Block Island Times

Fillipi files for re-election

State Rep. Blake Filippi ((R), has represented Dist. 36 (encompassing New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) in the Rhode Island General Assembly since 2015. He is seeking a third term and is up for re-election (unopposed) in November. The Block Island Times spoke to Filippi about his experience in the State House and his goals for the future.
Q: You’ve filed the necessary papers to run for a third consecutive term as the state Representative from Dist. 36, which includes Block Island. When you speak to voters one on one, what do you say is the primary reason why you want to continue in public service? 
A: Our ultimate job in public service is to maximize individual liberty and to make government serve, and be accountable to, its citizens. Within this rubric, there are basically four roles of a State Representative, and voters are concerned with each of them. 
Helping our neighbors navigate state government — whether it be someone in need of assistance or a small business trying to navigate the state’s regulatory environment — is the most rewarding role. 
Local issues are also a critical responsibility. I have been a staunch advocate for local governance, especially as it relates to zoning and planning, and I think voters in our district largely agree with that perspective. We also focus on education funding and special enabling legislation for individual towns, like the Utility District that we passed last year and our ongoing efforts to allow the Town of New Shoreham to regulate transport network services, like UBER.  
State-wide policy, such as reducing the tax burden, streamlining regulations, improving our business climate, protecting individual privacy, criminal justice reform and advancing the truth that our environment is a social and economic treasure, are all important to the long-term health and welfare of our state.
Lastly, advocating for the proper balance of power between our state and federal governments is critical. I want to continue to advocate for the 10th Amendment principle that the federal government is one of limited powers, and return much lost sovereignty to our state.
 Q: You’ve had four years of experience so far as a legislator. What would you say are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in these first two terms?
A: Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is how to affect change and navigate the House. There is no rulebook — the know-how is acquired experientially. I have enacted key laws and have substantially improved, or stopped, multiple pieces of legislation over the past four years. I respectfully suggest your readers search my YouTube page for clips of our work.
Q: What were the most pressing issues for you, as a legislator, during these past four years, both locally and on a state-wide level? 
A: Locally, the biggest issue was Copar Quarry on the border of Westerly and Charlestown. Copar Quarry was previously an abandoned granite quarry that reopened in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Copar was a bad actor and dry-crushed granite that caused crystalline silica, a carcinogen, to cover the surrounding homes. DEM claimed it did not have sufficient enforcement authority over fugitive dust from quarry operations. We then worked with the mining industry to enact a law that empowers DEM to control fugitive dust. The operator of Copar Quarry soon shut down.
On Block Island, the biggest local issues have been enactment of the Utility District at the town’s request, and our ongoing efforts to empower the town to regulate Transportation Network Services, like Uber and Lyft. 
On a state-wide basis, there have been so many critical issues, the most controversial of which was the RhodeWorks statewide tolling program. One of the other more important issues is to reform our elections with a system of instant run-offs so that a winning candidate must receive a majority of votes cast. I will continue to advance this critical reform over the next two years.
Q: What would you like to get accomplished in the next legislative session?
A: Locally, we want to empower the Town of New Shoreham to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft. On a state-wide basis, our biggest problem is our hostile business climate — where in many instances it does not make sense to move a business here unless a government subsidy is received. This has created an environment where government is largely picking winners and losers through corporate welfare. I believe we need more free enterprise and a level playing field that is attractive to capital — with government acting as a cheerleader rather than a subsidizer of connected businesses.
Q: You’re one of 12 Republicans in the House, with 63 Democrats in the majority. For those of us that can’t be there first-hand, can you give us an idea of what the atmosphere is like? Is it hyper-partisan, is it more convivial than we would imagine?
A: The House is collegial and all members have mutual respect — something Washington-elected officials should learn from. That does not mean we refrain from principled stands. Instead, we stand on principle with civility and eschew personal attacks.
Q: What are the responsibilities of the minority whip? Is that a position in which you’d like to continue? 
A: The Minority Whip is the number two position in the Republican caucus. I count votes and prepare floor arguments for, or against, legislation. It is an exciting role. The Minority Whip and Minority Leader are elected by the caucus every two years, and our Minority Leader is now running for Governor and will not return to the House next year. 
Q: If there is anything you had the power to change about the law-making process in the state, what would it be? 
A: I would without a doubt change the House Rules that are adopted every two years. Over the decades, they have been amended to empower house leadership at the expenses of the individual members.
— Interview conducted and edited by Lars Trodson


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