PROVIDENCE – In a presentation of the Republican response to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s State of the State address this week, Sen. Jessica de la Cruz outlined her party’s priorities, including oversight of the executive branch of government, access to charter schools and what she described as the right of Rhode Islanders to access their loved ones, even amidst a pandemic.
de la Cruz, a North Smithfield resident who represents District 23 in Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield, was elected Senate Minority Whip in November.
Among priorities presented on Wednesday, Feb. 3 was the effort to restore oversight of the executive branch, following a year in which de la Cruz said a pandemic has eroded accountability in government.
“A governor’s emergency power was always meant to be limited. However, the legislature’s refusal to reconvene or conduct basic oversight of the governor allowed continual unilateral and unchecked power by the executive branch, which is tasked with enforcing the law, not making it,” de la Cruz said. “This goes against the very core of our constitutional system of government and our identity as a state that has long recognized that government with unchecked power is no longer a government by the people.”
In response, de la Cruz said Republicans have introduced a bill requiring the General Assembly to approve extensions of emergency executive power, among other checks and balances.
The senator also discussed the Designated Support Act, a bill that would entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits.
“Republicans recognize the gravity of this pandemic, but we also recognize every person’s fundamental right to have access to their loved ones,” de la Cruz said.
Opposition to a proposed moratorium of charter schools also made the list of Republican priorities, with de la Cruz presenting the right to quality education as a civil rights issue.
“These charter schools have been one of the few bright spots for many urban children,” she said.
The senator, a 39-year-old mother of two who is serving her second term in the state legislature, asserted her party’s commitment to small business, criticizing the decision this year to shore up state budget with federal COVID-19 relief money.
“Rhode Island’s ballooning budget is unsustainable,” de la Cruz said. “You can’t squeeze water from a rock and you can’t get more money out of Rhode Islanders and businesses beleaguered by taxes, fees and cumbersome regulations.”
While striking a somewhat optimistic tone with the desire to work together with Democratic colleagues to address challenges, de la Cruz said Republicans have identified cuts that should be made to the state budget, which she said could be accomplished with the help of a line item veto.
Forty four states, she noted, have a line item veto, which gives the governor authority to reject provisions in a budget without vetoing the entire bill – a way, Republicans say, to eliminate spending that is unnecessary, wasteful or earmarked to benefit politically connected recipients.
The budget focus, de la Cruz said, should be on support for improvements to Rhode Island’s infrastructure, and funding for needed “core services,” such as those provided by Burrillville’s Zambarano Hospital.
“Rhode Island is living on borrowed time,”de la Cruz said. “We must put our needs before our wants.”
The complete response can be seen here.