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Friday, June 14, 2019

Morgan meltdown over “Murder”

Charlestown’s two state senators – Elaine Morgan and Dennis Algiere – try to torpedo a woman’s right to choose
By Will Collette

We've all come to expect unglued statements from Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton), whose district includes the northern end of Charlestown.

But it was shocking to see her recruit Senate Republican Minority Leader Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly) whose district includes all of Charlestown south of Route One for one of her right-wing stunts.

Together, Algiere and Morgan tried to kill the carefully crafted compromise bill to preserve the protections for women under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Women’s right to choose has been law since 1973 but is under heavy assault from Trump, Congressional Republicans and red states in the South and Midwest.

Image result for dennis algiere and Elaine Morgan
State legislation such as the Reproductive Privacy Act (H 5125 Sub B) have been adopted in many states who value women’s rights to codify the rights of women, in case Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees has swung the balance on the Court toward repealing Roe v. Wade.

Algiere and Morgan showed up for the expected Senate Judiciary Committee vote to approve the compromise bill as two probable – and decisive - NO ex-officio votes, killing the compromise in committee.

The Committee chair, Senator Erin Lynch Prata (D-Warwick), to invoke the Senate’s rules to move the bill to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. In that Committee, Algiere and Morgan would not be able to kill the bill.

This whipped up Morgan’s always volatile personality into a full frothing fury. CLICK HERE to see and hear Morgan’s meltdown and screaming “Murder!” (or was it “Redrum?”).

Et Tu, Dennis?

While Morgan is so far to the right that she gives right-wing nuts a bad name, Dennis Algiere’s reputation is that of an old-school moderate Republican, the kind that is extinct at the national level.

As constituents of Algiere’s, Cathy and I were shocked to see him apparently backing Morgan’s play, though you will note he is not see nor heard in the video shot by Steve Ahlquist. Nonetheless, his presence was baffling.

At 1:30 PM, June 13, I sent Senator Algiere this e-mail:
I am working on an article for Progressive Charlestown and would like some comments from the Senator on his involvement in the June 11 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee which was to discuss Reproductive Privacy Act (H 5125 Sub B).
Broadly, I would like the Senator’s views on this legislation and on a woman’s right to choose.

More specifically, was it the Senator’s intent to use his ex-officio standing in the committee to vote against this legislation? Did he initiate this ex-officio visit to the Committee that day, or was it Senator Morgan’s idea?
Does he endorse or condone Sen. Morgan’s conduct during the committee meeting? Does he support her subsequent statements?
As of this writing, he has not responded, leaving me to wonder if Charlestown moderates and progressives now need to get rid of all three members of our General Assembly delegation.

For your edification, here is the protest letter Morgan and one of her colleagues signed to complain about how their ploy was defeated. NOTE: several people who know Morgan and her style assert that it is impossible that she wrote this letter; it was probably penned by a lawyer from one of the anti-choice groups.

June 12, 2019
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio
State House
Providence, RI 02903

Senator Frank Lombardi
Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee
State House
Providence, RI 02903

Dear Senators Ruggerio and Lombardi:

Pursuant to public notice, the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for consideration H 5125 Sub B on June 11, 2019. Under Senate Rule 5.2, the Senate President, the Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Majority and Minority Whips are ex-officio members with voting rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ex-officio members of both parties have voted in committee in the past. 

On June 11, 2019, the Senate Minority Leader and Senate Minority Whip were present at the Senate Judiciary Committee. They, along with other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were prepared to debate and vote on H 5125 Sub B. Instead, Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata refused to allow a debate or vote on the H 5125 Sub B. Chairwoman Lynch Prata declared she was transferring the bill to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. 

Minority Whip Elaine Morgan objected to the statement by Chairwoman Lynch Prata. Senator Morgan was ready to make a motion to defeat H 5125 Sub B and debate the motion. Senator  Jessica de la Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was ready to second her motion to defeat the bill. Chairwoman Lynch Prata overruled Senator Morgan’s objection and declared there is “no appropriate objection” because she had “absolute authority” and this was “her committee.” 

However, Lynch Prata’s authority is not absolute. It is circumscribed by the fact that the transfer can only occur on the Senate floor, not within a committee. Bills can only be transferred from one committee to another committee pursuant to Senate Rule 6.14. This rule only permits Chairwoman Lynch Prata to transfers bills “during the reports of committees.”  Senate Rule 3.3 makes it clear that the “reports of committees” only occurs on the Senate floor. It does not occur while the bill is scheduled for consideration in the committee.

