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House Speaker Shekarchi speaks at Taubman Center Politics and Policy Lunch

Shekarchi highlighted issues of climate change inequities, gun control

At the event, Shekarchi said that the most important legislation he has passed was the Act on Climate in 2021.
At the event, Shekarchi said that the most important legislation he has passed was the Act on Climate in 2021.

R.I. House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick) spoke at a Politics and Policy Lunch hosted by the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy in Stephen Robert ’62 Hall on Monday.

Shekarchi, who served as the House Majority Leader from 2016 to January 2021 before his appointment to the House speakership four years ago, began his career as a lobbyist and organizer. In 2012, Shekarchi ran and won a position in Rhode Island, starting his career in the state’s legislature. 

“I’ve always liked to engage younger people and give them a chance at (getting involved in) government,” Shekarchi said in an interview with The Herald. “I was always very hungry for political knowledge when I was 16 … and I want to pay it forward to someone else,” he added. 

Wendy Schiller, the director of the Taubman Center and a professor of political science, told The Herald that she hoped to bring up pressing issues facing the state during the conversation. Shekarchi ended up discussing climate change equity and gun control.


Shekarchi outlined his accomplishments as Speaker of the House, highlighting what he considers to be the “single most important thing we’ve done” — passing the Act on Climate in 2021.

The act, which was passed in the R.I. General Assembly as H5445A and S0078A, stipulates that “the state will develop a plan to incrementally reduce climate emissions to net-zero by 2050,” according to a press release from the R.I. General Assembly. 

The act calls for a process that enables populations most affected by “pollution, displacement, energy burden and cost” to provide their input for “an equitable transition to climate compliance.” The legislation also aims to identify areas of support for workers to help them transition into clean energy jobs.

Shekarchi also discussed the Safe Storage Bill — passed in the R.I. Senate as S2202 — which focuses on providing stronger gun security in the state. 

According to a press release from the R.I. General Assembly, the bill requires all firearms to “be stored in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device properly engaged” when not in use by an authorized person. 

Violations of this would result in a $250 fine for the first offense and $1000 fine for the second offense. Its companion bill, H7373, was held for further review by the House Judiciary Committee. 

Shekarchi concluded the event by highlighting the importance of personal narratives in passing legislation, drawing upon the passage of the Marriage Equality Act as an example. “The personalization of politics, for me, has always been an effective way of getting things done,” he said.

Isabel Hernandez ’26 reflected on her biggest takeaways from the event, which included learning about the uniqueness of Rhode Island politics and its focus on collaboration, given its smaller legislature. 

The event was “really valuable because it allowed me to get some pretty big insights into the actual social dynamics of politics and what happens behind the scenes,” Hernandez said.  

Shekarchi said that one of his biggest hopes for the event was to inspire attendees to be more involved in Rhode Island politics, adding that college students “can play a role” in catalyzing change.


Amber Marcus-Blank

Amber Marcus-Blank is a staff writer who is interested in working in politics and journalism. She is a freshman studying Political Science and Public Health.

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