General Assembly convenes with 24 new legislators
The Rhode Island General Assembly kicked off the 2013 session on Jan. 1, welcoming eight new state senators and 16 new state representatives. This year, the House of Representatives comprises 69 Democrats and six Republicans. The Senate is composed of 32 Democrats, five Republicans and one Independent. Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis administered the oath of office to all 113 members of the General Assembly.
Senate re-elects M. Teresa Paiva Weed as president of the Senate
The newly minted 2013-2014 Rhode Island Senate elected M. Teresa Paiva Weed – the first woman to serve as a presiding officer in either chamber –to a third term as president of the Senate. Rhode Island District Court Associate Judge Colleen M. Hastings administered the oath of office to President Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). The Senate president previously served as Senate majority leader from 2004 to 2008 and has held leadership positions on several committees since she was elected in 1992.
Fox elected speaker as 2013 session opens
Rep. Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence) was overwhelmingly elected speaker of the House of Representatives after a vote by his House colleagues as the 2013-2014 General Assembly session opened. Speaker Fox, whose oath of office was administered by Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney, has served as House speaker since February 2010. First elected in 1992, he was majority leader from 2002 until his election as speaker, and previously chaired the House Finance Committee.
Same-gender marriage bill introduced in both chambers
Legislation to allow same-gender couples to marry in Rhode Island was introduced in both chambers, with a pledge from House Speaker Gordon D. Fox for a floor vote early in the session. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket) has broad support, with 41 members of the House and 10 members of the Senate signing on as additional cosponsors.
Senate passes bill to set new implementation date for Board of Education
The Senate unanimously approved legislation (2013-S 0002aa) to give the Senate more time to conduct its advice and consent process by postponing implementation of the new Board of Education, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), the bill delays implementation until March 7, leaving the current Board of Governors for Higher Education and Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education in place until then.
Senate committee chairs named
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed named chairs of the Senate’s standing committees. New chairs for the 2013-2014 session are Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Cumberland, Woonsocket), Corporations; Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), Government Oversight; Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Health and Human Services; Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Housing and Municipal Government, and Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), Rules. Re-appointed chairs are: Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), Education; Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Environment and Agriculture; Sen. Daniel Da Ponte (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), Finance; Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Judiciary; Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-Dist. 23, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield), Labor, and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren), Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs.