Providence Journal: Rep. Regunberg announces run for lieutenant governor

WARWICK, R.I. — Touting the paid sick leave legislation he sponsored last session and his ability to organize, Rep. Aaron Regunberg announced a run for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Aspray Boat House in Warwick, Regunberg, a Providence Democrat, promised to be a voice “for all of the Rhode Islanders who can’t afford that State House lobbyist.”

“I know I haven’t been involved in state government for too long,” Regunberg said in his announcement speech. “But I’ve been there long enough to know that the system needs change. I’ve seen firsthand how often Rhode Islanders who can’t afford a State House lobbyist get ignored. And I know the only way to change that is to bring the people’s voice to the State House. We need more public accountability, more voices at the table, more people who are organized to take on the fights that matter. And I know how to organize.”

Regunberg, 27, first won his seat in the state’s House of Representatives in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016. He is a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Labor Committee. He graduated from Brown University and before his time at the state house founded the Providence Student Union.

Perhaps his most recognizable mark on state politics was the paid sick leave bill he sponsored in the House in the last session. Sen. Mary Ellen Goodwin sponsored a Senate version of the bill, which ultimately required businesses with 18 or more employees to offer paid sick leave for their workers.

During a series of amendments, and floor debates, the bill allowed a three-year phase in, with full-time employees entitled to up to three days of paid sick leave in 2018, up to four days in 2019 and up to five days in subsequent years.

Speaking from the House floor in June, Regunberg called it a “human dignity issue.”

“In every single one of our districts every single day there are hard working Rhode Islanders showing up to work sick,” he said in June. “There are parents sending their children to school sick. Folks that will forgo critical medical care for themselves or an aging family member.”

At the event on Tuesday Jason Rodrigues, a pipefitter from Pawtucket, introduced Regunberg, saying the sick-time legislation was “personal” for him.

Rodrigues said his 4-year-old daughter was hospitalized in the fall of 2015 after she was in a serious accident.

“I spent a week in the hospital as my 4-year-old daughter recovered from a serious accident. I had just taken a job in Massachusetts, so I had access to earned sick days. It made all the difference for my family,” Rodrigues said. “When I told Aaron my story and my experience working in Rhode Island without sick time, not only did he listen, he made sure my voice was heard up at the State House.”

Dan Mckee has held the position of lieutenant governor since 2014, and has worked on issues around energy costs and small businesses. His spokesman told the Associated Press that McKee plans to run again in 2018.

“We would be surprised that someone within the party would take on an incumbent Democrat who won with 58 percent of the vote four years ago,” the spokesman told the AP.

Regunberg’s most recent filing with the Board of Elections in July shows he had $152,403.95 in his campaign account. McKee’s filing from the same period showed the incumbent has $70,915.93 remaining in his account

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