Reform legislators fall from grace as Speaker Mattiello wields his power

Nicholas Mattiello

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, with the fire and fury his opponents feared, purged many of those who opposed his reelection as speaker by removing them from leadership positions and important committee assignments.

It’s a strategy used by the speaker before, removing those who have opposed him from key leadership positions.

A group of 19 reformers unsuccessfully opposed Mattiello’s re-election as House chair and unsuccessfully promoted a change in House rules that would have reduced the Speaker’s power and demanded more transparency.

According to Common Cause, the Speaker in Rhode Island wields more power by virtue of the House rules and state Constitution than virtually any other speaker in state legislatures across America. Mattiello is viewed as the most powerful individual in state government, ahead of the Senate president and ahead of the governor.

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Among those falling victim to Mattiello’s wrath this time:

  • Rep. Kathleen Fogarty, D-South Kingstown, removed as chair of Municipal Government Committee.
  • Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown, removed as chair of Small Business Committee.
  • Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston, removed as chair of Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Providence, who is a Providence public school teacher, was removed from the Education Committee.
  • Rep. Susan Donovan, D- Bristol, who teaches a course on the environment, was removed from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Ruggiero and Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, were removed from the Finance Committee.
  • Rep. Jason Knight, D-Barrington, was removed from the Judiciary Committee.

Reform members Tanzi, Knight, Ruggiero, Fogarty, and Rep. John Lombardi, D-Providence, were assigned to a newly revived Committee on Special Legislation. In the past this committee was responsible for such items as license plate bills.

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