Projo.com:For Rep. Christopher Blazejewski, he tries to keep an eye on the details

05/09/2011

PROVIDENCE — Christopher Blazejewski is hardly the most outgoing of the state’s freshman lawmakers, nor is he the most polished or the most prolific when it comes to sponsoring bills.

But the East Side Democrat may well be the House freshman who most bears watching.

A Harvard-educated lawyer who divides his work time between Boston and Providence, Blazejewski has quickly established himself as a lawmaker who has a keen sense for ideas, as well as an eye for details that need to be addressed to make sure a bill does what its makers intended.

A self-described progressive Democrat, Blazejewski, 31, entered the General Assembly with the belief that government has a key role to play in helping small businesses and helping working men and women.

To that end, he has added his name to 81 bills during his first session and is the lead sponsor of 11.

Among them are bills that would allow employees to unionize without secret ballots if 70 percent of the workers sign authorization cards, provide tax credits to students who are paying off student loans or employers who help to pay off those loans, give businesses greater access to federal dollars for research and innovation and allow for-profit limited-liability companies to seek investments from charitable organizations, as well as private investors.

The latter is aimed at social venture companies that seek to promote social or environmental values as well as make a profit. As an example, Blazejewski cites Solar Sister, a Bristol company that makes solar-powered lights that can be sold “inexpensively in rural parts of the developing world.”

“In light of the crash of 2008, I think investors are trying to make intelligent choices,” he said. “Knowing there is no guarantee of a big return … why not do something decent with your money?”

Blazejewski’s colleagues in the House agreed last week, voting 70 to 0 to pass the bill and send it on to the Senate.

One of the most intense discussions Blazejewski sat through was an eight-hour hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage.

A same-sex-marriage supporter, Blazejewski said he was “surprised and disappointed” when House Speaker Gordon D. Fox announced that he would support a civil-union bill instead this year.

But he said he believes the issue will eventually be resolved.

“The fight for same-sex marriage has been going on for many years in Rhode Island, and it will continue,” Blazejewski said. “Since we’re on the right side of history, it’s only a matter of time before we have same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.”

Asked if he has had any difficult learning experiences since becoming a member of the House, he said no.

“I haven’t, and the reason is I try to approach this with a degree of modesty to, you know, keep an open mind and know that I don’t know everything, and learn the process and go step by step. And, so far, that has served me well.”

Asked if anything has surprised him during his first four months, he paused and said he has “been impressed with how accessible Speaker Fox is.”

He said he has met with Fox “three or four times,” to talk about bills and to make sure Fox is aware of them.

“My expectation would be that the speaker has to have his attention in many places at one time, and I was impressed by the attention that he’s placed toward the first-year legislators,” he said. “If you send him an e-mail, within a day or two he’ll meet with you.”