SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A local lawmaker will have an increased profile in the Rhode Island House of Representatives this term.
Rep. Blake Filippi (R-Dist. 36), who had been the House minority whip in his 2016 term, was unanimously voted as the House minority leader by the Republican caucus last week.
Filippi, whose district represents all of Block Island and Charlestown and parts of South Kingstown and Westerly, ran unopposed in the 2018 election.
“The caucus selects it, I’ve been the House minority whip for the past two years, so that’s the number two position. Patricia Morgan retired this year to run for governor, and the caucus selected me unanimously to lead it for the next two years,” Filippi said.
Filippi says his experience as House minority whip helped prepared him to become the leader. “In many respects, what I did as whip was organize floor debates, opposition to bills, how to support bills. I dealt a lot with the leadership on the other side reforming bills,” he said of his time as whip. “So many of the duties I did as whip I think naturally segue into my role as leader. We have a great caucus, we have a united caucus.”
The Republican caucus consists of nine members, and Filippi says his main job is to work with them to promote the best interests of the state.
While the election was undoubtedly good for Democrats statewide, Filippi noted that the Republicans actually picked up a couple of seats. Among the retirements were Bobby Nardolillo and Morgan. “We suffered three pretty bad losses this election; Bob Lancia, Andy Giarusso, and Ken Mandoza, but we picked up two new seats that have been Democratic for probably over 10 years,” he said, highlighting Republican winners Jack Lyle in Lincoln, David Place in Burrillville and George Nardone in Coventry. “So it’s not like it was a rout, we just had retirements and we went from 11 to nine, but it’s interesting, what’s going on the Democratic side, where our nine is very relevant right now.”
Time will tell how the Republican caucus will work with Democrats, Filippi said. His position is they’ll sit and talk with anyone that’s looking out for the best interests of Rhode Islanders, and he noted that there are positions he agrees on with progressive Democrats and those that he doesn’t. “Really, we’re going to take this issue by issue and work with whoever wants to pass good legislation to help not just economic prosperity, but preserve individual liberty and privacy in this state.”
Filippi noted he’s worked with Democrats on bills in the past, including those having to do with Fourth Amendment rights and privacy rights. Reforming taxes on the elderly and reducing taxes on energy are also bills he’s worked with Democrats on. However, he also says in many respects, everyone in that room works together. “Congress could learn something from us, and I probably worked with every single member in that room reforming bills, making bills better and working to kill bad bills, too.”
Filippi also has his own legislative priorities, including the line-item veto and the creation of an office of an inspector general. He also wants instant runoff voting to require that candidates receive 50 percent plus one of the vote; otherwise, there would be a runoff.
On the speaker of the House, Filippi says Nicholas Mattiello is a strong man who has convictions. “But one thing about Nick Mattiello is he always listens, and he takes what we have to say even as the minority party into consideration,” he said. “And from a speaker, that’s what you’d expect and he’s done a good job in always listening.”