Skip to main content

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 340 Collections and/or Records:

Rhode Island Militia Officer Elections Approved

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#01143-C#0144
Abstract

Annual returns of State Militia & Chartered Military Companies to the Governor & General Assembly as mandated

Dates: 1788-1862

Rhode Island-New York Boundary records

 Series — Folder 1
Identifier: 1636-1722
Scope and Contents

This record consists of a single map published by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey for the Rhode Island and Connecticut Border Commissioners, and dated January 1941.

Dates: 1941

Rhode Island-Vicksburg Monument Commission report

 Item — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-748-1636-813

Seekonk River Bridge Commission reports

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-207-1636-724

Senate Finance Committee System of Taxes (Other States)

 Item — Volume Senate Finance Committee System of Taxes (Other States), 1881
Identifier: C#00602
Abstract

Brief description of the systems of taxes in Maine, New Hamphire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Dates: 1881

Session records, 1856-1990

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Abstract

Records received or reviewed by the General Assembly during sessions engaged.

Dates: 1856-1990

Special Commission of the State of Rhode Island Mechanics' Lien Law Commission report

 Item — Folder 10.Special Commission of the State of Rhode Island Mechanics' Lien Law Commission report, 1956
Identifier: 1636-1217

Special Commission on Settlement with United States accounts

 Item — Box Special Commission on Settlement with United States accounts
Identifier: C#00580
Abstract Function: To settle accounts with the U.S. for expenses incurred by RI in the prosecution of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Contents: Accounts of the state of RI with the United States for expenses associated with the prosecution of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Information includes; date of expenditure, name of payee, reason for payment, amount of payment, interest due. Includes claims for damages and the final settlement of the U.S. with RI. Accounts were prepared...
Dates: December 1, 1775-April 30, 1816

Special Commission to Appraise the Financial Operations of the State Government and the Matter of State-Local Financial Relations interim report

 Item — Folder 2. Special Fiscal Study Commission: Interim Report of the Special Commission to Appraise the Financial Operations of the State Government and the Matter of State-Local Financial Relations, 1957
Identifier: 1636-784

Special Commission to Study and Evaluate the Problem of Mental Illness in its Relation to Criminal Responsibility interim report

 Item — Folder 38. Special Commission to Study and Evaluate the Problem of Mental Illness in its Relation to Criminal Responsibility interim report, 1971
Identifier: 1636-739

Special Commission to Study and Review the Judicial System final report

 Item — Folder 28. Final Report of Special Commission to Study and Review the Judicial System, 1960 (1636-924)
Identifier: 1636-924

Special Commission to Study the Entire Field of Economic and Industrial Development in Rhode Island report

 Item — Folder 14. Special Commission to Study the Entire Field of Economic and Industrial Development in Rhode Island report, 1968
Identifier: 1636-684

Special Commission to Study the General Upgrading of Police Services report

 Item — Folder 27. The Report of the Special Commission to Study the General Upgrading of Police Services (1636-1094)
Identifier: 1636-1094

Special Commission to Visit and Examine the Cranston Savings Bank report

 Item — Folder 41. Special Commission to Visit and Examine the Cranston Savings Bank report, 1874
Identifier: 1636-821

Special House Legislative Commission to Study the Proposed Resource Recovery Project executive summary

 Item — Folder 3. Special House Legislative Commission to Study the Proposed Resource Recovery Project executive summary, 1986
Identifier: 1636-524

Special Legislative Commission on Child Care in Rhode Island final report, 1987

 Item — Folder 9. Special Legislative Commission on Child Care in Rhode Island final report, 1987
Identifier: 1636-530
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: 1987

Special Legislative Commission on Judicial Nominations reports and publications

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-538-1636-539

Special Legislative Commission on Mathematics and Science Education report

 Item — Folder 10. Special Legislative Commission on Mathematics and Science Education report, c. 1993
Identifier: 1636-1129

Special Legislative Commission on School Finance and Deficit Spending second interim report

 Item — Folder 2. Special Legislative Commission on School Finance and Deficit Spending second interim report, 1982
Identifier: 1636-523

Special Legislative Commission on Tourist and Commuter Rail Service Between the Cities of Newport, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts report

 Item — Folder 1. Special Legislative Commission on Tourist and Commuter Rail Service Between the Cities of Newport, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts report, 1983
Identifier: 1636-522

Special Legislative Commission to make a Comprehensive Study in the Field of Drug Addiction final report

 Item — Folder 3. Special Legislative Commission to make a Comprehensive Study in the Field of Drug Addiction final report, 1968
Identifier: 1636-673

Special Legislative Commission to Study all Aspects of the State Pension and Retirement System records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2013-05
Abstract

Records of the Special Legislative Commission to Study all Aspects of the State Pension and Retirement System.

Dates: 2008-2009

Special Legislative Commission to Study Diversionary and Community Service Programs for Juveniles report

 Item — Folder 47. Special Legislative Commission to Study Diversionary and Community Service Programs for Juveniles report, 1980
Identifier: 1636-568

Special Legislative Commission to Study Foster Care in the State of Rhode Island final report

 Item — Folder 7. Special Legislative Commission to Study Foster Care in the State of Rhode Island final report, 1986
Identifier: 1636-528

Special Legislative Commission to Study Health Care Capital Expenditures report

 Item — Folder 8. Special Legislative Commission to Study Health Care Capital Expenditures report, 1986
Identifier: 1636-529

Special Legislative Commission to Study Maximum Interest Rates report

 Item — Folder 43. Special Legislative Commission to Study Maximum Interest Rates report, 1982
Identifier: 1636-564
Abstract

Report of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Maximum Interest Rates to be charged Under 6-26-2 of the Rhode Island General Laws, 1982.

Dates: 1982

Special Legislative Commission to Study Predatory Mortgage Lending Practices report

 Item — Folder 34. Special Legislative Commission to Study Predatory Mortgage Lending Practices report
Identifier: 2013-05j
Abstract

The series consists of a partial copy of the final report.

Dates: 2006

Special Legislative Commission to Study Social Services report

 Item — Folder 17, Special Legislative Commission to Study Social Services: Organization for State Administered Human Resource Programs in Rhode Island, 1969
Identifier: 1636-333
Scope and Contents

Organization for the State Administered Human Resource Programs in Rhode Island: Report to the General Assembly by the Special Legislative Commission to Study Social Services in the State of Rhode Island.

Dates: 1969