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Student’s Model Legislature Bill Gets Attention from State

April 3, 2019

If you are a young, 30-year-old adult with developmental disabilities, you may not be allowed to enjoy your day at a privately owned day care facility if there are too few senior citizens already there.

Sound confusing? Vincent Emery, a freshman at Saint Raphael Academy, thought so, too. The law states that a little more than half (51%) of participants in such a facility must be at least 55-plus, essentially shutting out younger adults from entering the program in order to maintain that ratio.

Vincent joined Model Legislature at school and began researching a bill in which he proposed the removal of that regulation. At the same time, he was encouraged to bring the idea to local legislators. His path led him to testifying before a House Committee last month in support of his own bill.

“It was a bit scary, but it was generally pretty good,” said Vincent of the whole experience. The Pawtucket resident added that the House was very respectful and took his testimony seriously.

Only a few weeks earlier, Vincent had served as a Representative in the House at the General Session of Model Legislature at the State House in February, according to Ken Kirejczyk, social studies teacher and moderator of SRA’s Model Legislature club. “He was stellar!” said Mr. Kirejczyk of Vincent’s role. Saints was one of 12 schools in the state that participated this year.

In the process of researching and writing the bill for Model Legislature, Vincent contacted Greg Andrade and business partner Scot Comey, who own Living Well Adult Day Care, a facility for adults with disabilities in Pawtucket, and he credits them with helping him prepare the bill.

“This took a considerable amount of research,” he said, estimating he spent about 30 hours total. “It does take a long time to even locate the law, not to mention research it and make a legal argument for it,” Vincent said.

After the research, he contacted Rep. Raymond Johnston, Jr., Deputy Majority Leader who represents District 61 in Pawtucket (coincidentally is an alum of Saint Raphael Academy’s Class of 1979). Vincent asked if he would sent it to Sen. Sandra Cano.

Not long after, Rep. Johnston presented Vincent’s bill to the General Assembly as an amendment to an act for adult day care program licensure. Vincent went to the General Assembly in February to testify in front of the House Committee of Health, Education and Welfare in support of the bill. He believes he is the youngest person to introduce legislation to the Rhode Island senate. The Bill is expected to go to a Senate vote soon.

“The process is long. I don’t think many people realize that,” he said of getting a bill passed in the House. “It’s long, it’s hard, but at the end when it’s passed, I think it’s a pretty good feeling that you have—I wouldn’t say ‘changed’ people’s lives—but you made them better than what they were.”

Rep. Johnston was impressed at Vincent’s maturity and commitment, and he recommended Vincent for a page job at the State House. Vincent, who aspires to run for Congress one day, said he enjoys being in the middle of the action and learns a lot from the many people who come through the chamber whose stories are not always covered in the media.

“There are times when you are there until 10:30, 11 o’clock, but when you leave the State House at night, even though you may not be supportive of the bill that just passed or got shot down, you are happy that it got a chance to be voted on,” he said.