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2018 Policy Priorities at the State House

Editorial by Meg Kerr, Senior Director of Policy

It is easy to think that advocacy ends when a good bill passes. But many times, passage of bills means that our work is just beginning.

Not all bills are implemented. And some that are implemented may not achieve the original goals that the advocates had in mind. So watching and advocating for good state policies, those that protect birds and wildlife and people, is a key part of my job. Another important part of my job is working with you, keeping you informed of what’s happening at the statehouse, and asking for your help with issues.

The legislature session is back in session. During 2018, we will be working on a range of important issues, including the following:

Pollinator Health and Habitat
Legislation was introduced last year (H 6264) to add $500,000 to RI DEM’s budget (Department of Environmental Management) for pollinator health, habitat and integrated pest management. It did not move. The Senate (S 0982) created a special legislative commission to study pesticide control regulations. That commission has not yet been formed. At the legislature, Audubon will continue to advocate for funding, the continuation of the Pollinator Working Group, and for the important work of the legislative study commission.

We have also been advocating for state agencies to take steps to enhance pollinator habitat. The Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife has on-going projects restoring fallow fields with new native plantings that provide dual benefits for birds and mammals as well as for pollinators and other beneficial insects. The RI Department of Transportation is exploring opportunities for enhancing pollinator habitat as part of the Department’s stormwater program and as part of other highway initiatives. Identified challenges include modifying maintenance strategies that satisfy the public while enhancing pollinators and using cost-effective pollinator friendly seed mixes.

Renewable Energy Siting
Audubon is advocating for smart siting of renewable energy, maximizing the use of developed landscapes to protect farm and forest land as much as possible. We are participating in a stakeholder process organized by the Office of Energy Resources. We will be advocating for policies that thoughtfully and strategically meet the state’s ambitious and essential renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals, while promoting equity and minimizing detrimental environmental impacts. The stakeholders are working on placeholder legislation which will be introduced soon.

Green Buildings Act Implementation
Last year, the legislature passed amendments to the Green Buildings Act requiring the state to pilot test sustainability metrics for the property surrounding new or rehabilitated state buildings. We will be working with the Department of Administration, Department of Environmental Management and the state’s Green Buildings Advisory Committee to ensure that projects with maximal environmental benefits are selected and implemented.

2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond
We support Governor Raimondo’s $48.5 million environmental bond included in her 2018 budget. The bond has funding for many essential grant programs – local recreation, bikeways, farmland and open space, state parks, brownfields, coastal resiliency and public access, clean water and drinking water, wastewater treatment facility resilience and dam safety. If passed by the general assembly, the bond will be on the November ballot for voters to decide.

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