Around the Valley: Help with heating, proposed assault weapons ban & educator nominations

Gov. Dan McKee introduced legislation that would ban assault weapons this week.

The following are briefs and news from around the Blackstone Valley.

Minority caucus proposes reducing sales tax to 5 percent

The Senate Minority Caucus has submitted legislation to amend Title 44, Chapter 18 to reduce the sales tax in Rhode Island from 7 percent to 5 percent.

The bill comes, in part, in reaction to Gov. Dan McKee’s proposed 2023-2024 budget, which recommends cutting the tax to a lesser 6.85 percent. Minority Leader Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, a Republican representing District 23 in Burrillville, North Smithfield and Glocester, discussed the proposal in response to McKee’s January State of the State address.

“The governor’s suggested sales tax decrease is negligible at best,” said Sen. Thomas Paolino of District 17 in Lincoln, North Providence and North Smithfield. “We want people to be able to keep more of their own money, and in doing so they will be inclined to invest it back in our economy. Increased buying power will alleviate any potential loss of sales tax revenue, as people buy more and get more for their money.”

Air Force seeks educator nominations

The Air Force is looking to recognize the top ten educators across New England and is now seeking nominations of counselors, teachers, coaches, principals and more.

“The Air Force values members who are dedicated to their community and embody excellence, service and integrity toward themselves and toward their mission,” noted a release on Air & Space Forces’ Sentry Educator Award.

Nominations must be submitted in a short essay with a paragraph that supports the criteria of excellence, service and integrity. Winners will receive an official Air Force Sentry trophy and will be ceremoniously presented at an official function. Recipients will also automatically be enrolled for the Air Force Educator tour – an opportunity to experience the Air Force and Space Force firsthand.

For more information, contact Technical Sergeant Kimberly Nagle via phone at 603-502-2125 or e-mail at

Water, sewer & heating assistance available

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services is notifying residents that assistance with water, sewer and heating bills is available for eligible customers through the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The state reportedly has more than $3 million in funds to assist income eligible customers that will go away if it’s not spent. Both programs have the same income guidelines at less than 60 percent of the state median income.

LIHEAP helps eligible low income families pay their heating bills and offers weatherization services. LIHWAP is a temporary emergency program that can help households afford water and wastewater services, providing a one-time payment that is paid directly to the utility company.

Those who think they may qualify should reach out to Tri-County Community Action Program at (401) 351-2750 for assistance with the application process.

For more information on LIHEAP visit Energy Assistance Programs | RI Department of Human Services.

Applications open for Summer Meals program

The Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is now accepting applications for organizations interested in participating in the 2023 Summer Food Service Program for children. The program, financed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, provides free meals to children from targeted communities and is designed to maintain and expand nonprofit food programs for children during the summer months.

To participate in the summer program, sponsors must be public or private nonprofit school food authorities, organizations, residential summer camps, nonresidential day camps, or units of local or state governments. To be approved, a site must serve an area with at least 50 percent of the children eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or qualify as a residential camp or a nonresidential day camp.   

For more information on the program, call the Rhode Island Department of Education, Office of Statewide Efficiencies at (401) 222-8701. Applications for participation during the 2023 summer season must be completed and approved prior to June 15 and interested organizations should reach out to RIDE no later than May 1 to start the application

Legislators introduce assault weapons ban

Rep. Jason Knight and Sen. Joshua Miller have proposed a bill that would ban the possession, sale and transfer of assault style weapons in Rhode Island with support from Gov. McKee; Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg Amore, Attorney General Peter Neronha and General Treasurer James Diossa.

If passed, possession of assault weapons owned on the effective date of the bill would be “grandfathered” subject to certain registration provisions. Violators would be subject to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 and forfeiture of the weapon. Rhode Island would become the 10th state to enact a law banning assault weapons, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia.

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