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:

Land and Public Notary records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00481
Abstract

Record of early deeds & land grants/maritime related matters

Dates: 1642-1796

Legislative Commission on Child Support Enforcement report

 Item — Folder 13. Legislative Commission on Child Support Enforcement report, 1986
Identifier: 1636-717

Legislative Commission on Libraries records

 Series — Box Legislative Commission on Libraries minutes of meetings and agendas, 1962-1964
Identifier: C#00657-2012-43-1636-1548

Legislative Commission Studying Guardianship Elder Abuse Subcommittee report

 Item — Folder 35. "Abuse hurts at any age": Report of the Elder Abuse Subcommittee, 1992
Identifier: 1636-218
Abstract

"Abuse hurts at any age": Report of the Elder Abuse Subcommittee of the Rhode Island Legislative Commission Studying Guardianship, 1991-1992.

Dates: 1991-1992

Legislative Commission to Study Criminal Procedures final report

 Item — Folder 34. Legislative Commission to Study Criminal Procedures final report, 1977
Identifier: 1636-664

Legislative Commission to Study State Participation in Acquisition of Scientific and Mathematic Tests and Materials for Non Public Schools report

 Item — Folder 16. Legislative Commission to Study State Participation in Acquisition of Scientific and Mathematic Tests and Materials for Non Public Schools report, c. 1962-1963
Identifier: 1636-1135

Legislative Committee reports

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00261
Abstract

Original reports submitted by committees formed as either temporary or permanent bodies for specific purposes or mandated by statute. Including but not limited to those relating to banks, boundary issues, elections, fisheries, the affairs of the Narragansett Indians, warden & physician of the RI State prison, Revolutionary War confiscated estates, schools, the Truro Synagogue fund, General Treasurer or other expenditure related accounts & activities; chronological arrangement.

Dates: 1728-2015

Legislative Council: Research Report No. 4: Taxing of Movable Tangible Property, 1961

 Item — Folder 1 Legislative Council: Research Report No. 4: Taxing of Movable Tangible Property 1961
Identifier: 1636-705

Legislative Council Research Report No. 5: Arrest Laws, 1962

 Item — Folder 2 Legislative Council Research Report No. 5: Arrest Laws 1962
Identifier: 1636-706

Legislative Council Research Report No. 6: Marketing of Municipal Bonds, 1962

 Item — Folder 3 Legislative Council Research Report No. 6: Marketing of Municipal Bonds 1962
Identifier: 1636-707

Legislative Council Research Report No. 7: Testing Newborns for Mental Retardation, 1963

 Item — Folder 4 Legislative Council Research Report No. 7: Testing Newborns for Mental Retardation 1963
Identifier: 1636-708

Legislative Council Research Report No. 8: Election Officials, 1963

 Item — Folder 5 Legislative Council Research Report No. 8: Election Officials 1963
Identifier: 1636-709

Legislative Council Research Report No 10: Volunteer Fire Departments, 1964

 Item — Folder 8 Legislative Council Research Report No 10: Volunteer Fire Departments 1964
Identifier: 1636-712

Legislative Council Research Report No. 11: Terms of Office of Elected Officials, 1964

 Item — Folder 7 Legislative Council Research Report No. 11: Terms of Office of Elected Officials 1964
Identifier: 1636-711

Legislative Council Research Report No. 12: Mental Responsibility for Criminal Behavior, 1965

 Item — Folder 11 Legislative Council Research Report No. 12: Mental Responsibility for Criminal Behavior 1965
Identifier: 1636-715

Legislative Council Research Report No. 13: Veterans Home Bed Capacity, 1965

 Item — Folder 10 Legislative Council Research Report No. 13: Veterans Home Bed Capacity 1965
Identifier: 1636-714

Legislative Council Research Report No. 15: Obscenity and Censorship, 1966

 Item — Folder 13 Legislative Council Research Report No. 15: Obscenity and Censorship 1966
Identifier: 1636-756

Legislative Council Research Report No.14: Fiscal Notes, 1965

 Item — Folder 9 Legislative Council Research Report No.14: Fiscal Notes 1964
Identifier: 1636-713

Legislative Council Summary of the Proceedings at the Regular January Sessions, 2011-2012

 Item — Folder 1 folder
Identifier: 2013-27
Scope and Contents From the Sub-Series: Records received or reviewed during legislative sessions as submitted by members of the general assembly, federal, state or local officials, agencies & departments, civil, business or religious groups, private citizens or foreign governments. Includes proposed acts & resolutions, petition requests, memorials, annual reports of boards and commissions, official correspondence and communications received, committee appointments, transcripts of testimony, accounts & expenditures,...
Dates: 2011-2012

License commissioners of the city of Central Falls annual reports

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1636-132-1636-133-1636-134-1636-135

Local Acts, 2008

 Digital Work
Identifier: c2f613c3-1459-4bb6-b5f8-d26e738c50e4
Dates: 2008

Local Acts, 2009

 Digital Work
Identifier: e523a3a1-eb77-4d87-9b6c-a7e758f73062
Dates: 2009

Local Acts, 2010

 Digital Work
Identifier: 9cb8ec46-027e-47a8-a8a5-9a81644ba483
Dates: 2010

Local Acts, 2011

 Digital Work
Identifier: a9922ac4-5910-4b6c-bcd4-8df4c1cd60ed
Dates: 2011

Local Acts, 2012

 Digital Work
Identifier: 4998cda4-b394-4695-92ce-0add6a2eff0f
Dates: 2012

Local Acts, 2013

 Digital Work
Identifier: 2181a26b-5545-4488-9ad8-012c84574db1
Dates: 2013

Local Acts, 2014

 Digital Work
Identifier: 15b9e88c-62b9-42a7-be52-8e3a6f1a4a2f
Dates: 2014

Local Acts, 2015

 Digital Work
Identifier: c2002ba8-6f66-4a49-99fe-081bf5056fc8
Dates: 2015