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Democrats who want reform take aim at state House rules

January 3, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A group of Democrats in the state House of Representatives is proposing changes to the chamber’s rules to disperse some of the speaker’s power.

The group, which calls itself the “Reform Caucus,” is comprised of nearly 20 lawmakers who didn’t back Democrat Nicholas Mattiello for re-election as House speaker Tuesday.

They said Wednesday that they want a mechanism for a majority of the 75-member body to force a vote on legislation, rather than letting the speaker decide what makes it to the floor.

They also want to make it harder for House leaders to suspend the rules late in the session. They said bills need to come to the floor earlier, amendments should be posted online sooner and bills introduced in a term’s first year shouldn’t expire when the second year begins. The changes would create an “open and fair legislative process that is more accessible and responsive to the public,” according to a statement from the group.

Mattiello dismissed most of the ideas, saying they wouldn’t change many outcomes, according to The Providence Journal . He said the idea of requiring bill amendments to be made public 48 hours before a vote has some merit, but he wouldn’t apply that to the budget.

Shortly after the caucus released its proposal, Mattiello appointed the members of the House Rules Committee, which will discuss the rules for this year’s session. None of the caucus members are on it. One member was on the committee last year.

Common Cause Rhode Island, a good government group, agrees with the caucus that power in the chamber should not be concentrated in one office.

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