Before being elected Senate President, Teresa served as Rhode Island's first woman Senate Majority Leader, a position she held for five years, from January 2004 through 2008. She had previously served as vice chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee from 2002 to 2004. From 2000 to 2002, she served as deputy chair of the Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety and the Environment. From 1997 through 2000, she served as the Senate's first woman chairperson of the Judiciary Committee. Prior to her election to the Senate, Teresa was chairwoman of the Newport Affordable Housing Commission, and she has served as a member of the Newport Democratic City Committee since 1988.
In her second Senate term, Senator Paiva Weed led the legislative effort to reform the Rhode Island welfare system to one that focused on obtaining the skills to secure long-term self-sufficiency. During her tenure as chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, she was instrumental in the passage of legislation that changed the manner in which judges are selected to a merit-based process. As vice chairwoman of the Finance Committee, she was involved in sensitive state budget negotiations. In addition, she has won passage of many landmark bills, such as the property tax cap and legislation restructuring the Victim's Compensation Fund.
Senator Paiva Weed focused on education as a fundamental driver of economic development in 2015, winning enactment of legislation to repair crumbling schools with the establishment of a School Building Authority, as well as funding for full-day kindergarten for all communities in the state. Full day kindergarten is proven to lay the foundation for improved cognitive and social development and leads to long-term educational success. Senator Paiva Weed also worked with the state’s public colleges and university to lay the foundation for a funding formula for state aid to higher education, similar to what is in place for elementary and secondary schools, as well as improving outcomes in targeted areas such as degree completion in fields that are in demand.
This focus on education builds on last year’s action to improve workforce development. Senator Paiva Weed championed a legislative action plan known as “Rhode to Work” to better equip students and the Rhode Island workforce with the skills needed for success in today’s economy. Rhode to Work better coordinates and improves the effectiveness of job training programs and provides additional resources for workforce development. It also better aligns schooling with business needs, and helps improve learning experiences.
Senator Paiva Weed also shepherded through the Legislature a package of bills known as “Making it Easy to Do Business in Rhode Island,” aimed at cutting red tape. In 2013, she led the successful drive to enact a package of 28 bills known as “Moving the Needle.” Developed with business leaders, these new laws are intended to improve Rhode Island’s economic competitiveness.
Teresa has served on the Senate Commission on Judicial Selection, the Senate Oil Spill Commission, the Rhode Island Trust and Investment Commission, the Rhode Island Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Rhode Island Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline, the Supreme Court Task Force to Examine the Administrative Adjudication Court, the Governor's Juvenile Justice Task Force, and the Senate Select Commission on Quasi Public Agencies.
This year she was presented with the Susan L. Farmer Award for her leadership for women and for her work in enacting temporary caregiver insurance, which enables workers to take paid leave to bond with a newborn or care for a sick loved one. She also was named a National Legislator of the Year by MADD for her work in passing legislation enabling judges to require drunk drivers use ignition interlock devices.
She was named Woman of the Year by the Rhode Island Commission on Women, the Newport Elks Club, Club Juventude Lusitana and The Portuguese American Citizens Committee of Rhode Island. She received the Extraordinary Woman Award and has been recognized by Housing First Rhode Island, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Justice Assistance, and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She has also been recognized by the Governor's Council on Disabilities, the Governor's Council on Tourism, the National Association of Social Workers, the Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy, the Newport County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), United Way, the Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Centers, the Rhode Island Ambassador of Hospitality and Tourism, and the Newport and Jamestown Business and Professional Women's Club.