Senator Samuel Bell: Statement on the proposed gutting of the Senate rules

Samuel Bell

The new proposed Senate rules have just been announced, and they are an insane power grab by the Senate President. Basically, these proposed rules weaken every good government process protection in the Senate rules, not just copying the House’s bad rules but going even further in places. Here are some of the highlights

  1. The Senate President can now kick Senators off our committees without our consent.
  2. The Senate President can change a member’s vote with their consent behind closed doors. Even if it changes the outcome of a vote. Now, the Senate President can bully Senators in the back rooms to flip if he ever loses a vote.
  3. The Senate filibuster is gone. It hasn’t been used in many years, but it’s still on the books as the last protection against the most outrageous legislation. Now, our floor speeches are capped to five minutes, like in the House.
  4. It’s now much easier for the Senate President to suspend the rules. Previously, the Senate had to vote to suspend the rules. Now, the Senate President just needs the consent of his Republican friend and ally Dennis Algiere. No public vote.There are some (blatantly illegal) attempts to ride over the all-important opening day process in state law.
  5. Protest signs are banned from committee rooms, limiting the free speech rights of every citizen.
  6. These proposed rules gut so many of the basic protections that make the Senate the chamber that it is.  When I voted against Dominick Ruggerio for President of the Senate, I did so because of his right-wing policy views and his long history of ethical and criminal problems.  I genuinely believed the argument that Senate President Ruggerio would run the Senate in a more open way than House Speaker Nick Mattiello.  Publicly, on multiple occasions, I gave Ruggerio credit for that.  Clearly, I was wrong.  
  7. These rules explicitly adopt nearly all of the problems with the House rules, gutting the core tenants of the Senate rules.  In some places, they go even further in consolidating power and limiting transparency than the House rules.  This is a shameless power grab, a naked attempt to legalize the worst kind of retribution and political bullying.
  8. Most concerning of all is what legislation the Senate President is planning that is so controversial that it would require rules changes so extreme to pass. Above all, that is the thought that scares me the most. And it should scare every Rhode Islander.

These proposed rules gut so many of the basic protections that make the Senate the chamber that it is.  When I voted against Dominick Ruggerio for President of the Senate, I did so because of his right-wing policy views and his long history of ethical and criminal problems.  I genuinely believed the argument that Senate President Ruggerio would run the Senate in a more open way than House Speaker Nick Mattiello.  Publicly, on multiple occasions, I gave Ruggerio credit for that.  Clearly, I was wrong.

These rules explicitly adopt nearly of the problems with the House rules, gutting the core tenants of the Senate rules.  In some places, they go even further in consolidating power and limiting transparency than the House rules.  This is a shameless power grab, a naked attempt to legalize the worst kind of retribution and political bullying.

Most concerning of all is what legislation the Senate President is planning that is so controversial that it would require rules changes so extreme to pass. Above all, that is the thought that scares me the most. And it should scare every Rhode Islander.

About Sam Bell 2 Articles
Sam Bell was recently elected to represent District Five in the State Senate. Running on a message of returning to the Democratic Party's traditional progressive values, he unseated a long-time conservative incumbent in the Democratic primary. He is uncontested in the general. District Five contains the Providence neighborhoods of Mount Pleasant, Federal Hill, West End, and Olneyville.

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