Rhode Island Politics and Government

By Maureen Moakley; Elmer Cornwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The General Assembly

Historically, the power of the General Assembly in this state, as in other states, has been plenary and unlimited, save as this authority may have been limited by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Supreme Court, 1999

In the end, the people of Rhode Island ultimately will decide how best to divide the power pot that lies at the center of our state government. Shall the powers of our state government be checked and balanced? Or shall they be unchecked and imbalanced, with one player holding almost all of the aces and wild cards?

Justice Robert Flanders, dissenting opinion, 1999

Legislative practice and tradition in Rhode Island are a veritable museum of modes of operation and leadership, from the most democratic to the most centrally controlled. But a constant factor involved in any changes in operations and leadership is the significant power that first the charter and then the constitution gave to the General Assembly. This reality was affirmed, with one strident dissent, in a 1999 opinion by the state supreme court. In a fundamental sense, whoever controls the assembly controls Rhode Island. Therefore, throughout the state's history the stakes have been high in the struggle for control, and the rewards of success have been considerable.

The Royal Charter of 1663 allocated six representatives to Newport, four each to the other original settlements (Providence, Warwick, and Portsmouth), and two to each subsequently organized town. The representatives were to be elected by their fellow citizens in town meetings held every six months. The record suggests that townsmen gave their representatives, at

-65-

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Rhode Island Politics and Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Series Preface xi
  • Authors' Preface xiii
  • Rhode Island Politics and Government *
  • Chapter One - Rhode Island in Transition 1
  • Chapter Two - Political Culture in the Ocean State 19
  • Chapter Three - Rhode Island and the Federal System 36
  • Chapter Four - The Constitution 50
  • Chapter Five - The General Assembly 65
  • Chapter Six - The Executive and the Administration 84
  • Chapter Seven - The Courts 108
  • Chapter Eight - Political Parties 125
  • Chapter Nine - Interest and Group Representation 144
  • Chapter Ten - Budget Politics and Policy 163
  • Chapter Eleven - The Politics of Education 178
  • Chapter Twelve - Local Government 196
  • Epilogue 213
  • General Resources 219
  • Notes 225
  • Index 241
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