Mattiello begins to assert power as speaker
"It's an awesome position, but it's a position that has awesome responsibility," state Rep. Nicholas Mattiello told NBC 10 News on Wednesday, his first full day as speaker of the House.
Mattiello got to work by installing new chairmen for the finance and judiciary committees, and in a show of bipartisanship appointed a Republican as vice chair of one of the panels.
Mattiello named Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., D-Bristol, as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Reps. Agostinho Silva, D-Central Falls, and John Carnevale, D-Providence, will serve as co-vice chairmen.
Mattiello also named Rep. Cale Keable, D-Burrillville, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The vice chair will be a Republican, Rep. Doreen Costa, of North Kingstown.
There have been no Republican vice chairs under the last two speakers, and it was not immediately known if there were any under former Speaker John Harwood, said House spokesman Larry Berman.
Mattiello was comfortably elected speaker Tuesday after the abrupt resignation of Gordon Fox, whose State House office and home were raided by federal and state authorities last week. Officials have declined to say what the investigation is about or whom it is targeting.
Five of the chamber's six Republicans, including Costa, supported Mattiello for speaker over House Oversight Chairman Michael Marcello. Costa said Wednesday she learned of her appointment as Judiciary vice chair on the House floor.
"I think I've made history," she said after the session. She said she had not asked for the post in exchange for her support, and it was not offered. She said she had sought bipartisanship.
Former Finance Chairman Helio Melo, who had initially supported Marcello in the speaker's race but ultimately voted for Mattiello, will no longer serve on the committee. Mattiello said he asked to be removed and to serve on another committee. Mattiello said that request will be granted, though he did not say which panel.
Other committee chairmanships are expected to be announced this week. Mattiello said he's aware of the need for continuity to keep bills moving.
"We will name new chairpersons from the membership of the committees, so they are privy to all the work that has been done to date," Mattiello said.
But for lobbyists, it means starting over with the new crew that holds the keys to power.
"It is starting from scratch. I put an email out to my clients today, seeing if they wanted to come back in and meet whoever the new chair of finance is, and then we'll start the process all over again," said John Tassoni, a lobbyist.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and her leadership team have met with the new speaker.
"I'm confident that working together with the new leader in the House that the interests of Rhode Island will come first and that we'll be able to continue to move forward to address the pending issues, particularly where the leader said, as I have said, that our primary interest this session needs to be the economy," Paiva Weed said.
Mattiello also said Leo Skenyon, the clerk of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, is his choice for chief of staff.The Associated Press contributed to this report.