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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:

Report of the Joint Select Committee to Consider Drug Addiction in Rhode Island, 1926

 Item — Folder 26 Report of the Joint Select Committee to Consider Drug Addiction in RI 1926

Report of the Joint Special Committee on Erection of Monument at Andersonville, Ga., 1903

 Item — Folder 10 Report of the Joint Special Committee on the Erection of Monument at Andersonville, Ga. 1903

Report of the Joint Special Committee on Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, made to the General Assembly at its January Session, 1896, 1896

 Item — Folder 9 Report of the Joint Special Committee on Rhode Island College of Agriculture 1896
Identifier: 1636-507

Report of the Select House Committee on Airport Development, 1993

 Item — Folder 1 Report of the Select Committee on Airport Development
Identifier: 1636-1238

Report of the Special Committee on a Site for a New State House made to the General Assembly at the January Session

 Item — Folder 42 Report of the Special Committee on a Site for a New State House made to the General Assembly at the January Session 1873
Identifier: 1636-822
Dates: 1873

Report of the Special Committee on Woman Suffrage, Etc. Made to the General Assembly at its January Session A.D., 1874

 Item — Folder 55 Report of the Special Committee on Woman Suffrage, Etc. Made to the General Assembly at its January Session A.D. 1874

Report Upon Public Schools and Education in Rhode Island, 1854

 Item — Folder 25. Report Upon Public Schools and Education in Rhode Island, 1854 (1636-1116)
Identifier: 1636-1116

Reports to the General Assembly, 1825-1890

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
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: 1825-1890

Reports to the General Assembly

 Series — Box Reports to the General Assembly index, 1901-1966
Identifier: C#00643

Listing of reports to the General Assembly and miscellaneous papers that were housed in Room 333 and 314 of the State House when the State Archives were housed in those rooms.

Dates: 1901-1965

Resolutions, 2008

 Digital Work
Identifier: 9f3f1eae-3ff3-45bd-937c-ff2f2f248ce9
Dates: 2008

Resolutions, 2009

 Digital Work
Identifier: 25273956-8786-41f9-b046-fc8689d37290
Dates: 2009

Resolutions, 2010

 Digital Work
Identifier: d9e91e68-30f9-4f34-89eb-7ebee4d9b9e9
Dates: 2010

Resolutions, 2011

 Digital Work
Identifier: f8266f99-835e-4311-979e-9a431a76d6df
Dates: 2011

Resolutions, 2012

 Digital Work
Identifier: eead8d36-1d13-43cd-9c39-539d08325fb4
Dates: 2012

Resolutions, 2013

 Digital Work
Identifier: 65a8ee26-ffcb-4068-aee1-f4aa4f8082e1
Dates: 2013

Resolutions, 2014

 Digital Work
Identifier: 3d9495aa-8e3b-41b7-93b3-4dc981eb5e59
Dates: 2014

Resolutions, 2015

 Digital Work
Identifier: 4cf19bfe-dab8-4a32-a1ab-3be2ff4e923f
Dates: 2015

Resolutions, 2017

 Digital Work
Identifier: b7566dc2-93ee-4e44-aa81-454ea29764c8
Dates: 2017

Resolutions (Resolves), 1810-2022

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents From the Series:

Manuscript acts & resolutions passed by the General Assembly with session / committee stamps, signatures & annotations. More recent enactments may include attached committee roll call votes, previous drafts, substitutions made, fiscal notes, floor amendments or other supporting documentation.

Dates: 1810-2022

Revolutionary War Claims for Damages

 Series — Box Revolutionary War Claims for Damages, 1776-1781
Identifier: C#00252

Lost or damaged property claimed resulting from Bristish occupation of Rhode Island, December 7, 1776 to October 25, 1779

Dates: 1776-1781

Revolutionary War Suspected Persons records

 Series — Box Revolutionary War Suspected Persons records, 1775-1783
Identifier: C#00251

Records of persons suspected of being hostile to the united colonies or giving aid & intelligence to the enemy.

Dates: 1775-1783

Rhode Island Annual Report of the State Board of Registration in Dentistry made to the General Assembly at its January Session

 Item — Folder Annual Report of the State Board of Dentistry, 1902-1915, folder 21
Identifier: 1636-337
Dates: 1902-1915

Rhode Island-Connecticut Boundary records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00582-C#00435-C#00585

This series consists of records pertaining to the Rhode Island-Connecticut boundary dating back to the 1720s.

Dates: 1726-1943

Rhode Island Legislative Council annual reports, 1959-1965

 Sub-Series — Folder 36 RI Legislative Council Annual Reports 1959-1965
Identifier: 1636-666

Rhode Island Legislative Council reports and publications

Identifier: 01 01.47
Dates: 1959-1983

Rhode Island-Massachusetts State Boundary records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1994-464-C#00439-C#00444-C#00445
Abstract A collection of documents spanning nearly 200 years concerned with the boundary between RI and MA. These documents were brought together into bound volumes (C#00439) arranged chronologically by the date of the documents. Type of documents vary greatly. Included are: orders of the King in Council, acts of the General Assemblies of RI and MA, documents from court cases concerning the boundary, Supreme Court Decisions, measurements taken along the boundary, expense accounts of surveyors,...
Dates: 1867-1954