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PowerPlayer: State Senator Donna Nesselbush

Monday, November 12, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is State Senator Donna Nesselbush. Senator Nesselbush kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the biggest issues facing Rhode Island and her goals for the 2013 legislative session.

1) First, congratulations on your big victory on Tuesday. What are your top three priorities for 2013?

Thank you. This question is easy. I have been campaigning these past few months on the 4 E's: Economic Development; Equality (as in Marriage Equality); Education Reform; and Ethics.

2) We've heard so much talk about not allowing another 38 Studios situation to happen, but Rhode Island still struggles when it comes to business friendliness. What can we do to become a more attractive place to do business?

A good outcome begins with a good plan, so I believe the first thing Rhode Island needs to do is decide on the re-structuring and functioning of the Economic Development Corporation. Many players have weighed in from the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council to The Rhode Island Foundation. The Joint Committee on Economic Development should cull through all the ideas and adopt the best ones. We need a clear plan and bold leadership in order to put our state back on a path to prosperity. We need to tackle the issues that keep our ratings so low - which include our tired infrastructure, our lack of a skilled workforce, and the need to align our workforce training with the jobs Rhode Island needs. We need to cut red tape and streamline permitting to support business growth.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I'm up at 7am. I have a daily practice of meditation and prayer. Then I read The Providence Journal and The (Pawtucket) Times with coffee. On my way to work out, I call one of my best friends, Maryellen Butke, for another news check as she is far more "linked in" to the "twittersphere" than I am; she always has her finger on the pulse of what's happening in Rhode Island! I work out from 9-10am, usually at Crossfit Providence since my partner Kelly Carse is a coach there. I'm at my law firm desk by 11am where I start a day of meetings and work to manage (along with my law partner, Joe Marasco) our law firm of 12 Associate Attorneys and approximately 50 support staff. My week is peppered with trips to the Pawtucket Municipal Court where I serve as the Chief Judge. During the Senate session, I arrive at the State House just before our 4pm start. During the off season, I work until about 6pm, and then I transition to an evening of meetings, either with constituents, community groups or other elected officials. My day ends at home between 8 and 9pm, at which time I have dinner daily with my partner, Kelly.

4) Same-sex marriage is going to be a hot topic again this legislative session. Would you support placing the question on the ballot and if not, how can it pass in the Senate?

Marriage equality is an issue whose time has come. There were spirited races and the elections have brought an increase in the numbers of pro-marriage equality Senators. I and the other pro-marriage equality Senators will be working closely with the Senate Leadership to lobby and persuade our colleagues, all in the strong hope of a favorable outcome for all gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders...and on a personal note, so I can marry my beloved, Kelly.

I do not support putting marriage equality on the ballot, as I do not believe that civil rights should be put to a popular vote. Our constituents elect us to represent them; we should do just that and not engage in a ballot question that would be a waste of taxpayer money. These type of ballot questions often attract large sums of money from out of state partisan groups; this money could be better spent solving other pressing social issues like homelessness. Additionally, this issue, as a ballot question, did win in 3 states in the recent elections, further confirming that marriage equality is an issue whose time has come. Surely gays will someday be allowed to marry in every state in this great nation, just as people of color and white people can now legally marry in every state. I urge Rhode Island to be a leader for freedom and equality, rather than a state that comes along "kicking and screaming" only after the Supreme Court speaks. As the Arab Spring reveals, you cannot keep people down; the drive for freedom is both instinctual and perpetual.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I love language and am fluent in Spanish and Italian, and I love Latin dancing.

Quick Hitters:

Role Model : My father from whom I derived my moral compass and the Dalia Lama whose ability to find peace, rapture and joy in this crazy world inspires me.

Favorite Restaurant : Capriccio's

Best Beach : La Romana, Dominican Republic

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year : The one I wrote: 10 Tips to WIN Your Social Security Disability Case. (I have dedicated my 20+ year legal career to helping disabled Rhode Islanders obtain Social Security Disability benefits.)

Advice for the Next Donna Nesselbush : Start with intention and set your sights high. Trust that although we may not know it at the time, life is unfolding perfectly. Cultivate discipline, remembering that it is most important to be a "disciple" to oneself. Believe in yourself, forgive yourself, and learn from all of the experiences life sends your way. Remember that we each have all the answers we need inside of us - and if we ask and listen, we can know all we need to know. If you don't like what you are doing, do something else, as joy and love are birthrights.


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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