A Quiet Revolt Put Down… Barely
Judging from a note in my email box, one of Rhode Island’s procedural travesties almost went the way of double-Democrat Senators in Massachusetts:
Something unusual happened in the R.I. House of Representatives this week. A proposed critical rule change failed by the thin margin of 30 to 33 despite opposition by the House leaders.
The rule in question, adopted in 2005, has provided an easy way for committees to kill bills without ever actually voting to kill them.
Committees simply vote to “hold bills for further study.” A committee may not have heard testimony on a bill, nor discussed the bill nor even seen it. Yet the motion to hold “for further study” passes (almost always unanimously) and the bill is dead — unless at a later date the Speaker of the House gives the committee permission to have a real vote.
The motion which came close to passing would have repealed this rule. Then committees would have had to vote for or against bills.
Freshman representative Rod Driver (D, Richmond) who made the motion argues that even without repealing the rule the practice can be changed. “We must just beware of motions containing the words ‘hold for further study’,” he wrote to his colleagues after the vote.
He says some representatives do not realize the deadly effect of voting for such a reasonable-sounding motion.
I’ll keep an eye out for the vote tally. This one might be worth some additions to the Legislative Stooge list.
(P.S. — Is it still appropriate to be calling Rod Driver a “freshman representative”?)