PROVIDENCE, RI Governor Dan McKee today signed two bills into law.
The first bill (H-5387A / S-0398aa), sponsored by Representative Julie A. Casimiro and Senator John P. Burke, will ban child marriage in Rhode Island by eliminating language in state law that allows individuals under the age of 18 to obtain a marriage license with parental consent.
“I am pleased that Rhode Island is joining several other states in this effort to protect children and prevent exploitation,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Thank you to Representative Casimiro and Senator Burke for their dedication to getting this legislation passed and putting an end to child marriage.”
“Child marriages destroy girls’ health, education and economic opportunities and increases their risk of violence. These young girls risk a 70 to 80 percent chance of divorce and they are more likely to end up in poverty than teen moms who remain single. These marriages can be used to cover up an unwanted pregnancy or cover for abuse. Sometimes abusive parents use these marriages for financial gain. Sometimes these marriages are used for sex trafficking purposes. The United Nations has made this a child welfare priority and with this bill’s passage, Rhode Island becomes the fifth state in the country to do so, making us a leader in our work protecting children,” said Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), bill sponsor.
“While child marriage is rare in Rhode Island, it does happen,” said Sen. John P. Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), bill sponsor. “Between 2013 and 2019, 32 minors one as young as 14 were married in Rhode Island, the vast majority of them being girls. And most often, child marriage is forced marriage, with minors being compelled to marry by their parents. It’s time for the state to put an end to this outrageous practice.”
The second bill (H-6014 / S-0713), sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Representative Brandon C. Potter, will permanently require the state to analyze overdose deaths to help identify ways to reduce their prevalence.
“The overdose epidemic is a pressing issue for states across our nation. Now more than ever, it is crucial for Rhode Island to continue identifying and examining factors that contribute to the increasing number of deaths to help us respond to this crisis effectively,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I commend Representative Potter and Senator Goodwin for their dedication to getting this legislation passed.”
In 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation which established a temporary requirement that a group of health and public safety professionals must review all overdose deaths in Rhode Island to examine trends and other factors. The group provides an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly. This new legislation removes the 2020 sunset provision to make the reports a permanent requirement.
“After year with a 25 percent increase in overdose deaths, Rhode Island cannot afford to stop studying what’s fueling all these deaths. We need to know which drugs exactly are the biggest issues, how they are being taken, where they are coming from, the circumstances leading to the death the more we know, the more we can do to identify ways and resources to prevent more people from being lost to this tragic epidemic,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), bill sponsor.
“As we’ve seen with the emergence of fentanyl in recent years, the trends in drug overdose deaths change over time, and our state must be able to identify shifts to effectively respond to them. In a sense, looking very closely at the data from all of the people lost can etch out a sliver of hope from this tragedy, since it helps us find ways to save other individuals and families from experiencing the same suffering and heartbreak. We need every tool especially information available to us to address the overdose epidemic,” said Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), bill sponsor.
This bill was submitted at the request of the Rhode Island Department of Health.