The Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, at their monthly meeting on November 1, 2018, unanimously passed a resolution calling on all state representatives — including the four who represent Portsmouth — to oppose current House speaker Nicholas Mattiello‘s bid for re-election to the post of Speaker of the House.
“The Portsmouth Democratic Party takes very seriously the allegations of sexual harassment by a committee chair appointed by the Speaker,” said Town Committee Chair Len Katzman, “And we are troubled by the lack of timely and effective action to resolve those complaints.”
“We are particularly troubled by the scenario where an alleged target of harassment had to present their bill to a committee that was chaired by her alleged harasser,” said Katzman. “The perception that legislation could not get a fair hearing, as well as the unjust burden on a lawmaker in that situation raises serious questions about the Speaker’s judgement and sense of fairness.”
The resolution notes that the current Speaker has consistently prevented legislation with broad public support from advancing to a floor vote. This includes bills explicitly supported by the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, such as the Reproductive Health Care Act and the Safe Schools Act.
The resolution also questions the Speaker’s tolerance for diversity within the Rhode Island Democratic Party.
“The Speaker has labelled the Rhode Island National Organization for Women and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence ‘extreme progressive groups,'” said Katzman. “We agree with Rhode Island Democratic Party Chair Joe McNamara who has said that ‘it take two wings to fly,’ and that the state party should reflect a diversity of perspectives. We find such characterizations divisive and counterproductive.”
“We recognize that this resolution may put our local representatives in a difficult position,” said Katzman, ”Although it shouldn’t be that way if Rhode Island had a Speaker of the House who focused on fairly and openly doing the right thing for both their local constituents and the state.”
[From a press release]