The budget impasse is over, stalled bills will be taken up by both chambers of the General Assembly starting on September 19, and, perhaps, a sense of normalcy has returned to Rhode Island politics. So why were people still holding signs outside Speaker Mattiello’s law office on Park Avenue in Cranston Friday afternoon?
“Because we’re not getting the details. We’re not getting the things we need,” said Jessica Stensrud, who organized the small, three-person protest. “Things are happening behind closed doors in bars, and when Nick Mattiello says, ‘We’re going to work on the bills in September,’ what exactly does that mean?”
When Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) abruptly called for an end to the General Assembly session over a month ago in response to a Senate amendment to the budget that built safeguards into his car tax repeal, there were a lot of important bills awaiting passage, reconciliation or left languishing in committee. Though some, like the earned paid sick days bill and the domestic abusers gun bill are expected to pass, other bills, like the Reproductive Health Care Act are not expected to be voted on. Still other bills are in a kind of limbo and no one knows what priority they will be given.
“There are a number of stalled bills. I printed out fourteen pages of bills,” said Stensrud. “There’s a ton of stuff that just got shut down.”
Protester George Hanley held a sign that said, “Nick, you’re speaker, not King.” He was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with the anti-fascist circle, designed by socialist Sergei Chakhotin in 1932 to oppose monarchism, Nazism and Soviet-style communism.
Hanley said the tee shirt was “kind of appropriate.”