The successor to House Speaker Gordon Fox is expected to be elected Tuesday when the House of Representatives meets tomorrow, for the first time since the raid that spelled the end of Fox's 21-year career in the General Assembly. As we've reported, the battle pits House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston) and Representative Michael Marcello (D-Scituate) against one another.
With Mattiello claiming broader support, he met Monday afternoon at the Statehouse with his intended majority leader, Representative John DeSimone of Providence, and other supporters to pick his potential leadership team. Mattiello spoke with reporters prior to the meeting. Here are some of the highlights:
If elected speaker, will he pick Leo Skenyon, clerk of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, as his chief of staff, to suceed Frank Anzeveno?: "Leo Skenyon is a very talented individual, and he could be considered absolutely .... There's other people on the list."
Regarding Marcello's pledge, if elected speaker, to call votes within 30 days on payday lending reform, master lever repeal and restoring Ethics Commission oversight of the legislature: "My concentration is going to be on jobs and the economy. Is anyone of those issues going to improve our economy and create more jobs? I say no. Regarding payday lending, you're probably going to close down an industry and reduce the number of jobs. I will take a look at all of those issues. Payday lending is a hot button issue, but the consumer likes the product. It's an ideological approach. I will make my decisions based on evidence and how it actually impacts people and our economy. I've asked for evidence on that issue in the past in my position as House majority leader and I've been promised a dozen times over, and I've never gotten evidence on that."
Regarding Marcello's complaint that legislation in the public interest gets bottled up in the House: "Well, Michael has indicated a lot of things. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I'm not saying we won't put them on the floor. We will consider all issues. Those are not issues that are driving our economy. We're certainly going to look and have a discussion regarding master lever. Payday loans is an irrelevant issue related to the big things that we have to face. The Ethics Commission, we'll look at that."
Who's the real reformer in the speaker fight?: "For [Marcello] to say that unless you do X, Y, and Z, you're not a reformer, that's not true. My concern is the economy. Mike Marcello's team is based around progressive Democrats. I'm more concerned on keeping taxes and spending down, and I'm not sure that's the priority of that's team. My concern is jobs and the economy, and we're going to concentrate on that .... [Marcello] is not going to define the discussion. I'm going to start with the big issues and then I'm going to deal with other issues. So I'm going to attack the more meaningful things first."
Should DeSimone step down as lawyer for the Providence Teachers Union if he becomes majority leader? "We have not had that discussion. I'd have to certainly consider it. John is a man of integrity. He's a very talented attorney. He will do a very good job as majority leader .... I don't believe that's a conflict right now, just talking with you."
What will he do to try to improve the economy? "Speaker Fox was a pretty good speaker relative to the economy. The business community liked him. I think I'm going to take a comprehensive look at taxes, the state budget, spending, business regulations. I'm going to look at everything. I'm going to ask economists, what's the best way to tackle it? Evidence-based approach. We all have our personal opinions and beliefs, but I'm going to have an evidence-based approach. I want to do it in as professional a manner as possible. I do know that more spending, more unnecessary spending doesn't help the economy and jobs."
Has he spoken with Fox, and why did he resign? "I have spoken to him yesterday .... I believe that it was just the right thing to do because of the events that occurred at the Statehouse [last week]. I think he probably believed that, but we did not discuss that." Mattiello says he was not aware prior to Saturday that Fox didn't plan to seek re-election.