm. Freezing cold temperatures and high winds can make for a dangerous situation.  It looks like the rumors of a mild winter were highly exaggerated. Be safe and stay home!

The General Assembly is back in session!…With election year in the near future, this will be a very interesting year. Legislators will play it safe and put aside all controversial legislation in an effort to keep their seats.  This will be the “year of the women .”  More women are running across the country and little Rhody will see more women running for General Assembly seats. I predict the amount of women in the General Assembly will increase by 40 percent.

What’s out….

The UHIP crisis….The ACLU is suing the state of Rhode Island for the ongoing UHIP crisis. The most vulnerable of our citizens have been effected by this debacle. Look for another shakeup in this department. It’s been well over a year since this new computer system has been implemented and it hasn’t been successful yet. Meanwhile our seniors and needy are suffering due to mismanagement, poor leadership and apathy.  The shame of it all.

Crossroads has said they are increasingly overcrowded with homeless men, women and children during this cold freeze. This is a disaster in our city of Providence especially. I saw no press conferences addressing this or statement by city or state officials. While everyone is snug and warm in their beds, the homeless continue to roam our streets looking for refuge and a hot meal.  Let’s hope 2018 brings some change in policy that offers more help to them.