video: RI State House Erupts Into Chaos on Friday Night

Saturday, July 01, 2017


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Friday night press conference

On Friday night at 6:00 PM, House Speaker Nick Mattiello and the rest of the House leadership — both Democrats and Republicans — joined together to blast the Senate leadership claiming that they had broken their word to pass the highly negotiated budget.

Mattiello made no promise to bring the House back, after it opted to recess when it heard that Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was tacking on an amendment to the House budget at the 11th hour - after Mattiello said they two had "shook hands" on what was approved by the House. 

In a 20 minute press conference, Mattiello said, "When I shake someone's hand, I expect what we agreed to his honored...I've learned a person handshake is the most sacred honor...we can hold."

Regarding Ruggerio's amendment to insert a "trigger" - as it pertains to federal funding, and how that would impact the elimination of the car tax, Mattiello said the following. 

"To pick one initiative -- that the public is called for -- is inappropriate and quite frankly, when you're dealing in times of structural deficit, it would have been a death knell to the car tax elimination program. The public expects us to keep our word and serve their interests - this was a drastic turn against what we were trying to do the entire session."

Fast and Furious

Just prior to the press conference, the House issued a statement from Director of Communications Larry Berman.

“It has been brought to our attention that the Senate is questioning the confidentiality of the Legislative Counsel office.  This is nothing but an attempt to distract from the issue at hand.  Speaker Mattiello received the information from a member of the public that the Senate was planning to amend the budget.  By the time the Speaker heard of the planned amendment, that fact had started to become common knowledge in the State House.  The Speaker thinks the more important issue is the Senate was not going to keep its word in passing the budget after a thorough negotiation and compromise.”

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Senate President Ruggerio

Decaying Relationship

The blow-up unveiled publicly the simmering rivalry between Mattiello and the newly elected Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.  Ruggerio fired back at Mattiello in equally strong terms:

President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio:

“The Senate repeatedly expressed its concern to Speaker Mattiello regarding the sustainability of the car tax phase out. He chose to disregard the concerns of the members of this chamber, and sent us the budget without any concessions on that issue. As the leader of a chamber filled with public servants dedicated to doing what is best for the people of Rhode Island, it is my responsibility to ensure that their concerns are heard.

“Speaker Mattiello does not dictate to the Senate which bills we are permitted to amend. The Senate will thoroughly review the language of every piece of legislation that comes before us and pass the language we deem most appropriate on behalf of our constituents, whether that bill is paid sick leave, domestic violence legislation, or the budget.

“I encourage Speaker Mattiello to reconvene the House as soon as possible to consider the state budget as passed by the Senate, including the minor but very important taxpayer protections that have been added.”


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