House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello will not be returning to the general assembly in January, and having been one of his more vocal critics over the years, I should probably have commented on that glorious news by now. But, like millions of other Americans, until last Saturday I was curled up in a fetal position under my bed weaving dream catchers out of dust bunnies. Now that I can breathe again, I can share some final thoughts on Mr. Mattiello’s legislative career which ended last Tuesday when he lost to his Republican challenger. Whoever becomes speaker next January can consider this a list of things-not-to-do and how-not-to-be:
First: Mattiello never let bills out of committee for a vote. For years I thought it was my particular area of advocacy, marijuana reform, that he could not get his head around, but many other groups had the same complaint. As a former police officer, I was part of an impressive coalition of medical professionals, drug treatment specialists, prison reform advocates, and such, advocating for the legalization of pot. Year after year, we attended committee hearings late into the night, hammering home the social justice arguments as well as the financial benefits being experienced across the country. In our final year of this fruitless endeavor, we had over 50% of the house supporting the bill, but the speaker refused to bring it to a vote. We decided that our time would be better spent working to get him defeated.
Second: Mattiello’s provincialism and lack of curiosity about current events and national trends were impenetrable. When concerned citizens tried to educate him on the well-documented history of failed taxpayer-funded stadiums around the country, he refused to listen or learn. He already had visions of himself hanging out in a luxury box.
Last year he was asked about legislation that would limit the size of gun magazines, answering “Has magazine size been a problem?”
Last January he was asked about climate change. “There is nothing Rhode Island can do to address climate change in a way that is real or impactful.”
In an interview this June, Mattiello revealed that he was unaware there had once been slaves in Rhode Island, and that he objected to the tearing down of statues, adding without irony, “If you forget history you are doomed to repeat it.” In June! This is what he was saying one month after the killing of George Floyd. Talk about the unexamined life.
Mattiello calls himself a Democrat but his first speech as speaker was to the Chamber of Commerce and he wears Trump neckties.
All he seems to care about is casinos, sports gambling, online gambling, and cigars.
Sir, you will not be missed.