Saturday, Apr. 23, Protestors gathered on Putnam Pike in Smithfield to rally against a bill that is set to fine unvaccinated residents $50 per month.
The S2552 bill, introduced by State Senator Sam Bell (D-Dist. 5) would apply to all Rhode Island residents over the age of 16 and are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines. This bill does not only institute a $50 fine, but also doubles the amount an individual owes on their income tax.
Matt Paddock with WPRI 12 attended the rally and spoke with many protestors who claimed the bill to be an “infringement on constitutional rights.” In a conversion between Paddock and Rhode Island Freedom Fighters founder Nicholas Morrell, it was explained that the ultimatum being given is “just plain wrong.”
Morrell told WPRI 12, “This is America and we have that right to choose, and that is what America is about, that is what this is about.”
He then explained that retaining one’s individual choice shouldn’t have to mean giving up one’s hard earned money. To this point, many others have added the notion of time and means of living. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that since the decline of mask and vaccine mandates, R.I. unemployment rates have dropped from 25.7% in Dec. 2021, to 19.6% in Mar. 2022. People started going back to work because they had their rights restored.
Using MIT's living wage calculator, if minimum wage is $12.25, then a single adult with no children would need to make $18.07 an hour to live comfortably. This is taking into account that the individual works full time, 40 hours a week and 2080 hours per year. Rhode Islanders are constantly working to support their cost of living so finding a timeframe to get vaccinated is also an issue. Despite the battle over freedom of individual choice, there is also a war between the state and people for the inflation of living. This deepens the issue of the S2552 bill taking away an individual's hard earned money.
None of the bill’s sponsors have returned questions for commentary. Protestors also rallied outside of Senator Bell’s home Apr. 23 to show their complete disdain for bill 2552. Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz (R-Dist. 23) chimed in with protestors, adding “[t]his is an unconscionable overreach of legislative powers. The good news is this legislation has little chance of passing. I won’t rule it out ー but I don’t believe it will pass. That said, I’m not taking it for granted, and neither should you.”
Write your opinions and review of the S2552 bill to share with congress. You can reach your district representative through all forms of social media, calling the office directly or via email. There are five other Senators sponsoring the bill: Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6), Jonathan Acosta (D-Dist. 16), Kendra Anderson (D-Dist. 31), James Seveny (D-Dist. 11) and Cynthia Mendes (D-Dist. 18). Two other Senators initially signed on as sponsors: Frank Lombardi (D-Dist. 26) and John Burke (D-Dist. 9). Both Lombardi and Burke have since withdrawn their support amid public pressure.
The Anchor is also following this story and encourages letters to the Editor on this topic.