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:

Commission to Study Tax Exemption Laws, 1968

 Sub-Series — Folder 4 Commission to Study Tax Exemption Laws 1968
Identifier: 1636-786

Commission to Study the Development of Off Shore Oil Deposits Off New England Coast and its Effects on Rhode Island report

 Item — Folder 34. Commission to Study the Development of Off Shore Oil Deposits Off New England Coast and its Effects on Rhode Island report, 1976
Identifier: 1636-777

Commission to Study the Feasibility of Establishing a College of Veterinary Medicine in New England report

 Item — Folder 28. Commission to Study the Feasibility of Establishing a College of Veterinary Medicine in New England report, 1975
Identifier: 1636-732

Commission to Study the Feasibility of Prohibiting Certain Weapons for Deer Hunting report

 Item — Folder 3. Report of the Commission to Study the Feasibility of Prohibiting Certain Weapons for Deer Hunting RES. 90-H988 Sub A (1636-1070)
Identifier: 1636-1070

Commission to Study the Licensing of Television Repairmen report

 Item — Folder 27. Commission to Study the Licensing of Television Repairmen report, 1970
Identifier: 1636-601

Commission to Study the Responsibility for the Education of Children in Foster Boarding Care, 1970

 Item — Folder 27. Commission to Study the Responsibility for the Education of Children in Foster Boarding Care, 1970
Identifier: 1636-285

Commission to Study the Rhode Island Airport System final report

 Item — Folder 19. Commission to Study the Rhode Island Airport System final report, 1972
Identifier: 1636-762

Commission to Study the Tax Structure of the State of Rhode Island report of the interim findings

 Item — Folder 11. Commission to Study the Tax Structure of the State of Rhode Island report of the interim findings, 1992
Identifier: 1636-1078

Commission to Study Vandalism and Security Procedures at Public Housing for the Elderly in Rhode Island final report

 Item — Folder 27. Commission to Study Vandalism and Security Procedures at Public Housing for the Elderly final report, 1981
Identifier: 1636-548

Commissioners for State Aid (Soldiers Relief) reports

 Series — Box Commissioners for State Aid (Soldiers Relief) reports, 1885-1889
Identifier: 1636-3007

Committee appointed to Erect a Monument in Arlington Cemetery, Virginia to the Memory of the Late Major-General Frank Wheaton, United States Army report

 Item — Folder 36. Committee appointed to Erect a Monument in Arlington Cemetery, Virginia to the Memory of the Late Major-General Frank Wheaton, United States Army report, 1905
Identifier: 1636-816

Committee Appointed to Revise the Penal Code report

 Item — Folder 26. Committee Appointed to Revise the Penal Code report, 1838
Identifier: 1636-1117

Committee on Prisoner and Judicial Petitions, 1827-1862

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00165
Abstract

Prisoner/ judicial related petitions submitted to the General Assembly

Dates: 1827-1862

Committee on Reapportionment, 2001-2002

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents From the Series: Committee records and failed legislation as transferred from established committees (Judiciary, Corporations, Labor, Health Education and Welfare, etc.) for the prior two (2) year legislative session.May contain supporting documentation respective of votes taken, amendments made, witness sheets & testimony, fiscal notes, reports pertinent, daily action sheets, etc. Series primarily arranged by committee & House or Senate bill designation; more recent/correlating files also by...
Dates: 2001-2002

Committee on the Militia, 1861-1865

 Sub-Series — Folder Committee on the militia records, 1861-1865
Scope and Contents From the Series: Committee records and failed legislation as transferred from established committees (Judiciary, Corporations, Labor, Health Education and Welfare, etc.) for the prior two (2) year legislative session.May contain supporting documentation respective of votes taken, amendments made, witness sheets & testimony, fiscal notes, reports pertinent, daily action sheets, etc. Series primarily arranged by committee & House or Senate bill designation; more recent/correlating files also by...
Dates: 1861-1865

Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Done in Convention at Providence, Fourth Day of December, A.D. 1986

 Item — Folder 52. Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Done in Convention at Providence, Fourth Day of December, A.D. 1986
Identifier: 1636-235
Scope and Contents

Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Done in Convention at Providence on the Fourth Day of December, A.D. 1986, including amendments approved November, 1992

Dates: 1994

Constitution of the State of Rhode Island with Amendments Thereto (published)

 Series — Folder 2 Constitution of the State of Rhode Island (published), 1919-1936
Identifier: 1636-442

Council of War orders

 Series — Volume Council of War orders, 1756-1764
Identifier: C#00498
Abstract

Function: To record actions of the General Assembly acting as a Council of War. Includes: Date and place of sessions, names of members of the Council present,text of orders issued by the council. Most of these orders had to do with military preparedness in the Newport area. In same volume with minutes of the Supreme Court of Probate (C#00497).

Dates: September 13, 1756-March 12, 1764

Court of Magistrates annual report

 Item — Volume Court of Magistrates annual report, 1850
Identifier: C#00495
Abstract

Information concerning cases brought before the Court of Magistrates includes: names of complainant and respondent, offense, judgment, court fees, witness fees, counsel fees, disposition, amount paid by the accused, totals of various categories, signature of the clerk. This information was presented to the General Assembly in the form of an annual report.

Dates: 1850

Court of the General Assembly docket

 Series — Folder Court of the General Assembly docket, 1734-1803 (C#00060)
Identifier: C#00060
Abstract

Dockets of cases to be tried before the General Assembly lists plaintiffs and defendants and the session of the General Assembly. Some gaps.

Dates: 1734-1803

Deputies and Freeman records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00653
Abstract

Town returns of "freeman" admitted & men chosen to act as Deputies in the General Assembly

Dates: 1727-1778

Draft legislation (Proposed)

 Series — Box Draft legislation (Proposed), 1807-1821
Identifier: 1636-1636

Election Laws Study Commission reports

 Series — Folder 26. Election Laws Study Commission Professional Seminars in Family Relocation reports, 1957-1958
Identifier: 1636-806
Abstract

This series includes reports of the commission.

Dates: 1957-1958

Engrossed Acts

 Series — Folder Engrossed Acts (General Assembly), 1856-1857 (C#00055)
Identifier: C#00055
Abstract

Engrossed acts for the period 1856-7 (hand written in most cases).

Dates: 1856-1857

Extracts from Election Laws

 Item — Folder 24. Extracts from Election Laws, 1905
Identifier: 1636-1143

Failed Legislation/Bills Not Passed

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00127-2006-51-2021-04
Abstract

Legislation remaining in commitee, held for further study, tabled or failed passage

Dates: 1826-1867, 1945-1948, 1961-1980, 2007-2008, 2011-2012, 2019

Fair Employment Practices Commission annual report

 Item — Folder Annual Report of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, folder 23
Identifier: 1636-339
Scope and Contents

Rhode Island Annual Report (inculding July-December 1949) of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to the Governors and the honorable Members of the General Assembly in their: 1951 and 1952 Sessions

Dates: 1950-1951

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Commission report

 Item — Folder 31. Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Commission report, 1914
Identifier: 1636-978