As a former director of Caritas, Jay has a long history of helping people with substance use disorders.
In 2019, Rep Edwards was selected as an Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which focuses on health policies and programs being addressed throughout the country. When he returned, he sponsored a law that allows hospitals to contact the patient’s emergency contact and a certified peer recovery specialist in certain situations. The change will improve support for those hospitalized for drug overdoses and mental health emergencies by increasing the likelihood that their families or others wishing to assist them with treatment are aware of their hospitalization. Governor Raimondo named Rep Edwards to the State Opioid Task Force in 2019. Rep Edwards is the House Sponsor of legislation, H5245 Sub A, that will create safe injection zones in RI. This will help reduce overdose deaths and get people access to treatment options. In 2022, Speaker Shekarchi appointed Jay to the Opioid Settlement Committee Which will decide how the funds are allocated for the next 18 years.
Rep Edwards is the only member of the General Assembly who is a LEED AP, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional. Jay has used this professional experience in his legislation from re-using brown fields, thus preserving more pristine land for things like farms, parks & schools. As a longtime member of the Tiverton Land Trust, Jay believes in preserving open spaces for future generations. Jay’s experience in the construction of sustainable buildings has also become legislation through the Green Buildings Act.
Rep Edwards is the RI House appointee to the national State Agricultural & Rural Leaders where he has promoted land preservation & small, family farms. Jay is a longtime supporter of true green energy and advocate for increased use of green energy and reduction/elimination of fossil fuel based sources. In 2022, Rep Edwards introduced legislation to move aquaculture farms 1000’ offshore to allow continued access for all.
Jay sponsored the Rhode Island Market Stability and Reinsurance Act, which stabilizes health insurance rates and premiums in the individual market and provides greater financial certainty to consumers. Rep Edwards has also sponsored bills to broaden and reduce the sales tax and supported the elimination of the car tax. As a member of the House Finance Committee, Jay has a seat at the table for his constituents in Tiverton & Portsmouth. In this era of the COVID 19 pandemic and the subsequent huge shortfalls in tax revenues, Jay was able to shepherd legislation through the House to allow cites & towns the ability to continue to tax at the FY 2020 rate until the State budget is set giving clarity on what they will receive in State funding. The bill passed unanimously . In 2022, the House Finance Committee approved the budget removing the car tax completely.
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade was a devastating blow to reproductive rights. Jay is a strong supporter of strengthen access to reproductive care. In 2019, he played pivotal role in the passage of the Reproductive Privacy Act by ensuring that this vital legislation made it to a floor vote. He supports the passage of the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act and ensuring that every Rhode Islander has access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare.
Rep Edwards worked to ensure that the state budget includes language that mandates an annual flat fee of $200,000 each to the towns of Tiverton and Lincoln in compensation for serving as the host communities for sports wagering. Jay also had the funding of the Town's Stipend amended so that despite closures, the Town will continue to receive funding as long as the Casino is open. This resulted in Tiverton receiving an extra $3,000,000 for FY 21. Representative Edwards led the East Bay delegation’s efforts in the House to halt tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge in 2014. He played a crucial role in the General Assembly’s final compromise, which initiated the dismantling of the tolls and created a special infrastructure fund to support Rhode Island’s roads and bridges. Jay is also against the take over of the RI Turnpike & Bridge Authority by RIDOT. This would only shift the resources that currently maintain the 4 bridge system to the wider transportation infrastructure.