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Rhode Island. General Assembly (1643-)

 Organization

Dates

  • Existence: 1643-

Historical Note

The first governments established in Rhode Island began as written agreements between the original settlers of Providence (1636), Portsmouth (1638) Newport (1639). While such agreements were suitable early on a more organized, centralized form of government became necessary as the colony expanded. The origins of current General Assembly date from 1643, when the first Parliamentary Charter or Patent confirming uniting the three original towns under the title “the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in the Narragansett Bay in New England” was obtained from England. On or about that year a fourth settlement at Warwick was established. Convening for the first time as a single body at Portsmouth in May 1647, representatives of the several towns formulated a set rules orders for the colony including an annual meeting of a “Courte of Election”, the establishment of the office of President of the Province and the adoption of a code of laws. However this early iteration of a centralized colonial government functioned more like a town meeting than a cohesive legislative body as most of the power was still vested with the towns. Soon other factors including territorial disputes by internal external forces as well as the restoration of the Stuart dynasty in England in 1660 brought into doubt the validity of the 1643 Patent. By 1663, a second Royal Charter was obtained from King Charles II, which firmly established the "English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England, in America." Under the Charter the title of “General Assembly” came into being which initially was organized as a unicameral body. The document provided for the election of Deputies and Assistants (former titles of current Representatives and Senators) who were chosen from among the Freeman of the colony with each having one vote to act as direct representatives of their towns. The Charter also provided for a more central governmental hierarchy with the establishment of offices of Governor, Deputy Governor and ten Assistants to manage and lead the colony. Elections were held of the first Wednesday in May and last Wednesday in October annually. In 1696 the legislature became a bicameral body with the creation of the House of Deputies or Lower House House of Magistrates or Upper House. The position of Speaker of the House of Deputies was also established at that time.

Currently, the Rhode Island legislature is still a bicameral body constituting a seventy – five (75) member House of Representatives and a thirty – eight (38) member Senate which convenes on the first Tuesday in January annually. Leadership consists of a Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate who are chosen from among their membership. The General Assembly is responsible for all proposed legislation as well as the enactment of laws both of a public and private nature. The assembly also confirms judicial nominations and the appointment of heads of various State departments boards and has general subpoena power in civil cases. Other responsibilities include the office of the Auditor General which provides independent evaluations of government programs, Legislative Council which is charged with obtaining information on the operation of state government and of making studies concerning legislative issue and the office of Law Revision which is responsible for consolidating, compiling, editing, printing binding the public laws, acts resolutions. There are currently twelve (12) permanent committees established within the House of Representatives including: Constituent Services, Corporations, Environment Natural Resources, Finance, Health, Education Welfare, Judiciary, Labor, Municipal Government, Rules, Separation of Powers Veteran Affairs. Senate committees number seven (7) and include Constitutional Regulatory Issues, Commerce, Education, Environment Agriculture, Finance, Government Oversight Health Human Services. Permanent joint committees number eleven (11) and include Accounts Claims, Water Resources, Highway Safety, Environment Energy, Naming New Buildings, Bridges, Edifices Other State Constructions, Retirement, Small Business, Strategic Development, Veterans’ Affairs, Economic Development Legislative Services.

Related Resources:

The State of Rhode Island General Assembly website

General Assembly Meetings Agendas

Found in 369 Collections and/or Records:

A Review of the State Budget, 1971, 1975-1977

 Item — Folder: 14 A Review of the 1971 State Budget
Identifier: 1636-535

Acts and Resolves of Rhode Island Indices, 1758-1899

 Digital Record
Identifier: DO 140
Dates: Issued: 1758-1899

Acts and Resolves transcription

 Item — Volume: Acts and Resolves transcription, 1647-1684
Identifier: C#00125
Overview Single volume contains a transcription of the acts passed by the General Assembly during the colonial period. Subjects vary.
Dates: 1647-1684

Address Delivered Before the Rhode Island General Assembly

 Item — Folder: 9. Address Delivered Before the Rhode Island General Assembly, 1930
Identifier: 1636-61
Scope and Contents A speech delivered to the Rhode Island General Assembly about the life and career of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his role in ending slavery.
Dates: 1930

Adult Education Commission annual report

 Item — Folder: Adult Education Commission Annual Report, folder 29
Identifier: 1636-345

Affidavits, 1999

 Sub-Series
Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02
Overview Includes affidavits/releases to make payments on the claim (some are original and signed, others are copies).
Dates: 1999

Alcoholic Beverage Law Study Commission final report

 Item — Folder: 33. Alcoholic Beverage Law Study Commission, 1976
Identifier: 1636-663

