After State Representative Rebecca Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence) introduced the Equity Impact Statement Act on Friday in the House Committee on State Government and Elections, the committee welcomed questions. Representative Robert Quattrocchi (Republican, District 41, Scituate) asked first if under her bill he had to take into account those whose sexual orientation was “pedophile.” After Rep. Kislak pointed out that “pedophile” is not a type of sexual orientation and that the question was offensive, Rep. Quattrocchi asked Rep. Kislak if she was a pedophile. The entire room reacted with shock and outrage.
Shortly after this exchange Representative Quattrocchi packed up his stuff and left the hearing.
Update from Representative Quattrocchi: “I have apologized to Representative Kislak on four different occasions for the misunderstanding that occurred on Friday,” said Representative Quattrocchi. “Because I have not been advised by the Speaker’s Office as to his intentions regarding this matter, I cannot offer further comment at this time.”
Note from Options: This piece originally appeared on March 20 at UpRise RI and is republished with permission. As of time of republishing UpRise RI's piece, the speaker of the house has stripped Quattrocchi of committee assignments.
You can watch the entire exchange below, or skip to the offending comments here.
EVAN SHANLEY: Thank you. Any questions from members of the committee? Representative Quattrocchi.
ROBERT QUATTROCCHI: Thank you, chairman. So we have departmental help in assessing fiscal impact in this building. So I was going to ask you who would be responsible for these reports, but you said it, it could be up to us or any group or whatever – special group, specialty group. So my question is this an opinion based document attached to a bill?
REBECCA KISLAK: Yeah. And Rep, you might write something very much different from what I would write, and then we could say, “You completely disagree with my equity analysis, and think actually it will impact different communities in these different ways.” So so yes, we thought about, and I think that there may be room for a state department to be doing some really in-depth equity analysis. Another bill in this package is going to ask the governor to do an equity analysis, specifically around the budget. He has staff and departments and access to data that we might not have as easy access to. We also thought about whether to add an FTE to JCLS, maybe to be doing equity work, and that’s certainly something that I think we should talk about because I think that there is room for it. But for this year, to get us going and to get us started doing it, I did not want to put in something that would cost money and have a fiscal impact.
QUATTROCCHI: It just seems like a lot. You don’t feel that all the anti-discrimination laws that we have already, which are many, protect all these classes that you are listed in this bill?
KISLAK: I think that we do a lot of work on equity here in Rhode Island, and that’s great and really important. I also know that if we’re not thinking about it, it might not occur to us. If we don’t say it outright that lead pipes affect folks, particularly in Providence, particularly in black and Latino neighborhoods. [It] also affect renters. Renters tend to be more people of color disproportionate to the overall population. So we can talk about that, but we might have a whole bill where we don’t talk about that at all. I think it’s really important for us to say that our housing policies have been discriminatory and we have created situations where there is segregation in our communities, and we can look at maps and we can see it and we can say it, but if we’re not saying it, we’re not unwinding it intentionally.
QUATTROCCHI: Right. And I guess for as an example what you mentioned with the lead pipes – you know, perhaps a landlord might not want to install new pipes or whatever like that. But I guess that’s where the opinion would come in my mind. It could be your opinion that that’s the case. Maybe it could be mine or someone else’s opinion that a landlord simply can’t afford to do that, right?
KISLAK: Which is why this legislation, which is not what we’re talking about, but it’s why the legislation is so great, because it creates a pathway for funding. But it can, we can then also have the conversation about who are the landlords and who are the tenants, and should the landlord be allowed to make public health decisions for the tenants? And what kind of equity or inequity does that create?
QUATTROCCHIi: Okay. One more question, chairman, if I can. In the bill it states that a broad equity impact statement, accounting for race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, all the things listed, people listed here. It seems very, very broad. So, for instance, in my thinking about bills that I want to present, do I have to take into account, for instance, religion? Do I have to take into account how it affects Satanists in Rhode Island, or do I have to take it to account with sexual orientation, how it affects pedophiles in Rhode Island, anything like that?
KISLAK: Well, first I want to point out that pedophilia is not a sexual orientation.
QUATTROCCHI: Oh, I’m sorry.
KISLAK: So like, my equity right now is pointing out that that was really offensive.
QUATTROCCHI: Oh, I didn’t mean to. Are you a pedophile? I’m sorry.
SHANLEY: I think we’re getting a little off track here.
RAYMOND HULL: Can we stick to the merits of the bill?
QUATTROCCHI: I didn’t mean to offend anybody.
SHANLEY: It’s okay. Let’s just ask questions about the bill. If you have any questions about the bill, you can pose them.
KISLAK: So, I think this is an example of why we need to be talking about equity because we all need to be having these conversations about what is equity and what isn’t equity. I haven’t seen the signup sheet, but I know that they’re probably half a dozen people from our community advocacy organizations here to talk about why they, from their perspectives as a community, want us to be legislating like this. This is a part of our work – to be the people’s house and to support communities and to build together a state that is getting better and better all the time.