Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is drawing a lot of attention to himself, and he is not handling it well. Instead of taking responsibility for shutting down the House before a budget was passed, he is responding to criticism by finger pointing, complaining, and trying to shift the spotlight and the blame onto anyone but himself.
Speaker Mattiello’s decision to close the House is solely his, yet he argues that Senate President Dominick Ruggerio’s budget amendment breached a contract between the two—a handshake which is still unconfirmed. Perhaps, Mattiello should review the Rhode Island Constitution, the Rhode Island General Laws, and the rules by which the legislature functions, and show us where handshakes are discussed. Our reading of the law suggests that the Senate has a right and a duty to review and amend the budget where it deems necessary or appropriate for the public interest. Is Mattiello suggesting that only the President and Senate Finance committee have the right to amend the budget, rather than individual senators?
Mattiello repeatedly insists that it is accepted practice for Rhode Island legislators to make deals behind closed doors rather than in full public view, but it will not get him off the hook. People with integrity do not make excuses, and our Speaker must recognize that the broken assurances of one or two state senators do not relieve him of the duties of his office and his responsibilities to the state. But as his recent actions clearly demonstrate, Mattiello is not an honorable man. Rather than doing his job, he ordered everyone home so he could avoid negotiations with the Senate, and the possibility of losing them. Now, instead of putting aside his personal qualms and working toward a solution, he rejects any and all attempts at compromise and insists that the issue is closed.
Mattiello is afraid of being held accountable for his actions, afraid of his district’s anger over their car tax bills, and afraid of losing his role as Speaker. The last few years have seen scandal after scandal take out his closest cronies and advisors. Populist frustration with corruption in politics continues to rise, and people are becoming less tolerant of officials like Mattiello. His second in command was defeated at the ballot box last year. His own re-election was controversial, and he cannot be sure that he will be elected again if he fails to deliver his promised car tax cuts. He is afraid, and more than anything, he wants this publicity to go away so people can have a few months to forget about his craven dealings and rank incompetence. That is why he is begging the governor to declare an end to the state’s business when it so clearly is not finished, and why he is fighting so desperately to shift the focus and blame so he can spend the next few months scurrying away from this disaster.
RIPDA [Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America] knows that Speaker Mattiello will never resign, but we repeat our call for him to do so nonetheless. He deserves to be held accountable for his actions, just like everyone else, and the logical consequence of his gross negligence is his removal from his position of authority. We hope that the House will reconvene shortly to conclude the state’s business, and we hope that members of the House will soon choose a more principled Speaker to lead them.