Locals invited to see State of the Union address

Each member of Rhode Island's congressional delegation gets to invite a guest to the State of the Union address in Washington, and this year's list has several of what you might call the usual suspects.

Former Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts is one; Providence's new Mayor Jorge Elorza is another. Neil Steinberg of the Rhode Island Foundation is another.

Steinberg is touted by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed as promoting the type of collaboration that will lift the Rhode Island economy.

"They bring together interest groups: government, private, philanthropic, educational, profit, not-for-profit. It's a catalyst for good ideas and good actions," Reed said.

Another guest is CVS boss Larry Merlo, but his host is first lady Michelle Obama. He's being asked to the event because the pharmacy and health care delivery giant was the first major chain to pull tobacco products off its shelves, taking an economic hit, but taking a stand for improved health.

An unusual guest is U.S. Rep. David Cicilline's. Bob Billington, of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, was selected because of his longtime effort to promote the Blackstone Valley National Park, which came into existence this year.

The park's foundation is Slater Mill, where director Lori Urso says Billington's tireless work stretches back decades.

"It's been in the works about 30 years. I think that's when Bob Billington first had the germ of an idea and never gave up hope that this could happen for Rhode Island."

Now he's rewarded with a seat in the House of Representatives to hear President Barack Obama promote policies for middle-class tax relief, at the expense of richer Americans.

We asked Cicilline how that trade-off would be received by Republicans.

"Well look, you have to pay for tax cuts. So, the president wants to put forth a proposal that says we're going to give middle class families a tax cut," Cicilline said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin said finally the issue of cybersecurity is getting some of the attention he believes is sorely needed.

"I'm very confident he's going to talk about cybersecurity in his speech as he has in the past. But this time he's taking even further steps, introducing information sharing legislation. Introducing data breach notification sharing legislation. I was on the phone with the White House before the introduction of these bills and I'm sure he'll be talking about those bills in the State of the Union," Langevin said.

The address is scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday. Watch it on NBC 10 and livestreaming on turnto10.com.

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