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:

House Commission to Study the Department of Environmental Management records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1998-25
Abstract

Record of the legislative commission formed to study the Department of Environmental Management.

Dates: 1996-1998

House GSE Legislative Task Force report

 Item — Folder 8. Report of the Rhode Island House GSE Legislative Task Force: Excellence and Equity: Financing Public Education for the 21st century, c. 1996
Identifier: 1636-191

Illegitimacy Law Commission report

 Item — Folder 35. Rhode Island Illegitimacy Law Commission report, 1947
Identifier: 1636-556

Initial Report of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to His Excellency Governor John O. Pastore and the Honorable Members of the General Assembly

 Item — Folder 16 Initial Report of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to His Excellency Governor John O. Pastore and the Honorable Members of the General Assembly 1950
Identifier: 1636-796

Institute of Mental Health Conditions report, March 7, 1974

 Item — Folder 1. Institute of Mental Health report on present conditions, 1974
Identifier: 1636-844

Investigation of the State Home and School

 Series — Folder 2-3. Investigation of the State Home and School, 1890
Identifier: C#00636
Abstract

Transcript of testimony taken at a public hearing into the management of the state home and school. Includes names of legislators, attorneys, and witnesses called to testify, dates of hearing: place of hearing. Volumes I and II.

Dates: 1890

Invoice vouchers, 1999

 Sub-Series
Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02

John F. McBurney Jr. Collection photographs

 Series — Box John F. McBurney Jr. Collection photographs
Identifier: 2015-45
Abstract

This series contains photographs of the Speaker of the Rhode Island General Assembly, House of Representatives, Harry F. Curvin. Images include other Rhode Island elected official and notables from the period 1951-1963.

Dates: 1951-1963

Joint Committee on Accounts and Claims records, 1979-2002

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02
Abstract

The General Assembly Joint Committee on Accounts and Claims records include claimant files of claims, meeting files and some color photographs.

Dates: 1979-2002

Joint Committee on Environment, 1973-2000

 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: 1973-2000

Joint Committee on Health Care Oversight, 2004-2005

 Sub-Series — Box 9. Healthcare Oversight (Meeting Files: January 8-December 8), 2004, (Meeting Rules: February 15-July 1, Meeting Files: February 7-March 28, H-5362-6641, S-0033-1151), 2005, (Meeting Files: March 15-May 17, H-6763-7390, S-2284-2914, S-0307-0821), 2006
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: 2004-2005

Joint Committee on Highway Safety, 1983-2006

 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: 1983-2006

Joint Committee on Naming State Construction, 1991-1998

 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: 1991-1998

Joint Committee on Retirement, 1981-1990

 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: 1981-1990

Joint Committee on Small Business, 1983-1990

 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: 1983-1990

Joint Committee on Water Resources, 1983-1998

 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: 1983-1998

Joint Committees, 1973-2006

 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: 1973-2006

Joint Legislative Committee to establish a permanent education foundation aid formula for Rhode Island records

 Series — Folder 12-14. Joint Legislative Committee to establish a permanent education foundation aid formula for Rhode Island records
Identifier: 2013-05g
Abstract

Series documenting the activities of the Joint Legislative Committee to establish a permanent education foundation aid formula for Rhode Island.

Dates: 2003-2006

Joint Legislative Taskforce on Summer Learning Programs records

 Series — Folder 25-31. Joint Legislative Taskforce on Summer Learning Programs records
Identifier: 2013-05e
Abstract

Series documenting activities fo the Joint Legislative Taskforce on Summer Learning Programs.

Dates: 2009-2010

Joint Select Committee on Changes in the Constitution report

 Item — Folder 16. Report of Joint Select Committee on Changes in the Constitution, 1882
Identifier: 1636-199

Joint Select Committee on Removal of Obstructions in Pawtucket River report

 Item — Folder 18. Report of the Joint Select Committee on Removal of Obstructions in Pawtucket River, 1883
Identifier: 1636-201

Joint Select Committee upon Revision of the Election Laws report

 Item — Folder 12. Joint Select Committee upon Revision of the Election Laws report, 1905
Identifier: 1636-510

Joint Special Committee and of the Board of Commissioners of Sinking Funds report

 Item — Folder 30. Report...to Take an Account of and Destroy Bonds of the State and Paid Coupons in the Hands of the State Auditor, 1885
Identifier: 1636-213
Abstract

Report of the Joint Special Committee and of the Boad of Commissioners of Sinking Funds, Appointed to Take an Account of and Destroy Bonds of the State and Paid Coupons in the Hands of the State Auditor, Made to the General Assembly at its May Session, 1885.

Dates: 1885

Joint Special Committee on Constitutional Changes minutes and newspaper clippings

 Series — Volume Joint Special Committee on Constitutional Changes minutes and newspaper clippings, 1884
Identifier: C#00465
Abstract

Newspaper clippings and handwritten notes concerned with meetings of the Joint Special Committee Constitutional Changes. The committee concerned itself with issues concerning the relocation of the railroad tracks and terminal in the city of Providence. Accounts include dates and places of meetings, names of members of the committee, names of the people testifying, reporters optinion of the action taking place.

Dates: March 6, 1884-April 11, 1884

Joint Special Committee on Investigation of the Need and Advisability of Rebuilding, by the State, Washington Bridge report

 Item — Folder 21. Report of the Joint Special Committee on Investigation of the Need and Advisability of Rebuilding the Washington Bridge, 1921
Identifier: 1636-204

Joint Special Committee on Permanent Camp Grounds report

 Item — Folder 10. Joint Special Committee on Permanent Camp Grounds report, 1896
Identifier: 1636-508

Joint Special Committee on the Cove Lands report

 Item — Folder 1. Report of the Joint Special Committee on the Cove Lands, 1868
Identifier: 1636-187

Joint Special Committee Upon the Depressed Condition of the Cotton Industry report

 Item — Folder 11. Report upon the Depressed Condition of the Cotton Industry, 1898
Identifier: 1636-509

Joint Special Committee with Instructions to Inquire into the System of Legislation Adopted by the State of Connecticut, and the Practical Working Thereof Relative to the Oyster Industry report

 Item — Folder 28. Report...Relative to the Oyster Industry, 1889
Identifier: 1636-211
Abstract

Report of the Joint Special Committee Appointed at the May Session, 1888, with Instructions to Inquire into the System of Legislation Adopted by the State of Connecticut, and the Practical Working Thereof Relative to the Oyster Industry Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, 1889.

Dates: 1889

Juvenile Court Commission report

 Item — Folder 39. Juvenile Court Commission report, 1938
Identifier: 1636-740