House deliberations on the 2020 Rhode Island State Budget (H5151A) were to begin at 2pm on Friday but instead began over two and a half hours late. As a result, the Budget discussion was recessed around 10pm and taken up the next day, Saturday at 10am. Mattiello explained the late start in a back and forth with Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown) after he called for the chamber to recess [See Video 42 below]:
“I know some people want to go, some people are starting to look
tired,” said Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston).” I was almost going to contemplate a vote of this body, however, irrespective of how we feel about it, one of the reasons I try to stick to a time limit is that this process is also very important to the people at home and we can’t ask them … to continue to watch it into the late hour. I believe we have at least two hours of work left and it’s unfair to the public we’re not going to stay into the late hours of the evening.”
Representative Tanzi called for a point of order.
“So, what is your point of order Representative Tanzi?” asked Mattiello.
“I would like to have this as a vote for the body because had we in fact started at 2pm, when we were scheduled to, instead of two hours and 45 minutes later than we intended, we…” started Tanzi, before being interrupted by a second point of order from Representative Stephen Ucci (Democrat, District 42, Johnston).
“Mr Speaker, that’s not a point of order,” said Ucci.
“I agree,” said Mattiello.
“So, that’s why,” said Ucci. “Well, my point of order is that it’s not a point of order, she’s out of order for adjourning. We’re adjourning.”
“I agree,” said the Speaker, cutting off Tanzi’s microphone. “A lot a lot of people were here, Finance had a lot of work, we were working on the folks in our fiscal office to finalize things so…”
“I object!” said Tanzi.
“Point of order Mr Speaker,” yelled Representative Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) from the floor.
“There’s no – well, there is reason for point of order, but, Representative Corvese,” said Mattiello. “So Representative Tanzi, are you saying you want to stay into the late hours of the night? Do you have a request? Are you saying you want to stay until 1:00 in the morning to finish this budget?”
“I am saying, had we started at the appropriate time we wouldn’t have to be coming back tomorrow,” said Tanzi. “And I would like to put this to a vote of the entire body.”
“Point of order!” yelled Corvese a second time.
“Okay,” said Mattiello. “Fiscal staff had things to finish up. Are you requesting that we stay until 1:00 in the morning to finish this budget?”
“I am requesting we put it to a vote of the body,” replied Tanzi, after her microphone was turned back on.
“No, I, I, what is the vote of the body? What is your request?”
“To overrule the [Speaker’s] decision,” said Tanzi.
“Mr Speaker, this has all been out of order,” yelled Corvese from the floor a third time. “You have the ability under the rules to determine whether or not we’re in session.”
“All right Chairman Corvese, I agree I have a certain responsibility to the public,” said Mattiello. “The public does not have the right to vote with us. It is 10:30. I think it’s inappropriate to make them stay up later than this. If you have a specific request, Representative Tanzi – and I’m suggesting we will be here until 1:00 in the morning or later – I think that’s inappropriate, it’s disrespectful to the public. Are you asking that we do that?”
“I am asking that you respect all of our time and that we in fact start on time when that is what is put before the public,” said Tanzi. “I find it equally disrespectful that we were supposed to start at 2pm today and the public waited for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I certainly hope that if you’re ordering us to be in here tomorrow and alerting the public that a 10am start time is what we’re going to do, that we in fact start at 10am to be respectful to the public.”
“And we will absolutely do that as long as Fiscal is ready and we don’t have technical difficulties,” said Mattiello. “We do our best and it is customary, Representative, that last-minute changes are made to the Budget and oftentimes we don’t start on time. We signed up for this and we started as early as Finance was ready. I was in my office at 11am.
“So,” said Mattillo, pausing to think, “I would put it to a vote of the body but I think that’s disrespectful to the public. They are expecting that we adjourn at a regular time and I strongly suspect, by the way, that if we did make a vote of the body it would be overwhelming to adjourn. In fact, why don’t we do that vote? Let’s just take the vote who wants to adjourn, who wants it go into recess and come back tomorrow…”
The Speaker based his assessment to recess on a show of hands from the representatives that indicated that most wanted to recess for the evening.
So, to sum it up, the Speaker spent five minutes fighting against a simple point of order he ultimately granted.
One of the reasons for the late start was the story about Cranston-based chiropractor Dr Victor Pedro and his $1M hand out from Speaker Mattiello. After that story was broken by this blog, the intricate deals made to pass this budget were thrown into disarray, and many parts of the budget needed to be renegotiated.