Furthermore, the Senate Judiciary Committee is not her committee. It is a committee of consisting of nine regular members and five ex-officio members. If a majority of those members present wanted to vote on a motion to defeat the bill, which was scheduled for consideration, they had a right to do so. Chairwoman Lynch Prata’s actions in the committee were inconsistent with Senate Rule 6.14. She violated the Senate Rules. 

Senator Morgan was present at the Senate Judiciary Committee.  There is no requirement under the Senate Rules that a voting member who is present in the room be seated at a table to vote or make a motion. Senator Morgan made an objection to Lynch Prata’s declaration she was transferring the bill. Chairwoman’s Lynch Prata refused to hear it. From Lynch Prata behavior and words it was clear that she would not recognize Senator Morgan for any motion. Lynch Prata was determined to steamroll the majority of those present at the Senate Judiciary Committee, and deny them the opportunity to vote on a bill that was scheduled for consideration. 

Legislation can be declared void if it is passed in manner inconsistent with the State Constitution or legislative rules. See Moore v. Langton, 92 R.I. 141 (1961). In Moore, a state tax on intangible personal property as declared invalid because the bill passed when a quorum was not present in the House of Representatives. Id., at 147. If this abortion bill is passed because of Chairwoman Lynch Prata’s egregious behavior, which violated the Senate Rules, it might “so affect legislation, so enacted, as to taint it … whenever it might be questioned in a litigated case affecting private rights or the rights of the public,” See To Certain Members of the House of Representatives in the General Assembly, 191. A. 269, 272 (1937). 

To avoid this, we request that H 5125 Sub B be returned to Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote so that all nine regular members and five ex-officio members of the committee can vote on the bill to determine if it should proceed to the Senate floor. The three ex-officio members of the Democratic Senate leadership would have the opportunity to vote in favor of the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Whatever outcome, it would at least be consistent with the Senate Rules and would not taint the legislation.

We are making this request to Senate president Dominick Ruggerio and to the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee, which has authority to “consider all matters relating to the rules of the senate” under Senate Rule 5.1-10. 

Senator Elaine Morgan
Senate Minority Whip

Signed letter attached: Senate Rule Violation Letter

Senator Elaine J. Morgan: (401) 744-0505
Senator Jessica de la Cruz: (401) 484-0155

Senate Spokesperson Greg Paré writes:

Perhaps Senator Morgan should learn all the rules before trying to bend them to her purposes. Sen. Lynch Prata has the unilateral authority under Senate Rule 6.14 to transfer any piece of legislation to another committee for any reason.

In the same way Sen. Morgan attempted to utilize the rules that grant her ex-officio voting privileges to derail a piece of legislation, Sen. Lynch Prata used her authority under the rules to salvage the bill, which is the product of months of work and negotiation. 

The transfer of legislation from one committee to another is routine. This session and last, 19 bills were transferred from one committee to another. What is unusual is for Sen. Morgan to vote in her ex-officio capacity. This year and last, Sen. Morgan has voted in her ex-officio capacity only once, and that was in an instance when the Republican member of the committee was absent.

With regard to the bogus allegations by the Republican Party: Sen. Morgan did not ask to be recognized in committee. She never made a motion. She never even took her seat. She objected to the transfer of the legislation, but that is not an objectionable action in committee. A transfer is an action of the chairwoman, not a motion. It is not subject to debate in committee, and typically not even discussed.

The transfer takes place via a committee report that is read on the Senate floor. When Sen. Morgan attempted to object in committee yesterday, she was advised by Chairwoman Lynch Prata that the appropriate place to object would be on the floor. However, when the committee report was made on the floor yesterday, in accordance with the Senate Rules, Sen. Morgan did not object.

The legislation is now properly before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which will vote on the measure on Thursday. Should the bill pass committee on Thursday - 
NOTE: It passed the committee vote - it will come to the floor next week and all senators will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on behalf of their constituents. It is disingenuous of Sen. Morgan to suggest that democracy would be better served by the defeat of the bill in committee without a vote by the full Senate.

Finally, here is how the Senate President dealt with Morgan's beef: