The First Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Gets Airbrushed

How powerful are the Rhode Island Speaker of the House and Senate President? Not only have they convinced their respective legislative bodies that every bill must have their approval when no such requirement exists in the rules, but they can even erase from the minds of other legislators — and of newspaper reporters — memories of votes that have already been taken!
Here is Katherine Gregg of the Projo describing the status of one of the same-sex marriage bills (H5012) being considered in the Rhode Island House of Representatives…

After chairing an 8 1/2-hour hearing the night before on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, House Judiciary Chairwoman Edith Ajello was hoping on Thursday to have her committee vote on the bill next week.
“The next logical step would be a committee vote,” said Ajello on the day after the hearing that drew hundreds of people on both sides of the deep divide to the State House for a high-pitched rally and hearing. “I would hope that it would be next week,” she said.
In actuality, despite the fact that neither Rep. Ajello in her quotes or Katherine Gregg in her reporting acknowledges it, a committee vote on the bill has already been held according to the current status report available from the RI General Assembly website
House Bill No.5012
BY Handy, Fox, Ajello, Ferri, Ruggiero
(would broaden the definition of persons eligible to marry to include persons of the same gender / members of the clergy would not be required to officiate at any particular marriage)
01/11/2011 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
02/02/2011 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration
02/02/2011 Meeting postponed
02/09/2011 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration
02/09/2011 Committee recommended measure be held for further study
The record shows that the Judiciary Committee did vote on the same-sex marriage bill on Thursday, choosing to “hold it for further study” (thereby giving the Speaker of the House sole discretion on whether the bill can be brought back to committee for a second consideration) and not to send it to the full house for consideration, though sending it to the full House was clearly in the committee’s power.
To be fair, there may be valid tactical reasons for same-sex marriage supporters to have delayed a vote at this time (at least, that is what Scott MacKay of WRNI’s On Politics blog is hearing) — but that does not mean that Thursday night’s vote did not happen, or that the results of that vote should not be reported. Yet the strange idea that the leader of a legislative chamber should have absolute control over what bills are considered has such a powerful hold on the minds of Rhode Island’s political class — statehouse reporters included, apparently – events where committee members give away their right to make decisions on bills are regularly ignored and airbrushed from public accounts of what transpires at the legislature.
It is bad enough that the elected representatives of the people regularly surrender their right to decide on which bills will be considered. It is even worse when the media quietly acquiesces to this practice.
(By the way, Karen Lee Ziner did something similar in her coverage of the illegal immigration executive order bill last week. Her report makes no mention of the fact that that the House Labor Committee voted on the bill and chose not to send it to the House floor for a full vote. That’s like writing a sports story and not including the final score).

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
13 years ago

Karen Lee Ziner is not a reputable journalist-she is a columnist masquerading as one.

13 years ago

Once again, a great analysis on this subject, Andrew.

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