Rep. Arthur Handy, a Democrat known for his stewardship of the environment, is seeking re-election to the District 18 House seat in Cranston.
First elected in 2002, this would be Handy’s sixth term in the General Assembly. He faces a primary from Democrat challenger William McKenna, a former State Representative from that district.
If elected, Handy says constituents can count on his continued advocacy for the environment, an issue he has taken a leadership position on during his tenure. Handy currently serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and said the state has made inroads in making government, businesses and citizens more aware of environmental protection.
“I think there is more awareness now, but I don’t think we’ll ever be done educating people,” Handy said.
As technology changes, he said, we must change with it. He cited solar power as an example. While solar energy is not necessarily an ideal energy solution in Rhode Island at the moment because of its relatively high cost, he believes that will change and the state needs to be ready to jump on solar opportunities when they become available. His son, Zachary, is a student at Dutemple Elementary School, a location Handy said would be perfect for solar panels in the future.
“Why not get them in place in places like that, so the schools can benefit and there’s more money available for schools?” he asked.
In order to increase access to energy-saving alternatives, Handy continues to look for incentives for businesses looking to implement eco-friendly practices.
“It creates more opportunities for small businesses and medium-sized businesses to address their energy needs with renewable energy,” he said. “We want to continue to make it easy for people to do it. We ought to try and find some kind of further incentive to make it easier.”
In Massachusetts, for example, there is a tax credit for using solar and renewable energy sources. While that may not be financially feasible in Rhode Island right now, Handy believes there are other ways to promote energy efficiency, such as offering loans against future energy savings.
Handy says that promoting a green economy will have a ripple effect. Not only do energy efficiency measures save businesses and consumers money, but they also create green jobs.
“This is one of the greatest unmet opportunities for our state,” he said in his re-election campaign release. “Green jobs are well-paid opportunities that contribute directly to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.”
Handy is also advocating for businesses to put in electric plug-ins for alternative fuel vehicles, offering tax credits for those that do. Without the availability of plug-ins, he said, the technology will not take off in the Ocean State.
“Nobody’s going to want to buy that vehicle if they don’t have a place to refuel it,” he said.
In terms of what the state has already accomplished for energy efficiency, Handy pointed to electronic waste legislation he proposed that required manufacturers to share responsibility and minimize waste. He called that bill “a big win,” as was the successful defense of the state’s clean energy law and energy efficiency standards for appliances. Handy has also worked on legislation to keep mercury pollution out of the landfill and out of drinking water.
Going forward, Handy wants to work with his State House colleagues to continue to improve the process for opening or expanding a small business. While he is pleased with the direction the state is going in, he says more needs to be done.
“I think we’ve done a good job at trying to streamline a lot of the permitting and that sort of thing to make it easier, especially for a small business person,” he said. “I’d still love to see us do more to support our local businesses to grow.”
That support, he said, could come from one-stop shopping for state permitting, access to capital and outreach to businesses that have the potential to grow but don’t have the time or resources to take that next step.
“A lot of those people are ready to go to the next step. There’s a benefit to growing everybody in the state,” he said, explaining that connecting business owners with state resources could set them on the path to expansion.
Other issues of importance to Handy are protecting women’s reproductive rights, civil rights and marriage equality, which he says he will continue to lobby for.
“Provided I win in November, my intent is to put that bill in again,” he said.
In speaking with his constituents, Handy knows that funding for education is a priority for taxpayers, and should be one for the state as well. He supports the proposal to accelerate the Fair Funding Formula, and hopes it can support student programs that too often fall victim to budget cuts.
“I have a real personal connection to it, with my son going to William Dutemple. We need to make sure that we have extra-curriculars,” he said. “I definitely support accelerating the Fair Funding Formula. I’d like to see us go further soon.”
While there are always ways to make cuts to the budget, Handy thinks the state should reconsider how it approaches revenues. He believes property taxes are regressive and said a shift toward a more progressive tax system, such as an increase in income tax, would have a bigger impact and would ultimately lower property taxes. That relief on homeowners, he said, could not come at a better time.
“In the end, I do think we need to look at revenues. Instead of raising fees and fines, maybe we should look at a small increase in the income tax,” he said.
Rep. Handy sits on the Constituent Services Committee. He and his wife, Patricia DiPrete, have one son, and live in the Friendly Community in Cranston. Handy is currently employed by Left Brain, a web and database company that specializes in work for non-profits and small businesses. He has been honored for his work by the Rhode Island chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, the American Cancer Society and Clean Water Action.