Giannini: What’s in? What’s out?
What’s in... What’s out...
By Joanne Giannini
On Tuesday night the Senate Judiciary Committee voted down 5th Senate version of the RIHCA. The vote was 5-4 in committee. This bill has been one of the most debated bills in recent years. While proponents of the bill claim their intention is to simply codify Roe Vs. Wade into law, the opponents of the bill state the bill goes further than that. This is not the end. The House version of the bill was held for further study which means it is not over.
The bill can be amended and brought up again in Senate Judiciary or could have been transferred to another committee. On Thursday afternoon the Senate leadership sent out a press release saying that the RIHCA would not be transferred to the Health and Human services committee. This decision was a good one. After all the work, the Senate Chairwoman and Committee did work on this bill, hearing hours of testimony, reading hundreds of emails and getting calls; it would have been a disservice to the Senate Judiciary Committee to transfer to another committee such as Health and Human Services. It’s almost like admitting you could not win the consensus of your own committee.
This transfer would have diminished the committee process of the Senate Judiciary, suggesting that they did not consider the bill properly, or were not competent enough to make a decision. Having been a Chair on a Committee, I know that this can be a tough decision. But no Chair wants to give up the right to follow a bill through the entire process, especially one of this controversy.
The act of transferring the bill to another committee could set a precedent where if a Chairperson or legislator does not like the outcome of a vote, they can request to go through the process again under a new committee. This procedure could diminish the Committee process. The Judiciary committee has competent lawyers on it. Transferring to another committee would have a message that they were not competent to hear and vote on the measure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You should not be able to transfer bills of this magnitude because you do not like the outcome of the committee process.
If indeed the House bill is to be reconsidered and amended again, it should be done in the Judiciary Committee where the process began. The work done by the Chairperson and committee should not be disregarded.
The last resort would be to have the majority of the Senate sign a discharge petition, so that the House bill comes to the Senate floor. The obstacle with this is getting a majority to sign against the leadership. That is also equivalent to saying you do not believe in the committee process and want to take it to the floor for a full vote. I have never seen this happen in my many years at the state house. It’s not something that the leaderships of both chambers like. Just think if they did that on all bills, the committee process would be null and void. Stay tuned, it isn’t over yet!
Little Rhody is out and about... a dozen autonomous electric car shuttles are out and about in Providence making 12 stops along the state House and Olneyville. These electric vehicles operate using a rechargeable battery and there can be as many as six on the road at one time. They seat six passengers including a vehicle attendant, present to manually take over the vehicle in case of an emergency. The vehicles operate 6:30am to 6:30pm, seven days a week.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation thinks it will fill the need of some who take a different route. I like this idea, but don’t know if I would feel safe taking it. Time will tell. Be safe everyone - and enjoy the ride!