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Monday, January 28, 2019

Tanzi turned off

Caught misrepresenting the truth, Speaker Mattiello turns off Representative Tanzi’s microphone
By Steve Ahlquist UpriseRI



On January 22, Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown) rose on the House floor to make a simple request of Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston). Could her communications about her absences from the House the week before be read into the record, as is traditionally done for other legislators?

Mattiello denied Tanzi’s request.

Tanzi missed the two days of House sessions because she was traveling for her in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. She noted that Representative Marvin Abney (Democrat, District 73, Newport) had his excuse read into the record, when he missed a session while attending the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As reported by The Public’s Radio‘s Ian Donnis in his never miss weekly column, “House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi then moved to approve the journal as printed, House Minority Leader Blake Filippi (R-Charlestown) seconded, and the House voted in favor, 48 to 19, with the Reform Democrats lined up in opposition.”


Tanzi told Donnis that this episode was an example of, “the overwhelming power of the speaker.”
Mattiello and House spokesperson Larry Berman said that “if representatives miss session due to activity related to the legislature, the reason is specified, but not if the absence is due to a personal or family-based reason.”

Turns out Mattiello and Berman were being less than truthful about that.

Rising on a point of personal privilege this week, Tanzi, referencing the Donnis piece, came prepared with a slew of examples of excuses for absences being read into the House record that have nothing to do with “activity related to the legislature.”

Tanzi said that Mattiello and Berman’s response to Donnis, “rang untrue to me, and I did a quick bit of research, and in fact it was untrue, and I’d like to correct the record.”

“No, I’m sorry. That’s not a point of personal privilege, Representative,” said Mattiello, interrupting Tanzi. “If the media was reporting incorrectly or offensively, that’s a point of personal privilege. If you’re suggesting that… hold on one second…”

When Tanzi responded, she found that her microphone had been turned off. You can’t quite hear what she says in the video below.

“If you’re suggesting that the policy is wrong and that you’re somehow right, then that’s an internal discussion,” said Mattiello.

Of course, that’s not what Tanzi was suggesting. She was suggesting that Mattiello and Berman intentionally misled Donnis about the rule concerning communications regarding absences in the House record.

Tanzi read some of the 15 reasons she had collected detailing the reasons her fellow legislators gave for missing session. None of the reasons had to do with legislative activities.

Mattiello interrupted again. “Okay Representative, I’m, all right, thank you. You are arguing internal policy. That’s not a point of personal privilege.”

Mattiello said that since the media reported what Tanzi said and what he said accurately, there was no point of personal privilege to be made.

“What the spokesman for the House of Representatives said, Mr Berman, was inaccurate, and it was reported in the media inaccurately as to what our policy is so I am correcting the record that I was wrongly ruled out of order last Tuesday,” said Tanzi.

Tanzi read more of the previous excuses for being absent used by other legislators. My favorite: “Rep Mendonca is unable to attend due to an unforeseen commitment.” That excuse doesn’t even make sense. How is a commitment unforeseen?

At this point, perhaps an apology from the Speaker was in order.

Instead, the Speaker doubled down. “We’re going to clarify the House’s policy so we all know what it was,” said the Speaker, looked confused. Mattiello blamed Larry Berman for not being consistent with the policy.

When Tanzi tried to interject, Mattiello said, “This is not a debate. This is a statement of our policy. Debate has ended.” Tanzi’s microphone was turned off.

Mattiello refused to let Tanzi be heard, and never acknowledged that she had been treated differently or unfairly. Tanzi spoke from the floor and Mattiello responded to some of what she said, but he declared her out of order, and kept her microphone turned off.