Ahead of the House Committee on Rules hearing held on Tuesday, a rally was held on the north side of the Rhode Island State House. It was an unusually busy day at the State House, as the 11th Annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil was just coming to an end and the House Committee on Rules hearing was to be starting very soon, but somehow this smaller rally was squeezed in.
“We’re here today because the House of Representatives is run by the Speaker of the House,” said Alex Kithes, a volunteer with Rhode Islanders for Reform. “The House rules basically give [Nicholas Mattiello] the ability to control what does and doesn’t pass committee. What that means is that one person, one old white man in this case, basically tells every one of your Representatives what they can and can’t do…”
Speaking with from personal experience, former State Representative Aaron Regunberg said that the Reform Caucus, that group of 19 Democrats opposed to Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s oversized chunk of political power, “Have taken a real risk, to stand up and fight for a better way of doing things…
“Make no mistake,” continued Regunberg. “This is about Democracy… When I was a Representative, working on a pressing issue, my primary goal, my primary job, was not to build a coalition of fellow public officials who have been elected to represent this issues of the majority of residents in this state. My job, when it came down to it, was to persuade one person who had close to unilateral control over whether that pressing issue would see the light of day or not.”
“I think it’s really fitting that this hearing is happening on a day that we’ve had an Interfaith prayer vigil,” said Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown). Tanzi is a member of The Reform Caucus. “We’ve come to a point where things are out of balance,” continued Tanzi. “
As for the part of the Rules currently being flaoted by the Speaker and his allies, the part about sexual harassment, “is actually counter to what the task force I chaired, recommended.” Non-disclosure agreements were not a part of Tanzi’s task force recommendations, but they are a part of the rules being considered.
“Your cause,” said Tanzi, “Has no chance unless one person alone decides that it should be heard. That’s not a Democracy.”
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