The Confused, Non-End of this General Assembly Session … and a Slightly Ominous Big Picture Remark by the Speaker
Needham, Peoples and Gregg have a very good description in today’s ProJo
With scores of bills still in limbo, the Rhode Island House of Representatives abruptly went into hiatus at 1 a.m. Saturday. Speaker William J. Murphy cited the need to cool off and return for at least a day in July, and again on a regular basis in September, to continue working through Assembly business.
The speaker insisted that it was always his plan to leave that night, despite the fact that his majority leader, Gordon D. Fox, spent much of Friday’s 10-hour debate reassigning bills to “Monday’s calendar.”
The state Senate, which left hours earlier Friday, after sending the state budget to the governor’s desk, promised to return this week to complete its business, though it did not schedule a specific date.
Exhausted lawmakers, expecting to work through the week, or at least through the night, speculated that the hasty end of business was the result of an unexplained communications breakdown between House and Senate leaders. Even Fox acknowledged they “had not had much discussion with the Senate.”
as well as a rundown of the current status of some prominent bills (partial list only below; see the article for more).
The legislature failed to close a loophole in the state’s prostitution law that legalizes the act so long as it happens indoors. …
A high-profile, labor-backed bill to allow expired schoolteacher contracts to remain in effect until a new agreement is reached was put off until the elusive “Monday calendar,” along with a proposal to assess municipal-impact fees on students at private colleges and universities. The fate of both bills now remains unclear. …
Lawmakers battled over a bill that would allow school districts to decide on their own whether to cease placing bus monitors on elementary school buses. … As the firestorm of criticism intensified, Fox eventually sent the proposal back to committee. …
On a night defined more by what didn’t happen than what did, few high-profile bills were sent to the governor’s desk. Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe confirmed that apart from budget legislation, the only bills transmitted to the governor late Friday and early Saturday were a proposal born out of a Tiverton pollution incident, raising fines for environmental polluters and a bid to rename the Kent County Courthouse.
The Speaker’s slightly ominous comment came at the non-end of this session.
“The actuality is that we’re a full-time legislature now. We’re not the traditional citizens’ legislature that our forefathers created,” Murphy said as he stepped off the rostrum for the last time this month, a decision that surprised the public and many rank-and-file lawmakers.
Respectfully, sir, if that’s the case, you and your collegues are doing too much. It is, indeed, a “full time” legislature in that all members have full time jobs in addition to their legislative duties. Those duties should be reduced, not increased. Contrary to the myth or legislative culture on Smith Hill, it is not necessary for a legislator to have sponsored or had passed X number of bills in order to justify him/herself to the voters at election time. Their thoughtful vote on hundreds of bills throughout the session speaks volumes, AS LONG AS that vote was cast to advance of the best interests of their district and the state.
In short, Mr. Speaker, give yourselves a break – do a little less.