With House Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi poised to become the next Speaker of the House in Rhode Island, media reports paint a picture of a thoughtful and collaborative leadership style.
Shekarchi spoke about the passage of “common-sense gun safety legislation” on Political Roundtable. While praising gun safety reforms passed in recent years, he indicated a willingness to consider additional measures:
“I want to look at what other states have done and [are] doing, I want to hear from the Attorney General … I take the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association and State Police input very seriously on those issues.”
Regarding a ban on military-style assault weapons: “It is certainly on the table.” He intends to see how the members feel on both sides of the issue, but he is “open to it, there is no automatic yes or automatic no on any issue.”
On WPRI’s Newsmakers, Shekarchi and newly elected House Majority Leader Chris Blazejewski again signaled a willingness to consider more gun safety legislation.
When asked about limiting magazine capacity to ten rounds, both expressed faith in the Judiciary Committee and confidence in evidence-backed reforms that the House could get behind.
Shekarchi says: “I want to hear input from everyone on that … then the House will collectively make a decision.”
Senator Cynthia Coyne to Chair Judiciary Committee
RI Gun Safety Majorities
Voters in Rhode Island have voiced their support for sensible reforms by electing another round of gun safety champions in 2020. RICAGV-endorsed candidates had an amazing 95% win rate this year, with eleven endorsees beating NRA-endorsed opponents.
Our champions stand ready to support legislation that has languished for years in House and Senate committees despite the overwhelming support of RI voters; two examples of the broad public support for common-sense reforms include:
- 71.5% Support Limiting Magazine Capacity to 10 Rounds*
Breakdown by party: 85.1% Democrat, 68.6% Independent, 60.2% Republican
- 70.5% Favor Banning Assault Weapons*
Breakdown by Party: 86.3% Democrat, 71.3% Independent, 51.1% Republican
* See the 2020 RI Statewide Poll on Gun Safety and Gun Violence Prevention.
Important New Developments
The Culture and Rules of the House
For too long gun safety supporters, and many others, have been foiled by the disportionate power of the Speaker of the House to squash popular legislation. The incoming Speaker and Majority Leader have acknowledged this imbalance and their intention to break away from the unilateral model of previous leadership.
- On women in House leadership, Shekarchi says: “We have a lot of bright, talented people and half of them are women and they deserve half the leadership positions.” (Jump to 15:00 of Newsmakers video.)
- On legislative voting during COVID-19, the Speaker-elect anticipates allowing for remote voting, due to the risks and safety rules regarding COVID-19; the General Assembly has not met in months due to the pandemic. (Jump to 1:42 of Political Roundtable.)
- On making procedure more efficient, Shekarchi would like to “keep bills alive for at least two years, right now bills die after one year, there’s no need for that.” (Jump to 2:22 of Political Roundtable.) This change would “free up time for committees to work more in depth on legislation and have substantive hearings to debate Sub A proposals,” as reported by Uprise on January 2, 2019.
- On giving committee chairs more leeway and independence to call a hearing or a vote on a bill, the soon-to-be Speaker says: “Absolutely, yes … we have a great group of people in the House with a lot of talent, I’m going to rely on them. I don’t have all the answers, I know all the answers are with my colleagues in the House.” (Jump to 4:27 of Political Roundtable.)
The Year for Big Reform
Assuming the collaborative approach voiced by Shekarchi and Blazejewski is put into action, we expect several important pieces of legislation to finally make it to the floor for debate and up-or-down votes.
We Can’t Fight the Pro-Gun Lobby in Rhode Island Without You
Obscene amounts of money are spent on and by lobbyists at the State House – we’ve tracked almost $1 million dollars since the 2013 session (the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occured in December 2012).
The money that flows into our state from the NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thwarts the will of the large majority of Rhode Islanders who want more comprehensive gun safety reform.
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