Walkers Report: Legislator Responses
In the spirit of fairness to lawmakers who believe that extenuating personal or professional circumstances caused them to miss the “cattle-call” of votes at the end of the legislative session, we ask lawmakers to send an on the record email to firstname.lastname@example.org that responds to the following two issues:
- A brief description of your extenuating circumstance
- A brief declaration of whether you will support or sponsor rules or legislative reform in 2017 that limits the number of floor-votes that can be taken in any single session and that restricts how late into the evening any floor vote may be taken
The following responses from legislators were received by the Center in response to our Walkers in the General Assembly report released jointly with WatchdogRI.org. The Center and WatchdogRI leave it up to voters to decide if these responses are acceptable reasons for lawmakers to miss General Assembly votes. They are posted in the order in which they have been received. They are as follows-
Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D) District 26 Cranston:
- In response to your request for a response regarding the “missed vote” article, I would first state that I have never missed a legislative and committee sessions over the last 4 years as a senator. I left the last night’s session on Friday night at 7PM to catch a train to be with my daughters in New York for the weekend. After midnight on that night (Saturday morning) apparently 138 votes (the number reported that I missed) were taken, a majority of which were House “duplicates” of previously passed Senate bills.
- I would certainly support reasonable reforms on late night voting.
Representative Jared R. Nunes (D) District 25 Coventry:
- I have been listed in the top ten legislators missing votes in 2016. Primarily because on the last night of session, my wife called at about 9pm saying she was going into labor with our second child. Obviously, I left the Statehouse with what would become 8 hours of voting left. My daughter was born two hours after I left session that night. I have no regrets about leaving. I take seriously my position as state representative for district 25 and I would expect any reasonable person to make the same decision I made that night. I think that residents of district 25 appreciate having a representative who knows that family is most important and reacts to situations as they themselves would.
- I don’t believe that this would require legislation. The issue could be easily rectified by tweaking the house rules that are adopted at the beginning of each session. I would support a rule that limits the number of bills that can be considered on any calendar day as well as a rule that restricts voting to hours before 9p.m. Of course these would be incomplete without another rule requiring unanimous consent before suspending the rules or an outright prohibition on rule suspension. I would propose/support any measures to affect these changes.
Representative Patricia Morgan (R) District 26 West Warwick:
- On the last day of the session, I left the House floor at 2:30 AM. Although more bills were voted on that evening, I simply was too tired. I realized that neither my colleagues or I were asking the critical questions necessary to understand the effect of the bills on my constituents.
Earlier in the session I missed a few days to care for my 91 year old mother, who has experienced some health problems. As a result I wasn’t able to vote on some bills.
- I believe the late night marathon could be avoided by simply not waiving the rules at the end of the session.