RI General Assembly Open Government Rankings

See which Representatives have voted to ensure state government transparency, fair elections, and proper ethics.

Summary of Our Findings

As was the case in prior years, 

Beyond the 16 bills (66%) that the Speaker blocked from a floor vote,  the remaining 8 bills had overwhelming majority support, whether for or against the Common Cause position. This reflects the unfortunate "group think" that dominates both chambers of the General Assembly. Our conversations with current and former legislators, and a review of hundreds of votes made clear that often legislators do not review the bills they vote on, and their vote serves as nothing more than an extension of the chamber's leadership. A review of random bills from 2019 that were summarily dismissed "unanimously" by committees provides convincing evidence of this practice: from auditing of election results and expanding early voting to increasing the openness and accessibility of government meetings - no legislative body with an 88% Democratic super-majority would ever vote these bills down unanimously. In fact, these bills are often the hallmark of even more moderate Democrats, let alone progressives. When so many genuinely good pro-democracy and ethics bills are killed off by a "unanimous" committee vote, it is fair to question if lawmakers have an understanding of what they are voting on. Based on our detailed analysis of the votes for these bills, the RI House of Representatives with its 66-9 Democratic advantage appears to have ceded much of its power to one of its most conservative members.

2021 By the Numbers

House

26

Open Government Bills Introduced* 

6

Received a Floor Vote

3

Final Vote in Support of CC/ACLU Position

Senate

13

Open Government Bills Introduced*

4

Received a Floor Vote

1

Final Vote in Support of CC/ACLU Position

More On Committee Votes

Our rankings are the first "scorecard" to include committee votes. Committee votes play a huge part in Democracy, because a bill voted down in committee usually never sees the light of day for a floor vote. Many good bills die in committee, both on the local and national level and much more attention should be paid to this step in the lawmaking process. In committee, a small group of legislators votes on behalf of the entire House and determines whether a bill is worthy of a full floor vote. With respect to these rankings, committees defeated 14 of 18 bills that were supported by Common Cause using the "Held for Further Study" gimmick. In the House, the gimmick works like this: Rather than going on the record as opposing a good bill or supporting an unpopular bill, voting to hold a bill for further study allows the committee to kill a bill by voting to shelve it. While some bills held are actually "studied" and re-introduced for a second vote later on in the session, the vast majority of bills come to an end using this maneuver. Generally, General Assembly committee votes suffer from "group think" or voting on direction from leadership because lawmakers are not familiar enough with the bills they are tasked with voting on. As a result, members vote as leadership instructs them or side with the voice majority. Our rankings treat a vote for further study as a "no" vote if the bill never comes up again in that year's session. As a result, voters have a much clearer picture of how damaging committees can be to progress.

Best Open Government and Ethics Voting Record

1.

Joseph Almeida

District 12 (Elected 2012)

100

Exceeded highest possible score

Supported Common Cause position in all but one vote (committee)

Because Common Cause assigned higher values to certain bills in 2018 and Representative Almeida supported their position in nearly all of them, he exceeded the highest possible score of 100. While it is possible that Mr. Almeida opposed Common Cause-backed legislation in committee votes during 2019, the House Speaker blocked committee vote tallies for all bills that were voted down. So while we cannot say for sure if Rep. Almeida's performance would have held up if the committee votes were not hidden from the public, we are confident that his support for good government and ethics bills would not waver significantly from the results shown here.

2.

Moira Walsh

District 3 (Elected 2016)

100

Perfect score

Often supported Common Cause position against overwhelming opposition

Although Ms. Walsh did not support the Common Cause position on every vote, she did so enough times - especially on high value bills - to achieve the highest score possible. Rep. Walsh did not have the benefit of being on any of the committees that voted on these bills, but made her voice heard on the floor, supporting Common Cause in 75% of the bills she was able to vote on - the highest percentage of any House legislator except Mr. Almeida.

2.

Gregory Costantino

District 44 (Elected 2012)

100

Perfect score

Supported all high-value bills

The number of bills that Rep. Costantino supported that aligned with the Common Cause position were actually fewer than Rep. Walsh, however he supported every high-value bill that Common Cause assigned double value to, enabling him to tie for 2nd in this segment. There was some disappointment in his support for H8341 and opposition to the floor amendment on H7912, but his support for H7912 ironically, moved him ahead of the pack into a 2nd-place tie.

Swipe left to see ratings

Open Government and Ethics Voting Score

Excellent OK Poor

#RepresentativeDistrictScore
1Serpa, P2783
2Ajello, E180
3Felix, L6173
3Tanzi, T3473
5Hull, R670
5McGaw, M7170
7Alzate, K6067
7Biah, N367
7Costantino, G4467
7Hawkins, B5367
7Ranglin-Vassell, M567
12Messier, M6264
13Baginski, J1760
14Azzinaro, S3757
14Bennett, D2057
14Giraldo, J5657
14Speakman, J6857
18Knight, J6755
18Nardone, G2855
18Newberry, B4855
18Shalcross Smith, M4655
18Shanley, E2455
23Abney, M7350
23Ackerman, M4550
23Batista, J1250
23Blazejewski, C250
23Caldwell, J3050
23Carson, L7550
23Casimiro, J3150
23Cassar, L6650
23Cortvriend, T7250
23Diaz, G1150
23Donovan, S6950
23Fellela, D4350
23Henries, B6450
23Kazarian, K6350
23Kennedy, B3850
23Kislak, R450
23Lombardi, J850
23McEntee, C3350
23McNamara, J1950
23Morales, D750
23Noret, T2550
23Roberts, S2950
23Ruggiero, D7450
23Slater, S1050
23Solomon, Jr., J2250
23Tobon, C5850
49Fogarty, K3543
49McLaughlin, J5743
49Potter, B1643
52Fenton-Fung, B1540
53Corvese, A5538
54Amore, G6533
54Barros, J5933
54Cardillo, E4233
54Chippendale, M4033
54Craven, R3233
54Edwards, J7033
54Filippi, B3633
54Lima, C1433
54Lima, S4933
54Marszalkowski, A5233
54O'Brien, W5433
54Perez, R1333
54Phillips, R5133
54Place, D4733
54Quattrocchi, R4133
54Vella-Wilkinson, C2133
54Williams, A933
71Casey, S5029
72Handy, A1817
72Morgan, P2617
72Price, J3917
75Shekarchi, J2315

How We Rank

Score is the cumulative total of the Representative's floor and committee votes that support the Common Cause position divided by the total number of votes the Representative could have participated in (committee votes were only counted if the Representative was present for the vote). We then multiplied the score by 100 to create a scale from 1-100. Scores exceeding 100 were scaled down to 100.

Common Cause categorizes the bills they support/oppose, however for 2018-2019 there were too few votes in any category to reliably apply these categories to our rankings. A minimum of 3 votes were required for a Representative to be given a total score, otherwise the Representative was given a score of N/A.

Representatives with scores above 85 are considered "Excellent" open government and ethics advocates, scores between 60 - 84 are "OK", and scores below 60 are considered "Poor". The maximum possible score is 100. The lowest possible score is 0.

Bills Scored

(All House bills/amendments. Underlined bills were counted as 2 points on the floor vote, per Common Cause. A = Sub A, FA = Floor Amendment)

(2018): 7522, 8042, 7912, 7912FA, 8341, and 8319A(2019): 5029, 5206, 5275, 5292, 5307, 5409, 5479, 5502, 5513, 5698, 5702, 5712, 5725, 5726, 5727, 5764, 5939, and 5986.