PROVIDENCE, RI — Armenian-American State Rep. Katherine Kazarian, an East Providence Democrat, was elected Rode Island House Majority Whip at the recommendation of Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi.
Rep. Mia Ackerman of Cumberland was tapped as deputy whip.
Kazarian is not the first female whip – that distinction belongs to the late Suzanne Henseler – but now two women are in the top four leadership positions.
Whips play a key role in both state legislatures and Congress. As the U.S. Senate describes their role and their history: “Whips are mainly responsible for counting heads and rounding up party members for votes and quorum calls, and they occasionally stand in for the majority or minority leaders in their absence.”
The voting took place at a virtual House Democratic caucus meeting Monday night, which also saw the re-election of Rep. Charlene Lima of Cranston as deputy speaker, Brian Kennedy of Hopkinton as speaker pro tempore, and Grace Diaz of Providence as chairwoman of the Democratic caucus.
A House rundown of Kazarian’s legislative history notes that she sponsored bills to expand the scope of health insurance coverage for Rhode Islanders, including a law that requires health insurance plans to provide for a 12-month supply of birth control to all those who are insured.
She has also sponsored legislation to reduce the burden of student loans and successfully created a process for the Department of Education to collect and organize information concerning the duties and responsibilities performed by school social workers.
She has worked in the tech field, for both Upserve and Virgin Pulse, and was previously a senior planner for the City of Pawtucket. Engaged to Sam Daniel, she will be attending law school in the fall.
With eight great-grandparents who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915, she and her family have been very active in Rhode Island’s Armenian community. She was the sponsor of legislation which made Holocaust and Genocide education mandatory in all of the state’s middle schools and high schools. [Ackerman] was a co-sponsor of the law.