New House rules include waiting period before bill votes
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) -- The new House Rules sailed through committee 14 to 3 at the State House Thursday night--but with a lot more scrutiny than usual.
"This is an example of democracy in action," said Rep. Deb Ruggiero.
Progressive Democrats touted a new 24-hour waiting period between when bills are changed, and when a committee can vote on them. Before now, bills could be voted on in minutes.
"Which means the public, reps, stakeholders can actually read a bill and process it and do critical thinking before they have to take a vote," said Ruggiero.
Dozens packed the committee room Tuesday and Thursday night to make their voices heard.
"We need to have rule changes, more open and transparency in the government process, especially in the House of Representatives," said Susan Razza of Newport.
House Rules Chair Arthur Corvese says public testimony absolutely had an impact, but downplayed the notion there was widespread disdain for the existing rules.
"Last year's rules were more than adequate. These rules are certainly better," said Rep. Corvese.
The new rules do little to change the power structure in the House, or the Speaker's ability to block bills.
"We're going to keep working and put our bills in and try to get more transparency for the public," said Rep. Kathleen Fogarty. "We're not really trying to be some thorn in the Speaker's side."
The rules do create an office to investigate sexual harassment claims by representatives, and get rid of a controversial "gag order" on victims. Progressives say it's a start.
"If there is an issue that's going on here at the State House, it still gets reported up to the speaker," said Fogarty.
"The Human Rights Commission needs to be the people that you go to. It cannot be internal," said Ruggiero.
Progressives say they'd also like to see bills taken up earlier in the session, not rammed through in June.
Ironically, this House Rules bill was not subject to the 24-hour waiting period it stipulates, and was voted on within just hours of when changes were made. It now heads to the full House next week, where it's expected to pass.
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