Past: It was difficult to look at the (unsuccessful) Marcello coalition and believe they were offering reform, as much as they were offering a refashioned oligarchy to replace the old one.
Present: Here are three specific proposals for rules reform, consistent with Speaker Mattiello’s call for a House of Representatives that is truly run by its members:
- A prohibition on members being removed from a committee, without their consent, after they’ve received their initial committee assignment from the Speaker (this is so non-radical a proposal, the Rhode Island Senate already does it).
- Creation of a clear procedure — that everybody understands exists — for rank-and-file members to use to recall bills “held for further study” and place them on committee agendas for up-or-down votes.
- Tidying-up the discharge petition procedure for freeing bills from committee, removing the current rule preventing their use until 50 days into the session, and removing any ambiguity about the “only one petition to be presented for a public bill or resolution during the course of a session” clause in the rules meaning one petition per bill, as opposed to one petition per year.
Future: Trying to downplay the serious differences and avoid explaining the errors of progressivism and the excesses of unionism in order to ease the process of political coalition building isn’t likely to stop the progressives from immediately coming after Speaker Mattiello, or the unions from shifting their support elsewhere, if they don’t get their top agenda items. With the help of some standard-issue Rhode Island political inertia, the new Speaker may be able to maintain the coalition he has assembled for a time, but to prevent it from being whittled away, he will need to resolutely work at convincing a broad swath of Rhode Islanders about why his version of “jobs and the economy” is superior to competing versions which have strong constituencies amongst activists in the Democratic party.