Making the Rules Work for All Rhode Islanders

Common Cause Rhode Island has long been critical of the legislative rules in Rhode Island, particularly in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. We feel they unnecessarily concentrate power in the hands of legislative leaders, robbing rank-and-file legislators from fully representing their constituents.

In 2019 we supported a series of four changes put forward by reform-minded legislators to the House rules:

  • Once introduced, allow bills to stay alive for two years of the General Assembly session
  • Remove the ability of the Majority and Minority Leaders to suspend the rules by unanimous consent; requiring a 2/3rds vote of the body
  • Require substantive amendments be made public online 48 hours before committee votes
  • Allow discharge petitions to be circulated throughout the House, and not just kept on the desk under the Speaker’s eye

In January 2019 we were successful at winning one significant change; substantive amendments to bills are now posted publicly 24 hours in advance of committee votes.

In February 2019 the Rhode Island Senate proposed a series of changes designed to move their rules closer to the House. We specifically opposed three of these proposed changes:

  • Allowing the rules to be suspended by unanimous consent of the Majority and Minority Leaders
  • Allowing the Senate President to approve changes to floor votes
  • Allowing the Senate President to remove Senators from committees without their consent

After Common Cause Rhode Island activists flooded the Senate, they withdrew the first two changes, and now only allow Senators to be removed from committees, “for cause.” Likewise, the Senate adopted the 24 hour notice for substantive amendment rule from the House rules.


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Separation of Powers