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Rhode Island. General Assembly (1643-)



  • 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:

Local Acts, 2016

 Digital Work
Identifier: f4efde0e-000c-4aaa-9cfd-8ef54afbe694
Dates: 2016

Local Acts, 2017

 Digital Work
Identifier: d80ab63e-5356-4d29-802f-7abe193dbfb6
Dates: 2017

Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission records

 Series — Folder 32 Preliminary Report of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission to the General Assembly, at its January Session 1904
Identifier: 1636-812
Dates: 1904

Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission: Keep the Legacy Alive King Week second report

 Item — Folder 11. Rhode Island Martin Luther King, Jr. State Holiday Commission: Keep the Legacy Alive King Week second report, 1987
Identifier: 1636-754
Dates: 1987

Meeting files, 1997-1999

Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02

Consists of meeting files of the Joint Committee on Accounts and Claims that include copies of meeting notices, copies of individual resolutions and omnibus bills.

Dates: 1997-1999

Memorial of Professor Ridgway, Geologist and Mining engineer, in Relations to the Coal Field of Rhode Island

 Item — Folder 48 Memorial of Professor Ridgway, Geologist and Mining engineer, in Relations to the Coal Field of Rhode Island 1868
Identifier: 1636-828
Scope and Contents

Memorial of Professor Ridgway, Geologist and Mining Engineer, in Relations to the Coal Field of Rhode Island, Presented to the General Assembly at its January Session A.D. 1868 and Printed. Reprinted by Order of the General Assembly at its January Session, 1870

Dates: 1870

Men in Rhode Island Able to Bear Arms census

 Series — Box Men in RI Able to Bear Arms census, 1777
Identifier: C#00196

Includes: name of town, name of man, age range, whether able to bear arms or not, whether a Quaker, Indian, or Black - and thus exempt. This material has been microfilmed.

Dates: 1777

Mobile Home Commission records

 Series — Box Mobile Home Commission records, 1983-1984
Identifier: C#00464

Various records relating to the work of the General Assembly's Special Legislative Commission to study RI law relating to mobile homes and to propose legislation pertaining thereto. Includes minutes of public and private meetin9s of the commission, correspondence to and from the, commission, petitions to the commission. The bulk of the material consists of articles, policies, and laws of other states concerning mobile homes to be used as reference material by the commission.

Dates: July 1, 1983-February 29, 1984

New Berne Monument Commission report

Identifier: 1636-615
Dates: 1908-1910

New Court House Commission report

 Item — Folder 18. New Court House Commission report, 1924
Identifier: 1636-722
Dates: 1924

New York World's Fair Commission of Rhode Island records

 Series — Box New York World's Fair clippings, c. 1939
Identifier: 1636-1573

Brochures / promotional material / newspaper accounts / RI exhibit plans, drawings

Dates: 1939

Newport Riots claims for damages

 Series — Volume Newport Riots claims for damages, 1761-1773
Identifier: C#00493

Claims brought before the General Assembly for damage to the property of Martin Howard, Augustus Johnston, and Dr. Thomas Moffatt during a riot in Newport in August of 1765. Included are estimates of the damage done, testimony by varius parties as to the extent of the damage, and the decision of the General Assembly as to monetary damages.

Dates: 1761-1773

Nursing, Convalescent and Rest Homes, 1964

 Item — Folder 17 Nursing, Convalescent and Rest Homes, 1964 (1636-1254)
Identifier: 1636-1254

Office of Law Revision annual report, 2013

 Item — Folder Office of Law Revision annual report, 2013
Identifier: 2013-28

Omnibus Bills, 1995-1997

Identifier: 1999-05; 2001-09; 2007-02

Includes joint resolutions/omnibus legislation that consolidates all claims into one piece of legislation. Also includes copies of resolutions submitted by legislators on behalf of claimants/constituents (copies are sometimes in claimant files).

Dates: 1995-1997

Oversight Commission sunset review

 Series — Folder 29. Oversight Commission sunset review, 1979-1980
Identifier: 1636-550
Dates: 1979-1980

Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2013-05c

This series comprises the records of the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care.

Dates: 1998-2012

Permanent Oversight Commission For the Department of Children, Youth and Families annual report

 Item — Folder 21. Permanent Oversight Commission For the Department of Children, Youth and Families annual report, 1993
Identifier: 1636-1587
Dates: 1993

Petitions Failed/Withdrawn, 1811-1900

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00869; C#01179

Petitions submitted to the General Assembly that were not granted or were withdrawn.

Dates: 1811-1900

Petitions Received, 1725-1890

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00165, C#00063; C#00628

Petitions submitted to the General Assembly for approval

Dates: 1725-1890

Petitions to the General Assembly

Identifier: C#01179-C#00165-C#00063

Petitions submitted by individual citizens, groups, municipalities, political, corporate & religious organizations & entities. Wide array of topics including suffrage rights, slavery, affairs of Narragansett Indians, redress from actions of debt, insolvency & imprisonment, property encroachments & disbursement, establishment of lotteries, public schools, railroads, etc.

Dates: 1725-1974

Preliminary Report of the Special Committee of the Senate to Investigate Forthwith the Present Regulations for the Sale of Carcasses of Animals for Human Consumption and the Inspection and Regulation of the Slaughtering of Said Animals, 1943

 Item — Folder 45 Preliminary Report of the Special Committee of the Senate to Investigate Forthwith the Present Regulations for the Sale of Carcasses of Animals for Human Consumption and the Inspection and Regulation of the Slaughtering of Said Animals. 1943

Private Acts (Local Acts or Charters), 1790-2022

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00056; C#00203

Original enabling acts, amendments to charters or legislation pertaining to specific corporate, religious, political, educational or other organizations & entities including but not limited to businesses, churches, colleges, fire districts, hospitals, militia organizations, railroads or individuals.

Dates: 1790-2022

Proceedings of the General Assembly

Identifier: C#00260-C#01012
Dates: 1649-1991

Proceedings of the General Assembly, 1649-1723

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00260
Scope and Contents

Second manuscript record detailing meetings of the colonial legislature as either not found among series Rhode Island Colony Records or exist as originals duplicated within same. Includes wax seals

Dates: 1649-1723

Providence Armory Commission reports

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2001-99-1636-620-1636-767
Dates: 1907-1908

Public Laws, 2008

 Digital Work
Identifier: 96f31ad0-20fa-4fa4-9432-742ef68f3734
Dates: 2008

Public Laws, 2009

 Digital Work
Identifier: 0d523e50-1db7-4db3-b26f-fbb9ea3d613b
Dates: 2009