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The environment is among the top priorities for both Representative Michelle E. McGaw, D-Dist. 71 and newly elected Sen. Linda Ujifusa, D-Dist. 11, during the legislative session that began this week.

The two legislators are among those Representatives and Senators to whom What’sUpNewp reached out in the Newport County area and on the South Shore, asking for their vision for this upcoming legislative session. There are clearly similarities in the two areas, with waterfront and tourism critical concerns.

We have heard from most of the legislators in the two areas and have published responses over the last couple of days from state Rep. Terri-Denise Cortvriend, D-Dist. 72 (Middletown/Portsmouth), state Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Dist. 75 (Newport) and newly elected Rep. Alex Finkelman, D-Dist. 74 (Jamestown/Middletown).

Today we focus on McGraw, who represents Portsmouth, Tiverton, and Little Compton in the House and Ujifusa, the former Portsmouth Town Councilor and environmental lawyer, who represents Portsmouth and Bristol in the state Senate.


“Because I am in the midst of determining which specific bills I will seek to sponsor in 2023, at this time, I can only say I will focus on legislation that would achieve priorities set forth during my campaign, including improved environmental protection and resiliency, affordable housing and healthcare (including prescriptions), fairer taxes…I will provide more details as bills are finished being drafted and introduced.”


She said her constituents’ concerns vary from “helping to access heating assistance programs to questions about our state government, which can then turn into legislation, such as extending the time allowed to transfer a vehicle’s license plate to a newly purchased vehicle,” legislation McGaw sponsored (and passed) in the 2022 legislative session.

“…I continue to pay close attention to environmental issues and their impact on our communities, our state, and the world. The UN Environmental summit brought growing attention to the growing plastic problem. It has been estimated that the use of single-use plastic has increased 250%-300% since the start of the pandemic.”

She noted the growing conversation about microplastics, “the extent to which we are exposed and the health effects of that exposure. According to a World Wildlife Fund study we consume about one credit card’s worth of plastic every week.”

She said the way to address the growing plastics concern is slowing down the output of plastic through bans on single-use plastic items, such as straws, plastic bags, and a bottle bill that would “place deposits on plastic to be sure they are returned for recycling, and Extended Producer Responsibility that would make those producing the plastic products and packaging responsible for managing the detrimental impacts.”

She said a major focus this year would be pushing back on a plastic industry proposal called “advanced recycling,” which the industry, she said, believes is the answer to the plastic problem. She promised the introduction of legislation to protect safeguards for Rhode Islanders, repudiating efforts by the American Chemistry Council and the plastic industry to support legislation that simplifies the permitting process.

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