Freshman Sen. Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3 – Providence) won national praise for Rhode Island this session when she helped shepherd through legislation that expanded the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance to cover workers who need to take time to care for a new addition to the family or a seriously ill relative. Recently, she was kind enough to sit down with RI Future for a wide-ranging interview. The following transcript has been lightly edited for written media.
RI Future: Given that that would actually be a pretty controversial move in 2014, I’ve heard observers cynically remark that nothing big happens in an election year in the General Assembly, what’s your opinion on that kind of sentiment?
Gayle Goldin: I think big pieces of legislation pass when there’s the will to get them done. The value of an election year is that it’s an opportunity for constituents to be even more engaged with their elected officials and share with them their ideas about what is really important to them.
RIF: Given that 2014 will be an election year, if it yields a governor elected as a Democrat, do you think that relationship between the governor and the General Assembly will change much?
GG: I feel like as a new member of the Senate I can’t really talk too authoritatively about that, certainly I have worked with Chafee’s staff on my legislation this year, I have worked with different parts of the administration on that legislation, and I would assume that would continue, but I don’t really know all the levels of relationship. I only know my personal experience.
RIF: 2014 is also likely to see a vote on whether we have a constitutional convention, what are your thoughts on that?
GG: Our last constitutional convention was 1986, which is before I moved here. I have spoken to a lot of advocates about their opposition to having a constitutional convention. One of the things I really understand from those conversations is the level of risk to important issues that can come up through the process. I went back and looked at the ballot questions from 1986 and you can see how important issues, like reproductive rights, can be at risk during a constitutional convention. I think we can really see how many issues that are important to the progressive community come up to play and can be manipulated inappropriately through this process, given the amount of money that could now come into the state to sway the outcome of the convention.