Stop The Ruggerio Power Grab

Time to call your state senators! Newly elected progressive legislator Senator Sam Bell is sounding the alarm regarding a dangerous power grab by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio who is proposing radical changes to Senate rules.

***For those new to the state, a quick primer on Ruggerio’s illustrious career: 1) A forty-year-old Ruggerio was first arrested in 1990 for shoplifting condoms. He shoved them in his sock . . . he was with his mother at the time. CVS declined to press charges. 2) That same year Ruggerio was arrested for drunk driving in Barrington, with his pal Senator Frank Ciccone following in on the arrest and threatening the police officer’s pension, an event described by John Oliver as “Peak Rhode Island” (at the 11:45 mark). Both men ran unopposed in the 2014 mid-terms.***

Here is the statement from Senator Sam Bell:

The new proposed Senate rules have just been announced, and they are an egregious power grab by the Senate President. Basically, these proposed rules weaken every good government process protection in the Senate rules, not just copying the House’s bad rules but going even further in places. Here are some of the highlights:

1) The Senate President can now kick Senators off our committees without our consent.

2) The Senate President can change a member’s vote with their consent behind closed doors. Even if it changes the outcome of a vote. Now, the Senate President can bully Senators in the back rooms to flip if he ever loses a vote.

3) The Senate filibuster is gone. It hasn’t been used in many years, but it’s still on the books as the last protection against the most outrageous legislation. Now, our floor speeches are capped to five minutes, like in the House.

4) It’s now much easier for the Senate President to suspend the rules. Previously, the Senate had to vote to suspend the rules. Now, the Senate President just needs the consent of his Republican friend and ally Dennis Algiere. No public vote.

5) There are some (blatantly illegal) attempts to ride over the all-important opening day process in state law.

6) Protest signs are banned from committee rooms, limiting the free speech rights of every citizen. Most concerning of all is what legislation the Senate President is planning that is so controversial that it would require rules changes so extreme to pass. Above all, that is the thought that scares me the most. And it should scare every Rhode Islander.

Here’s one area of concern: Senator Ruggerio has been plotting to strip Providence of zoning oversight vis-à-vis the I-195 land for a while now. Bring on the luxury condo towers. Maybe a casino?

The ProJo spoke with Common Cause executive director John Marion, “State Senate bill would consolidate power in president’s hands.”

“It’s disappointing to see the Senate, in several ways, follow the lead of the House by transferring power from the rank-and-file and putting it in the hands of the leadership,” Common Cause’s Marion said, calling out the suspension-of-rules proposal, committee-removal power and vote-change provisions in particular. “On the whole these proposed changes are a step away from small-d democracy for the Rhode Island Senate.”

Call your senators! (Even the ones you know agree with you. Then they can say that they are hearing from their constituents.) Call Ruggerio’s office at 401.222.6655!

Neither of these “winners” had an opponent in the general election in the 2014 mid-terms.

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