Rhode Island State House

Like any state that’s been around for 350 years, Rhode Island has amassed a lot of outdated, obsolete or downright archaic legislation — and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) is looking to wipe them out one by one.


The first bill (2018-H 7176) is aimed exclusively at Barrington, and would repeal a law that allows Barringtonians to haul away up to two loads of seaweed from any public beach, but bans non-Barrington residents from doing the same.


The next bill (2018-H 7177) would repeal a law that makes it a crime to act as a second at any duel where a mortal injury is inflicted.

Testing the speed of a horse.

Legislation (2018-H 7178) would repeal a law that makes it illegal to race or “test the speed of a horse” on a public highway. The current law calls for a fine of $20 or 10 days in jail.

Honking/shouting to a driver while passing on the left.

This bill (2018-H 7183) would amend a law that requires a driver passing an automobile on its left to give an audible signal (honking or shouting) while passing. It would change the word “audible” to “visible,” meaning the use of a directional signal.

Interfering with torpedo practice off Goat Island.

This bill (2018-H 7232) would repeal a law that prohibits anyone from interfering with any implement or contrivance in the waters, placed there under the authority of the United States, for use in connection with the experiments in torpedo practice carried on from Goat Island to the west in the waters between Goat Island and Conanicut Island.

“I’m sure many of these laws served an important purpose when they were passed,” Representative Edwards said. “There was a time when dueling was a problem and needed to be curtailed. When the Model T first hit the streets, we were still trying to figure out how to regulate driving. Horseracing on the roads was probably an issue in previous centuries, but they have no relevance in 2018.”

In addition to the direct repeal of these laws, which has garnered bipartisan support, Edwards has introduced legislation (2018-H 7220) would create the Joint Committee of the Repealer, which would effectively compile suggestions for repeal of statutes and regulations that are archaic and out of date.

“This goes far beyond laws that are hilariously obsolete,” said Edwards. “This is about outdated legislation that no longer serves the best interest of Rhode Islanders — and certainly doesn’t serve the best interests of business. Jobs and economy are our watchwords. To support business, we need to toss the arbitrary statutes and cumbersome regulations that choke our economy and confuse our constituents.”

The committee would consist of six members, three from the House and three from the Senate. Following a review of the suggestions, the committee would then make its recommendations to the General Assembly of laws to repeal or to the governor of executive orders to repeal. The committee would meet in the off-session part of the year and submit recommendations for consideration by both chambers at the start of the new year.