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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:

Public Laws, 2010

 Digital Work
Identifier: f68aac02-0e16-4e19-9587-f2a94de7594a
Dates: 2010

Public Laws, 2011

 Digital Work
Identifier: fb36630a-ec1e-464f-be14-fb42886adb61
Dates: 2011

Public Laws, 2012

 Digital Work
Identifier: d95a1154-57d2-484d-b505-097bea32ee72
Dates: 2012

Public Laws, 2013

 Digital Work
Identifier: 9a57fc14-5bf1-4443-9c88-c254167d0f17
Dates: 2013

Public Laws, 2015

 Digital Work
Identifier: 1c0177aa-b8a6-4067-98fa-1f9c1c601d7d
Dates: 2015

Public Laws, 2016

 Digital Work
Identifier: 7588c2d6-6549-4d0d-a722-c68a809c81d8
Dates: 2016

Public Laws, 2017

 Digital Work
Identifier: 11e85496-f7c6-4f88-a8f4-a6ba0d3cb5f0
Dates: 2017

Public Laws, Acts and Resolves indices

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2013-43
Scope and Contents

Series consists of indices of the public laws, resolutions and local acts passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly. Includes indices from 1902-1972 on microfilm and 1997 (arranged by subject and sponsor) which include all legislation proposed.

Dates: 1902-2013

Public Laws, Acts & Resolves, General Statutes

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00612-C#00579-C#00599-C#00611
Scope and Contents Public law & general statute codifications (1719 - 1956) & contemporary publications of General Assembly session proceedings (1764+) detailing enactments of the legislature as found in manuscript series Rhode Island Colony Records; Acts & Resolutions & Private Acts / Charters. Latter initially bound as “schedules." with subsequent volumes containing reports submitted by various boards, commissions & government agencies as mandated. Commencing in the late 19th century...
Dates: 1647-2015

Public Laws Before Revision

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1998-08

Rate Estimate Committee meeting minutes

 Series — Volume Rate Estimate Committee meeting minutes, 1822-1829
Identifier: C#00553
Abstract

Function: To record the actions of the committee appointed by the General Assembly to take an estimate of all the rateable property in RI. Includes: Copies of the enabling legislation for the committee. Minutes include the date and place of meetings, names of members present, issues discussed and action taken by the committee. Includes estimates of the total value of rateable property in each town.

Dates: June 1, 1822-January 26, 1829

Real Estate Committee meeting minutes

 Series
Identifier: C#00552
Abstract

Function: To record the actions of the committee appointed to take on estimateof all the rateable property in RI. Includes: Enabling legislation for the committee. Minutes include: date and place of meeting, names of members present, action taken by the committee. Includes text of instruction to appraisers, names of appraisers in each county, amount of money to be paid each appraiser.

Dates: May 1, 1855-January 16, 1856

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island volume

 Item — Volume Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, Vol V, 1741-1756
Identifier: C#00276
Abstract

The Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, Vol V includes the date of session, actions taken by the General Assembly, reports to the British Board of Trade, and other documents relative to the RI colonial government. This is published material.

Dates: 1741-1756

Records of the Island of Rhode Island volume, March 7, 1638-March 12, 1644

 Item
Identifier: C#00206
Abstract

Proceedings of the General Assembly for the years 1638-1644. Subjects vary widely.

Dates: March 7, 1638-March 12, 1644

Registered State Debt with Certificates report

 Item — Volume Registered State Debt with Certificates report, 1849
Identifier: C#00618
Abstract

Report of committee appointed by General Assembly to investigate the origin and worth of certificates and notes of state debt issued approximately 50 years earlier. Includes report of committee findings, samples of certificates, copies of legislation and other documents related to the state debt.

Dates: 1849

Report No. 1: Study Commission on Medical Care for the Aged, 1964

 Item — Folder 25. Report No. 1: Study Commission on Medical Care for the Aged, 1964
Identifier: 1636-283

Report of examination and supplementary data: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, June 30, 1961

 Item — Folder 3-4 Report on Examination of Accounts For Fiscal Year Ended 1941-1947
Identifier: 1636-143

Report of Findings and Recommendations concerning Civil Defense and Disaster Legislation, January 15, 1973

 Item — Folder 2. Report of Findings and Recommendations concerning Civil Defense and Disaster Legislation, 1973
Identifier: 1636-845

Report of the Board of Control and Supply of Rhode Island

 Series — Folder 20 Annual Reports of the Board of Control and Supply 1914-1916
Identifier: 1636-479

Report of the Board of State Valuation made to the General Assembly, at its January Session A.D.

 Item — Folder 38 Report of the Board of State Valuation made to the General Assembly, at its January Session A.D. 1847
Identifier: 1636-818

Report of the Commission to Draft and Report An Act Providing for a House of Representatives, 1910

 Item — Folder 27 Report of Commission to Draft and Report an Act Providing for a House of Representatives 1910
Identifier: 1636-657

Report of the Commission to Select and Purchase a Site and Erect Thereon a Building for the State Normal School, May Session, 1899

 Item — Folder 2. Report of the Commission..to...erect...a Building for the State Normal School, 1899
Identifier: 1636-577

Report of the Commissioner on the Boundary Line between the State of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, made to the General Assembly, at its May session, 1867

 Item — Folder 10. Report of the Commissioner on the Boundary Line between the State of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, made to the General Assembly, at its May session, 1867
Identifier: 1636-171
Scope and Contents From the Series:

This series includes records relating to boundary issues between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the work of various boundary commissions formed to address the issue.

Dates: 1867

Report of the Committee on the Abolishment of Capital Punishments, 1838

 Item — Folder 13b. Report of the Committee on the Abolishment of Capital Punishment, 1838

Report of the Committee on the Subject of an Extension of Suffrage, 1829

 Item — Folder 29. Report of the Committee on the Subject of an Extension of Suffrage, 1829