The night wasn’t always contentious. Most of the Budget items to be voted on went very smoothly, with overwhelming majorities in support. There were no surprising amendments, or at least no surprising amendments that passed.
Below is all the video, broken up into relatively easy to swallow chunks. I’ve added links to the various Budget items and an occasional note to make it easier to find the more interesting discussions.
You can find the finalized Budget here: H5151Aaa. Be warned, after the various Budget articles were passed, the articles were renumbered, so H5151a does not match up perfectly with H5151aa, or with the numbering used in the videos below. Also, the Articles were not taken up in order.
Here’s a list of the more interesting videos:
- Video 03: Inspector General discussion
- Video 14: Sales tax decrease discussion
- Video 15: Representative Liana Cassar (Democrat, District 66, Barrington, East Providence) introduced an amendment “that would have raised the hotel tax from 5 percent to 5.5 percent” to generate “$500K as a quasi-public match for money raised through a ‘social impact bond’ and federal funds to provide housing vouchers to the chronically homeless,” according to Katherine Gregg in the Providence Journal.
- Video 27: Education discussion
- Video 33: DCYF discussion
- Video 34: DCYF discussion
- Video 35: Opioid discussion
- Video 39: Fane Tower giveaway discussion
- Video 40: Fane Tower giveaway discussion
- Video 43: Moment of Silence for legendary reporter Jim Taricani, whose death was reported that morning.
- Video 51: Marijuana discussion
- Video 60: Chiropractor taken out of Budget, Nonviolence Institute in.
- Video 66: Comments from Representatives John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln), Moira Walsh (Democrat, District 3, Providence) and Corvese.
For a more general overview, see:
- RI House debates nearly $10B budget, will return Saturday by Ted Nesi and Steph Machado at WPRI/Channel 12.
- R.I. House passes $9.9B budget by Katherine Gregg and Patrick Anderson at the Providence Journal
Representative Marvin Abney (Democrat, District 73, Newport), who chairs the House Committee on Finance, introduces the Budget (H5151A):
Article II Introduction:
Article II Amendment – introduced by Representative Brian Newberry (Republican, District 48, North Smithfield), fails:
Article II Vote:
Article III Introduction:
Article III Amendment – introduced by Abney, passes
Article III Discussion:
Article III Vote:
Article IV Introduction:
Article IV Discussion:
Article IV Vote:
Article V Introduction:
Article V Amendment – introduced by Abney, passes:
Article V Amendment – introduced by Representative George Nardone (Republican, District 28, Coventry), fails:
Article V Amendment – introduced by Representative Cassar, fails
Article V Discussion:
Article V Vote:
Article VI Introduction:
Article VI Discussion:
Article VI Vote:
Article VII Introduction:
Article VII Discussion:
Article VII Vote:
Article VIII Introduction:
Article VIII Vote:
Article IX Introduction:
Article IX Discussion:
Article IX Vote:
Article XI Introduction:
Article XI Vote:
Article XIII Introduction by Representative Alex Marszalkowski (Democrat, District 52, Cumberland):
Article XIII Amendment by Marszalkowski, passes:
Article XIII Amendment by Representative Sherry Roberts (Republican, District 29, Coventry), withdrawn:
Article XIII Amendment by Representative Michael Chippendale (Republican, District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester), fails:
Article XIII Discussion:
Article XIII Vote:
Article XII Introduction:
Article XII Amendment by Abney, passed:
Article XII Amendment by Representative Edith Ajello (Democrat, District 1, Providence), fails:
Article XII Discussion:
Article XII Vote:
Jim Taricani moment of silence:
Article XIV Introduction:
Article XIV Discussion:
Article XIV Vote:
Article XV Introduction:
Article XV Amendment by Abney, passes:
Article XV Amendment by Representative Justin Price (Republican, District 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton), fails:
Article XV Amendment by Nardone, passed:
Article XV Discussion:
Article XV Vote:
Article 000LC763/2 Introduction:
Article 000LC763/2 Discussion:
Article 000LC763/2 Vote:
Article X Introduction:
Article X Discussion:
Article X Vote:
Article I Introduction:
Article I Amendment by Abney, passes:
Article I Amendment by Representative David Place (Republican, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester), fails:
Article I Vote:
Article XVI The Effective Date:
LC000763/3 Renumbers the articles:
The Budget as a Whole, H5151aa, Introduced:
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