By Phillip Cozzolino/ Narragansett Times
NARRAGANSETT / SOUTH KINGSTOWN
Teresa Tanzi, the democratic incumbent representing District 34 (Narragansett, South Kingstown) since 2010, is seeking re-election to the House seat this year. When asked why she was running again, Tanzi said there’s still more work to do around addressing transparency, gun legislation and gender and racial equality. She is challenged in the district by fellow democratic candidate Gina Giramma.
Tanzi is a realtor at Lila Delman Real Estate and chair of the Washington County Health Equity Zone, a state agency dedicated to ensuring equal access to quality health, education and recreation for all residents of South County. Tanzi earned her degree in public policy from Brown University and resides in Wakefield.
Tanzi is currently a member of the Rhode Island House of Representative’s Committee on Special Legislation and, in her time in the House, has successfully enacted legislative policy that included the ultimate removal of all cesspools in the state, protects seniors from door-to-door solicitations, banned the use of e-cigarettes on school property, closed a loophole that allowed large companies to evade paying taxes in Rhode Island and required comprehensive economic development tax incentive analyses and reporting. According to the District 34 Representative, however, her proudest accomplishment in the House came in 2017, when she successfully interfaced legislation that would take firearms away from domestic abusers. The “Protect Rhode Island Families Act” prohibits gun possession by anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes.
In 2019, Tanzi, a frequent critic of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, joined 18 other House Democrats in calling for procedural rule changes at the legislative body. That move resulted in the House passing new amendments that would mandate a period of at least 24 hours between when a new version of legislation is introduced and when it is voted on. An additional change brought by “Reform Caucus” of 19 House Democrats, which Tanzi helped found, outlaws sexual harassment in the House and establishes a procedure for reviewing accusations of wrongdoing.
When asked if she felt systemic racism was a problem in the U.S. and Rhode Island, Tanzi answered “absolutely.”
“I chaired the legislative Task Force on Studying Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, which reviewed not only discrimination based on sex, but also on racial discrimination.” Said Tanzi. “I proposed a package of bills that would update our decades old laws on all forms of discrimination. I continue to fight for those bills to be passed. I supported the ban on source of income for housing and celebrated the fair licensing act that passed this year. Much more needs to be done, and I look forward to doing the work.
Additionally, in the area of gun control, the District 34 Representative said she supports an assault weapons ban and limits on magazine capacity. Recently, Tanzi sponsored legislation that would raise the age requirement for “long guns” (assault rifle-styled weapons) to the same age as handguns.
“It is foolish to allow an 18-year-old who is prohibited from possessing a hand gun to possess an AR-15,” she said.
In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzi said in the absence of state legislature convening, she instead focused her efforts at the local level.
“I turned to the community to fill the needs locally, as I was able,” said Tanzi. “I worked with both Superintendents to ensure each child had the technology and internet access required for fully participating in school each day. I worked with Cox to make sure dozens of families who qualified for free internet were able to sign up and get connected, at times delivering hot-spots directly to their homes.
Additionally, Tanzi also served on Governor Gina Raimondo’s COVID-19 Food Access and Local Agriculture task forces, which ensured school lunches and food stamp benefits were being received and local agricultural businesses were able to perform essential functions. The incumbent democrat also collaborated with the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island to fight for a safe electoral process during the pandemic, including ensuring the mail-in ballot process during South Kingstown’s recent referendum was accessible and easy to understand. Going forward, Tanzi said she would continue to to advocate for tele-medicine, or caring for patients remotely, noting the practice “has proven to be a great equalizer for health care delivery”.
When asked about the lack of parking at South County Hospital in South Kingstown and the proposal to convert Town Farm Park into additional parking, Tanzi said she supports more off-site parking for [hospital] staff and prioritizing patient parking for the current lot”. Tanzi also suggests moving non-hospital-related services to another campus or location.
On the Narragansett side, Tanzi has been a vocal supporter for relocating the town’s library to the former Belmont Marketplace building in the Pier Marketplace, a position she has stated at town council meetings multiple times.
“The voters approved it, and it is time to build it and maximize the state reimbursement,” she said. “The town owns the building and it is foolish to waste any more time to act on the will of the people.”
The Rhode Island Primary Election is on Sept.8th.