Rhode Island. General Assembly (1643-)
- Existence: 1643-
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.
The State of Rhode Island General Assembly website
General Assembly Meetings Agendas
Found in 340 Collections and/or Records:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Report of examination and supplementary data: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, June 30, 1961
Report of Findings and Recommendations concerning Civil Defense and Disaster Legislation, January 15, 1973
Report of J.N. Arnold, Commissioner to Inquire into the Present Condition of the Governor Benedict Arnold Burial Place, and the Title Thereto Made to the General Assembly at Its January Session
Report of the Clerk of the Court of Magistrates to the General Assembly at their January Session, 1850
Report of the Commission on the Relocation of Monuments in the City of Providence, Made to the General Assembly at its January Session
Report of the Commission to Arrange and Consolidate the Statues, Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, 1909
Report of the Commission to Select and Purchase a Site and Erect Thereon a Building for the State Normal School, May Session, 1899
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
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.