An Analysis of the Governor's Financial Program, 1968-1969

 Item — Folder: 11 An Analysis: The Governor's Financial Program 1968-69
Identifier: 1636-532

Appendix to the Report on State Certificates of the Registered State Debt, Made October 1849 by Order of the General Assembly, 1852

 Item — Folder: 8. Appendix to the Report on State Certificates of the Registered State Debt, Made October 1849 by Order of the General Assembly, 1852
Identifier: 1636-1127

Battle of Gettysburg Commemoration event

 Item — Folder: Subject Files- "Civil War"
Identifier: 2013-38
Overview Record includes one (1) copy of the Battle of Gettysburg Commemoration 3 July 2013, Rhode Island State House Rotunda event program.
Dates: 2013

Bipartisan Commission Appointed to Study the Question of Changing the Representation in the State Senate report

 Item — Folder: 26. Bipartisan Commission Appointed to Study the Question of Changing the Representation in the State Senate report, 1926
Identifier: 1636-869

Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Funding of Public Higher Education in Rhode Island Including Compensation of Faculty final report

 Item — Folder: 16. Blue Ribbon Commission to Study the Funding of Public Higher Education in Rhode Island Including Compensation of Faculty final report, 1987
Identifier: 1636-537

Borrowing and Debt in Rhode Island, 1970

 Item — Folder: 16 Borrowing and Debt in Rhode Island 1970
Identifier: 1636-536

Boundary Commission

 Item
Identifier: F-101

Bristol County Bridge Commission report

 Item — Folder: 17. Bristol County Bridge Commission report, 1912
Identifier: 1636-760

Bristol Warren boundary map, 1878

 Item
Identifier: F-101
Overview Plat of boundary line between the towns of Warren and Bristol, from the Warren River to the Towesett River, as fixed by the Commission established by the General Assembly. Filed in the office of the Secretary of State (Joshua Addeman), October 3, 1878:
Dates: 1878

Bristol Warren boundary map. 1878

 Digital Work
Identifier: d51849f8-8d7a-4776-8a03-87d79e4d6e21
Dates: 1878

Capitol Television video recordings

 Series — Box: Boxes 1a to 766b, IM1 to IM132
Identifier: 2007-17
Overview Televised recordings of general assembly proceedings.
Dates: 1984-2007

Child Care Commission, 2012-2014

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents From the Series: The records include meeting files (meeting minutes, agendas, notices, correspondence, testimony, supporting records, audio tapes and audio DVDs), membership lists, retreat information, copies of proposed legislation, and correspondence made and received by the commission clerk.
Dates: 2012-2014

Children's Code Commission annual report

 Item — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-227-1636-905

Civil Commissions register

 Series — Volume: Civil Commissions register, 1831-1848
Identifier: C#00239
Overview Registry of civil commissions. Record of commissions officers elected by militia companies.
Dates: May 1, 1831-February 29, 1848

Claimant Files, 1993-1999

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02
Overview Includes Claimant files arranged by bill number or alphabetically by claimant’s name. Claimants’ files include correspondence, color photographs (some Polaroid), estimates of damage, police reports, and other paperwork and forms JCAC form Report of Loss) required for consideration of claim.
Dates: 1993-1999

Colonel H. H. Young Monument Commission report

 Item — Folder: 23. Colonel H. H. Young Monument Commission report, 1912
Identifier: 1636-727

Colony of Rhode Island census

 Series
Identifier: C#00197
Overview The Colony of Rhode Ialand census includes city or town, name of head of household, number of males and females under 16 and over 16, race, total per household. This material has been microfilmed, see C#00153.
Dates: 1774

Colony of Rhode Island census, 1774

 Item — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00197
Overview The Census of 1776 includes city or town, name of head of household, number of males and females under 16 and over 16, race, total per household. This material has been microfilmed, see C# 00153.
Dates: 1774

Colony of Rhode Island census, 1774

 Digital Work
Identifier: 67b0ba82-a40e-4dd1-bf74-b3da14892c96
Dates: 1774

Commission Appointed to Draft and Report an Act dividing the City of Providence into five Senatorial districts report

 Item — Folder: 19 Report of the Commission...Dividing the City of Providence into Five Senatorial Districts
Identifier: 1636-454
Scope and Contents Report of the Commission Appointed to Draft and Report an Act dicviding the City of Providence into five senatorial districts in accordance with the provision of Article XIX of Amendments to the Constitution of the State made to General Assembly of Rhode Island.
Dates: 1938