Rhode Island State House

House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello today announced the appointment of Rep. Marvin L. Abney of Newport as chairman of the House Finance Committee.

He also announced several other committee appointments, including the appointment of Rep. Patricia Serpa of West Warwick as chairwoman of the Oversight Committee and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero of Jamestown as chairwoman of the Small Business Committee.


Representative Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) was elected to the House in 2012, and has previously served on the Health, Education and Welfare Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in addition to the Finance Committee, where he served on the Education and Human Services Subcommittees this term. The Finance Committee is considered the most influential of the House committees, since it is in charge of developing the state budget as well as other matters that have a financial impact on the state. It is also one of the busiest committees, meeting daily for much of the session.

“Representative Abney is highly regarded in the House as a person of great integrity and character. At this time when the committee needs to forge ahead with the state budget, it needs a strong leader who people trust. I have tremendous faith that Representative Abney is that leader, and that he will quickly earn the confidence of Rhode Islanders, just as he has earned the respect of his colleagues in the House,” said Speaker Mattiello.

Representative Abney served as a deputy majority leader this term. His legislative accomplishments include several laws improving opportunities for and honoring veterans, a law increasing the penalty for committing a violent crime with a stolen firearm, and another making it a misdemeanor to confine an animal in a vehicle in extreme heat or cold.

Representative Abney, 66, retired at the rank of major after a 20-year U.S. Army career, including a stint as the company commander at NATO Headquarters in Belgium. He also retired from the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, where he held the position of executive assistant to the commissioner.

He serves on the governor’s working group examining the state’s criminal justice system in order to improve public safety and reduce costs. He has a long history of involvement in community organizations and boards, including the Newport Zoning Board of Review, the Narragansett Boy Scouts Council, Newport Health Care Corporation, BankNewport, St. John’s Church, the Coggeshall Elementary School Improvement Committee, Salve Regina University’s Internal Review Board, First Night Newport and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. Representative Abney is married to Cheryl Lynn (Amado), and is the father of Marvin L. Abney II, U.S. Army Capt. Christian A. Abney and Tess A. Abney. He is the grandfather of three.

He attended Dunbar High School in Texarkana, Texas, before completing his bachelor’s degree in public administration at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1975. Representative Abney earned a master’s of management from Webster University in 1982; a master’s of business administration from the University of Rhode Island in 2000, and a certificate of advanced graduate study in educational leadership from Johnson and Wales University in 2005. He also attended the Command and General Staff College in Munich, Germany in the late 1980s.

Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) will move from the Committee on Small Business, which she has led since its creation in 2010, to a vacant leadership post on the Oversight Committee. That committee reviews the operation and efficiency of various state departments and agencies, fulfilling the legislature’s oversight role following implementation of separation of powers. She was already a member of the Oversight Committee and will remain a member of the Finance Committee.

She has been a champion of mental health and small business issues since her election to the House in November 2006. A retired public school educator and admissions officer, she holds a master’s degree in education from Providence College after earning her bachelor’s degree in the same study at Mount St. Joseph College.

Representative Ruggiero will take the helm on the Small Business Committee, on which she has also served since its creation in 2010. She will also remain a member of the House Finance Committee. A Boston College alumna, she is president of DR Communications Group, an advertising and marketing company and is the creator and host of the award-winning radio show “Amazing Women.”

First elected to the House in 2008, she is a deputy majority leader and has been a leader in enacting laws encouraging the generation of renewable energy and promoting the growth of small business, particularly green industries. In 2014, she co-chaired the task force that studied the nexus of mental health laws and gun rights following the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shooting and also served on the governor’s Working Group to Review the Permanent Education Foundation Aid Formula earlier this year.

Speaker Mattiello made several additional appointments today:

  • Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) will serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.
  • Rep. Gregory J. Costantino (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield) will replace Representative Jacquard as a deputy majority leader.
  • Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) will replace Chairman Abney as a deputy majority leader.
  • Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) will leave the Health, Education and Welfare Committee to serve as a member of the Finance Committee.