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Representative Fogarty excoriates Speaker Mattiello over his handling of child sexual assault bill last year



“One of the reasons I voted against the Speaker, and why I’m sitting here now, is because of what happened on that last day of session last year. I want everybody to know, I want people to know at home what happens up here.”

The testimony, often graphic, of survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of trusted Catholic clergy presented to the House Committee on the Judiciary was grueling and difficult to hear. But not covered was the testimony of Representative Fogarty, who explained some of what happened last year when the House scuttled the bill on the last day of session, only to have the issue explode when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a scathing and detailed grand jury report on widespread predation within the Catholic Church.

Representative Kathleen Fogarty (Democrat, District 35, South Kingstown), addressed the House Judiciary Committee during Tuesday’s hearing on extending the statute of limitation for childhood sex abuse claims to 35 years. The bill, H5171, was introduced by Representative Carol Hagan McEntee (Democrat, District 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett). McEntee introduced similar legislation last year, only to have the bill pulled at the last minute by Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 5, Cranston) under pressure from the Lobbyist Bernard Healey, a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

Fogarty framed her comments as a warning to newly elected Representatives serving on the committee. Last year, said Fogarty, Representative McEntee “put in a full session’s worth of work on this bill.”

On the last day of session, “it was late in the afternoon and Carol came in and she saw me and she screamed, ‘Kathy!'”

McEntee was “physically upset, crying and in tears because her bill got pulled. She worked a full year [and] voted on some of the Speaker’s other bills that he wanted to have through.”

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The Speaker, said Fogarty, held the bill McEntee worked so hard to pass “over her head.”

“One of the reasons I voted against the Speaker, and why I’m sitting here now, is because of what happened on that last day of session last year,” said Fogarty. “I want everybody to know, I want people to know at home what happens up here.”

Fogarty is one of the members of the Reform Caucus, 19 Representatives who opposed Mattiello’s confirmation for another term as Speaker. Mattiello has retaliated against the Reform Caucus by taking away committee assignments and removing members from key positions.

“It’s time,” said Fogarty. “It’s time for Rhode Island to be brave and do the right thing. Don’t let this bill get manipulated and changed again like what happened on the last day of session.

“I was dead after that,” said Fogarty. “I said, ‘I can’t even take it anymore.’ I thank the Speaker for being a Chairwoman because I knew I wasn’t going to be a Chairwoman anymore.

“And I walked out.”

McEntee was upset about her bill being pulled. Fogarty told her, “Just try to collect yourself. Don’t look crazy, that’s what they want you to do. That’s what they want. As women, they want us to look crazy when we want to get something done. So I said, ‘Get ahold of your thoughts. Be careful what you say, because they’re looking.'”

“Bernard Healey dropped off his 15 pages earlier,” said Fogarty, referring to the Catholic lobbyist/priest. “He should be sitting in the front row, listening to these stories… It’s the least he could have done, is sitting right here behind us.”

The room filled with applause.

Fogarty concluded: “I just want to give a picture from a Representative who’s not afraid to speak her mind, to let you know what happened last year… For the new people, wait until you see what manipulation starts happening. Don’t let it happen. Pass this bill the way it is.”

Maybe it’s my imagination, but Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Craven (Democrat, District 32, North Kingstown) didn’t look especially proud as the audience clapped for Fogarty.

McEntee called Fogarty’s testimony “very impressive.” She didn’t address Fogarty’s comments about the Speaker, but did speak about lobbyist Healey.

“The fact the Catholic Church is not here, but sent a 15-page document speaks thunderous[ly]. Their document clearly states that they are not in favor of this legislation, although it’s twisted and turns and tries to say it in many different ways, but I can’t, at this point, make much sense of it.”

Later during the hearing, Jim O’Neill said, “I really thank [Representative] Fogarty for her testimony this evening. Church and state. I always thought things were supposed to be separate… The state has a responsibility. It’s for public safety. Why does this church basically have an office upstairs in this building? Why are we answering, with governance, to the church, from this building? Outrageous.”

Here’s all the testimony from the hearing, in a YouTube playlist, forty videos in all.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.