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Rhode Island House speaker retains post despite opposition

January 1, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s House speaker retained his powerful leadership post on Tuesday despite opposition from members of his own party.

Members of the state House of Representatives re-elected Democrat Nicholas Mattiello, with 47 votes. Nineteen Democrats abstained. Nine Republicans voted for House Minority Leader Blake Filippi.

Two female lawmakers nominated Mattiello for re-election, saying he is responsive to their concerns and is helping the state.

But other female lawmakers didn’t back Mattiello because they feel the legislative process is not transparent and that he is dismissive of women’s issues. Protesters outside the chamber on Tuesday called for Mattiello’s ouster.

After the vote, Mattiello said that, with the campaign season over, it was time to govern in the best interests of Rhode Island residents. He said his primary focus will continue to be jobs and the economy. He plans to prioritize the state’s slow phase-out of the car tax, with the goal of eventually eliminating it completely. He thanked his colleagues for their support.

Mattiello, of Cranston, was first elected speaker in March 2014, after Democrat Gordon Fox resigned. Fox pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges of bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio also retained his leadership role in a vote Tuesday.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea administered the oath of office to lawmakers, including 14 new representatives and seven new senators.

Both chambers continue to be dominated by Democrats. The House includes 66 Democrats and nine Republicans. The Senate has 33 Democrats and five Republicans.

The state constitution calls for the Rhode Island General Assembly to convene on the first Tuesday of January, regardless of whether it’s the New Year’s Day holiday.

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