Legislative Scorecard: 2018
2018 seemed like it should be the year of #MeToo, but the War on Drugs and other long-fought battles instead reared their head. When the General Assembly adjourned at the end of a rare Saturday session, the legislature had failed to approve legislation ensuring equal pay for equal work, or any of a package of bills that had emerged from a commission tasked with making recommendations to address sex harassment in the workplace. Instead, the General Assembly approved a proposal fought for years by the ACLU and media groups regarding the sending of sexually explicit images online, exacerbated the War on Drugs by passing legislation allowing for drug-addicted Rhode Islanders to serve up to a life sentence for the death of someone with whom they use drugs, and provided financial incentives to school districts to hire more police officers for schools.
However, there were also some bright spots for civil liberties: the General Assembly approved legislation proposed by the ACLU that limits the shackling of pregnant prisoners, and a bill ensuring that people’s gender identity is respected on their death certificates.
And the ACLU’s greatest successes this year were in beating back dangerous proposals on the verge of passing during a nail-biting end to the legislative session, including: an Attorney General bill designed to dismantle a cell phone location privacy law passed with the ACLU’s assistance only two years ago, a full-press effort to pass a bill allowing for the involuntary commitment of substance abusers, and clearly unconstitutional legislation aimed at restricting panhandling.