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Study: Speaker Mattiello blocks “real and impactful” climate change bills

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“Overall, this… reflects a House that, despite its overall makeup, is held captive by a single anti-environment legislator,” writes RI Rank.


It should come as no surprise to anyone that Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), the legislator who infamously said, “there’s nothing Rhode Island can do to address climate change in a way that’s real or impactful” is the legislator who has blocked every real and impactful bill that’s come before the Rhode Island General Assembly, according to a new analysis from RI Rank. That analysis places Speaker Mattiello dead last in the House for his environmental voting record.

The poor performance of House Leadership on environmental issues was aptly illustrated during testimony in the House Environmental Committee on the Act on Climate 2020 bill. Mattiello’s close allies, Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy (Democrat, District 38, Westerly, Hopkinton) and Representative Robert Phillips (Democrat, District 51, Woonsocket), did everything they could to cast the bill in a negative light, with Representative Phillips allowing an opponent of the bill to testify via text message and Representative Kennedy doubling down on the Speaker’s earlier comments about their being nothing Rhode Island could do about climate change. saying,

“It is not the State of Rhode Island, per se, that is producing all of this pollution,” said Kennedy “So unless the industrial states like Ohio, and Illinois and Pennsylvania do something to take action on climate change, all we’re doing is forcing the people here to have pain and perhaps higher bills in the form of taxes if in fact they’re not doing anything and we are doing something.”

Over at ecoRI, Tim Faulkner noted that Kennedy “in the mid-1990s led an assault to weaken the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.”

Phillips has previously evidenced an anti-science bias, when it comes to vaccines. In May 2019 Phillips declared that he was going to take all of the concerns and testimony by experts on vaccines “with a grain of salt” because his children’s pediatrician sent a letter to the committee in support of expanding vaccination exceptions for personal and philosophical reasons.


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Like climate change, vaccines are real.

Because of the way power flows in the House, Mattiello suffers the brunt of RI Rank’s analysis, shielding his fellow representatives from the burden of voting against good climate legislation. As RI Rank describes it, “the House under Representative Mattiello’s leadership refuses to publish committee vote tallies when the ‘Hold for further study’ gimmick is used to block bills from action. Because we cannot accurately obtain the committee votes, credit for the committee vote on these bills was given solely to the Speaker. His non-action blocked seven bad bills. However, the twenty other bills that were blocked were positive environmental initiatives supported by ECRI [Environmental Council of Rhode Island]. Overall, this segment reflects a House that, despite its overall makeup, is held captive by a single anti-environment legislator.”

Because of Mattiello’s leadership against good environmental bills, no member of the House can truly be considered a climate champion: There are simply not enough votes on meaningful climate legislation to determine that.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com