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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 340 Collections and/or Records:

Commission for the Study, Treatment and Care of Inebriates report

 Item — Folder 24. Commission for the Study, Treatment and Care of Inebriates report, February 15, 1951
Identifier: 1636-654
Abstract

Report of Rhode Island Commission for the Study, Treatment and Care of Inebriates, 1951

Dates: 1951

Commission of Agricultural Inquiry reports

 Series — Folder 4. Commission of Agricultural Inquiry report, 1918
Identifier: 1636-747-1636-827

Commission of the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers report

 Item — Folder 25. Report of the Commission of the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, 1889
Identifier: 1636-208

Commission on Breachway Between Point Judith Pond and the Atlantic Ocean report

 Item — Folder 20. Report of Commission on Breachway Between Point Judith Pond and the Atlantic Ocean, 1907
Identifier: 1636-203

Commission on Revision of the Rhode Island Constitution report

 Item — Folder 12. Commission on Revision of the Rhode Island Constitution report, 1962
Identifier: 1636-908

Commission on State Printing special report

 Item — Folder 25. Commission on State Printing special report, 1917
Identifier: 1636-729

Commission on the Banking Laws report

 Item — Folder 7. Report of Commission on the Banking Laws, 1908
Identifier: 1636-190

Commission on the Employment Problems of the Negro report

 Item — Folder 21. Commission on the Employment Problems of the Negro report, 1943
Identifier: 1636-801

Commission on the Revenue of the State report

 Item — Folder 5. Commission on the Revenue of the State report, 1896-1897
Identifier: 1636-526

Commission on Uniform State Laws annual report

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-731-1636-1198

Commission Studying the Entire Field of Arbitration report

 Item — Folder 20. Commission Studying the Entire Field of Arbitration report, 1976
Identifier: 1636-763

Commission to Consider the Amendment and Revision of the Constitution report

 Item — Folder 9. Commission to Consider the Amendment and Revision of the Constitution report, 1915
Identifier: 1636-790

Commission to Investigate Problems of the Cotton Textile Industry report

 Item — Folder 14. Commission to Investigate Problems of the Cotton Textile Industry report, 1935
Identifier: 1636-718

Commission to Re-Examine the Field of Governmental Operations, the Cost of Governmental Services, and the Tax Structure of the State report

 Item — Folder 31. Commission to Re-Examine the Field of Governmental Operations, the Cost of Governmental Services, and the Tax Structure of the State report, 1947
Identifier: 1636-811

Commission to Repair Washington County Court House accounts

 Item — Folder Commission to Repair Washington County Court House accounts, 1870
Identifier: C#00609
Abstract

Bills and receipts for various expenditures for the repair of the Washington County Court House that were approved by the General Assembly.

Dates: January 6, 1870-March 6, 1870

Commission to Report on Changes in the Laws of the State Necessary to Carry into Effect Article XII of Amendments of the Constitution report

 Item — Folder 63. Commission to Report on Changes in the Laws of the State Necessary to Carry into Effect Article XII of Amendments of the Constitution report, 1904
Identifier: 1636-842

Commission to Revise the Constitution report

 Item — Folder 3. Commission to Revise the Constitution report, 1898
Identifier: 1636-578

Commission to Study a Rhode Island-Connecticut Environmental City Compact (Quonset) interim report

 Item — Folder 28. Commission to Study a Rhode Island-Connecticut Environmental City Compact (Quonset) interim report, 1973
Identifier: 1636-602

Commission to Study and Revise the Motor Vehicle Code report

 Item — Folder 28. Commission to Study and Revise the Motor Vehicle Code report, 1968
Identifier: 1636-658

Commission to Study Automobile Inspection Stations report

 Item — Folder 18. Commission to Study Automobile Inspection Stations report, 1970
Identifier: 1636-1195

Commission to Study Certain State Debt report

 Item — Folder 9. Commission to Study Certain State Debt report, 1993
Identifier: 1636-1128

Commission to Study Electric Rates and the Fuel Adjustment Charges on Electricity report

 Item — Folder 29. Commission to Study Electric Rates and the Fuel Adjustment Charges on Electricity report, 1975
Identifier: 1636-733

Commission to Study Feasibility of a Legislative Council for the State report

 Item — Folder 11. Commission to Study Feasibility of a Legislative Council for the State report, 1958
Identifier: 1636-907

Commission to Study Hazardous Substances final report

 Item — Folder 26. Commission to Study Hazardous Substances final report, 1973
Identifier: 1636-600

Commission to Study Open Dumping final report

 Item — Folder 18 Commission to Study Open Dumping final report 1989
Identifier: 1636-1444-1636-1050

Commission to Study Professional Boxing and Wrestling in Rhode Island final report

 Item — Folder 25. Commission to Study Professional Boxing and Wrestling in Rhode Island final report, 1983
Identifier: 1636-546