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+ − Biography
Grace Diaz (D) has represented the people of District 11 in Providence since first being elected in November 2004. She was named the Democratic Caucus Chair in January 2015, which makes her a member of the House Leadership Team. She is the first vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Special Legislation, and she is a member of the House Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Municipal Government, the House Committee on Conduct and the House Committee on Rules.
During the 2019 session, she was instrumental in securing an increase in funding for pre-kindergarten and English language learning. The budget increased aid to education by $33.4 million, added $2.9 million to increase pre-kindergarten seats and increased funding for English language learning by $2.3 million.
She also worked to restore a program that provides fare-free bus passes to low-income seniors and elderly Rhode Islanders, making the program permanent. She also introduced a law that allows a person to make arrangements for the payment of motor vehicle fines or costs, and permit a person to request an ability-to-pay hearing before a license is suspended for failure to pay such fines or costs.
Highest among Representative Diaz’s priorities has been an overhauling of the Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income working families pay for child care. The child care assistance rates in Rhode Island were well below the recommended levels to ensure equal access to high-quality child care. Representative Diaz had submitted legislation to establish a tiered child care reimbursement rate system. In 2018, it was included in the state budget and signed into law.
During that same session, she introduced a law requiring insurers to treat behavioral health counseling and medication maintenance visits the same as primary health care visits when determining patient cost-sharing. The legislation is aimed at better achieving parity between mental health coverage and primary health coverage for Rhode Islanders.
In 2017, the General Assembly passed a law she introduced that requires physicians to discuss the potential of addiction with patients before prescribing opioids. She also successfully introduced the All Students Count Act, which requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to use separate collection categories and tabulations for specified Asian ethnic groups in every demographic report on ancestry or ethnic origins of residents.
In 2016, she introduced legislation that to seeks to curtail racial disparities in school discipline. The new law directs all school superintendents to review discipline data for their school districts, to decide whether there is an unequal impact on students based on race, ethnicity, or disability status, and to respond to any disparity.
Always an advocate for children, Representative Diaz sponsored legislation in 2015 that creates a non-discriminatory clause in the Children’s Bill of Rights for all children under the care of DCYF. The law prevents any discrimination against children based on race, color, religion, ancestry, gender or other factors.
One of her most important pieces of legislation, which the governor enacted with his signature in 2014, put a spotlight on adult education so the state could make it easier and less costly for Rhode Islanders to find employment. The law requires the state Board of Education to consider several factors, including cost, in determining which high school equivalency tests will be recognized by the state.
Prior legislative accomplishments also include a law preventing children from receiving out-of-school suspensions for attendance issues and legislation aimed at raising awareness about lupus, a chronic illness causing the immune system to attack normal body tissues.
For several years, every Nov. 14, Representative Diaz has hosted the World Diabetes Day celebration at the Rhode Island State House to spread the word about how to take control of the disease. As the chairwoman of the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care, she has hosted the State House’s Child Care Awareness Day annually for the past several years.
Representative Diaz holds both bachelor and master’s degrees from Springfield College, which she earned in 2008 and 2010 respectively. A native of the Dominican Republic, she graduated from Los Angeles Custodios High School in 1977.
Representative Diaz is also a member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), Women in Government, National Hispanic State Legislators and the Rhode Island Black and Latino Caucus.
Rep. Diaz has five children: Maria, Gisselle, Ruben, Felix and Cristian, and six grandchildren.
Representative Diaz is the Outreach Director of the Minority and Women Business Enterprise Office in the city of Providence.