Fecteau: Will the Reform Caucus Gain, or Lose Power?

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After approximately 21 house legislators (called the reform caucus) voted against Rep. Nicholas Mattiello as speaker, the question should be asked: will these players remain steadfast in their demands? The grievances echoed by the house representatives are hardly monolithic.

In a recent press release, there appears to be an attempt to unify everyone under one umbrella. Specifically stating: “The Reform Caucus is committed to changing the way business is conducted at the State House.  That can only happen with changes to the House Rules so there’s a more democratic process which respects all 74 elected Representatives and ensures the diverse needs of all constituents served.”

However, despite this misleading press release, each grievance was unique; thus the unity behind the reform caucus may be far from firm and is overstated. Reform sounds great, but this is not the primary motivation for the legislators. For example, State Rep. Mary Messier is disappointed in Mattiello’s dramatically changes to the PawSox legislation, and his support for certain candidates. State Rep. Joe Almeida is disappointed in Mattiello’s (perceived) apathy when it comes to promoting diversity. And with the other house representatives, it is a similar theme: there is no one grievance but many.

Mattiello is leading his most divided caucus this year.

Some in the “Reform Caucus” have also expressed concern that they are even being lumped together with fringe house representatives that are already isolated on the political stage. This give Mattiello a little extra wiggle room when attempting to shore up his support in the General Assembly.

If Mattiello can rectify individual grievance, he will likely be able to divide and weaken the Reform Caucus before it becomes more powerful by gaining other members. He should look at each grievance made by every particular individual and decide who he can bring into his fold and who should be left out (word is there will be a couple). This is the way to ensure that he has a more unified front.

Best of luck to House Leadership moving forward. They’ll need it.

Matthew Fecteau
Matt Fecteau of Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an Iraq War veteran. Send him email at Matthew.Fecteau@gmail.com
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