The introduction of the Rhode Island Senate rules this session prompted our initial commentary in two specific aspects. First, we encouraged the Senate to adopt a rule clarifying that the 48-hour time period for posting committee agendas excluded weekends and holidays. Second, we noted that it would be beneficial for the Senate to codify aspects of remote testimony which have been supportive of open government throughout the pandemic, such as the livestreaming and recording of all public meetings and the electronic posting of testimony to the General Assembly website.
However, a Sub A, introduced right before the bill was to be voted on in committee, created a concerning provision which could require any witness to declare by oath or affirmation that they are testifying truthfully. We urged the deletion of this language, expressing concerns that this could chill and undermine the First Amendment rights of residents by inappropriately holding the threat of a perjury charge over the head of witnesses. Unfortunately, the rule passed despite our opposition.