RI House Open Government & Ethics RankingsSee which Representatives have voted to ensure state government transparency and proper ethics.
Summary of Our Findings
The all-too-common practice of both blocking Common Cause-supported bills and then blocking the public from seeing the results of committee votes on those bills continued into this segment of our rankings. As a result, we were unable to score committee votes for nearly every good government and ethics bill introduced in 2019. Instead these committee votes were assigned to the person responsible for the vote result and the lack of transparency, the House Speaker.
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.
By the Numbers
Bills Analyzed (includes one floor amendment)
Bills Receiving a Floor Vote
Bills Voted on in Support of Common Cause 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
Joseph AlmeidaDistrict 12 (Elected 2012)
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.
Moira WalshDistrict 3 (Elected 2016)
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.
Gregory CostantinoDistrict 44 (Elected 2012)
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.
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Open Government and Ethics Voting Score
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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.
(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.