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House Republicans call for Oversight Committee to meet, with or without Speaker’s permission



It’s time to lead,” said Representative Blake Filippi, “because those we have chosen to lead our body are not.

Rhode Island House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Blake Filippi (District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) today called for the House Oversight Committee, Chaired by Patricia Serpa (Democrat, District 27, West Warwick) to hold a meeting to look into the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it applies to vulnerable people in nursing homes.

“Because our calls [to House Leadership] have fallen on deaf ears, today we are calling on the members of the House Oversight Committee to convene without the Speaker’s permission and without Chair Serpa’s [permission,” said Representative Filippi today during a press briefing held on the south steps of the Rhode Island State House.

“Pursuant to our constitution, House Rules and Mason’s Rules of Order, a majority of this committee can convene and exercise the House constitutional oversight function,” said Filippi. “This is what we’re demanding.”

Two members of House Oversight are Republicans, Representatives Michael Chippendale (District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester) and Brian Newberry (District 48, North Smithfield). To get to a majority of nine committee members, seven Democrats would have to go against Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) and attend the meeting.

Shortly after the press briefing, Speaker Mattiello responded though House Director of Communications Larry Berman, writing, “The House and Senate leadership teams decided weeks ago that we would take a uniform approach to oversight during the public health crisis. We formed a joint task force, which includes the chair of the House Oversight Committee, that held a hearing and will continue to meet. We are not going to duplicate efforts. The House and Senate leadership teams have been in constant communication with our nursing homes. It is not appropriate to play politics, particularly at a time when these nursing homes are working so diligently to save the lives of our most vulnerable populations.”

Representative Blake Filippi replied via Twitter:

Representative John Lyle Jr (Republican, District 46, Lincoln), while not a member of the House Oversight Committee, was a member of the hastily convened Joint Legislative COVID-19 Emergency Spending Task Force, which functioned somewhat as an oversight committee, but in Lyle’s opinion, was a “dog and pony show.”

In an interview with Uprise RI, Representative Filippi called that task force “unlawful.”

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Representative Lyle spoke about the death of his mother-in-law due to COVID-19, and spoke of his own mother, who is at risk. The women were in separate nursing homes.

“My wife and daughter, along with me, mourned the fact that we did not have the opportunity to be with her, to share with her some of our joys,” said Lyle. “Our only contact with her over the last three months had been through Skype… We’ve got to do something. It is not right that families have to endure the kind of pain and suffering that my family has endured.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was asked about the House Republican call to convene the House Oversight Committee during her daily COVID-19 press briefing.

Here’s the letter to Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee from Republican members:

House Republicans

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.