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On January 16, the Rhode Island House of Representatives had the opportunity to change the way we conduct our business.
During a very unusual session, we debated the way bills come to the floor for a vote, the way we conduct our business in the final days of session and the centralization of power and authority that the current rules afford the Speaker of the House. In a wide ranging debate over several amendments, it became clear that at least one-third of the House members and the public want this House Chamber to be managed more transparently and decentralized. I voted for all of these amendments but unfortunately, all of these proposed amendments to the House rules failed.
As a proud member of the Reform Caucus, a group of 19 House members seeking these changes to the rules, we joined the House Republicans in supporting these changes to the rules. It was an unusual show of solidarity across the aisle in Rhode Island.
In the end, I voted for the final rules bill. I decided that is was not what was in the bill that was a problem; but what was omitted that was. Yes, the final bill contained procedural updates for the session, like updating important dates for bill introductions, and it created some initial processes for handling sexual harassment in the House, which has been a very significant issue in the recent past. But the final bill did very little to actually empower members and committee chairs, bring bills to the floor for a vote and decentralize authority, which was a big disappointment to me and to my constituents. The House remains a patriarchal system.
All in all, this was a very healthy process and debate. And like so many other public policy issues, this debate is not over. Now the House members can move onto the 2019 session, hopefully facing more open debates over issues of importance to our constituents.
State Representative Lauren Carson – D House District 75 – Newport