Where are the members of the General Assembly? It would be one thing if Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D, Providence, North Providence) were actively blocking Rhode Island's representatives and senators from returning to work and doing the people's business, but almost none of the rank are asking --- much less demanding --- the ability to represent their constituents.
They are supposed to be representing all of us, not just going along with legislative leaders who were elected by people from other parts of the state. Their complete disregard for their responsibilities to you has been disqualifying. If by this point at the beginning of June you have seen your elected officials demanding their right to represent you actively at the State House, they ought to be Out Of Office.
Governor Gina Raimondo has eagerly filled the huge vacuum left by the vast majority of elected officials in state government and has been treating the massive power allowed her during emergencies as if she can unilaterally micromanage the lives of Rhode Islanders and their businesses during an ongoing crisis. An "emergency" is supposed to mean the legislature can't meet and represent the people, so the governor must act alone. But even lower-budget town councils are proving that elected officials can meet. If legislators are still too scared to leave their houses, they can use video conferencing tools, like Zoom.
So where are they?
Across the state, our cities and towns are struggling to figure out how to budget for the upcoming year. They are repeatedly coming up against state-level laws and regulations that restrict their ability to adjust to the pandemic and the related economic catastrophe. They are having to guess not only what their state aid might look like but also what state laws will and won't be enforced, opening up opportunities for tax-related lawsuits if they guess poorly.
Where are our representatives and senators?
Businesses, non-profits, and civic organizations find themselves actually hoping the governor will overstep her constitutional boundaries just for the sake of a little certainty about what they'll be permitted to do in the months ahead. What they need is legitimate legislative action. They are also facing the challenge of climbing out of an unprecedented economic sinkhole and, like the cities and towns, are doing so while still having to carry the weight of Rhode Island's infamously terrible tax and regulatory burdens. They need relief that the executive branch simply can't legally provide.
Where is the General Assembly?
Individual Rhode Islanders and their families are having to defend themselves against daily impositions against their civil rights. For some, particularly in religious communities, the violations come from the governor's exercise of boundless, unchecked power. For others, civil rights violations are ending in disease and death as the Department of Health fails to investigate problems at nursing homes, while legislators ignore their obligation to provide oversight.
Where is the Democrat General Assembly?
Maybe the reason we're hearing day after day of long-term incumbent Democrats in the General Assembly who do not intend to run for office again is that they know they don't really deserve to continue in their offices. With almost all of them hiding under their desks for months on end (while still collecting their legislative pay and health benefits), those who are quitting are too few.
Any of your representatives and senators who have not been fighting to do their job have not been fighting for you. Their complete silence is just more proof that they never truly represent you. They think they are part of an elite, smarter-than-the-rest club. They think they don't need to meet because their hearings are only for show anyway, their debates are shams, and their decisions are always made as far from public view as possible.
They have not been representing you. The progressives and politicians have already proven that they don't think you deserve any better. If you don't demand better, you'll never get it.