ADVOCACY 101: The RI State House
Going to the State House can seem overwhelming, but don't let that be a reason for you to stay home. The RI General Assembly meets every year and the session starts the first Tuesday in January and usually runs until the end of June.
Find and Track Legislation
- Everything you need to keep up with the legislature is online, including original and amended versions of bills, committee hearing notices, schedules of votes for the floor, and the results of all votes.
- For information on the bills that the ACLU is monitoring, visit our legislation page.
- Many committee hearings and the House and Senate floor sessions are televised live or recorded and posted online.
- If you would like email updates on the status of a bill, click here to register as a user. Then, enter the bill number into the “tracker,” and wait for email alerts on bill hearings and votes.
Daily Legislative Schedule
- Sessions are generally Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Business is scheduled to begin at 4pm, but frequently begins much later. A loud bell will ring to call the legislators for a quorum; when the bell stops ringing, the business for that chamber has begun. You are permitted to enter the chamber and talk to legislators before the day's session begins, but must leave when the bell stops ringing.
- Daily committee hearings begin at "the Rise," or the conclusion of floor business, usually after 4pm. Committee hearings that start at specific times will be noted on the committee calendars.
- Daily committee hearings end after the agenda is completed.
Attend a Hearing
- Hearings are located at the State House (82 Smith Street, Providence, RI 02903). Metered street parking is available nearby. Enter through the metal detectors on the Smith Street side of the building.
- Hearings are held on all floors of the State House. Room 35, Finance, is located in the basement. Rooms beginning with 1 are on the first floor, 2 on the second floor, etc.
- The General Assembly is required to post hearing notices 48 hours before the hearing occurs. NOTE: This rule is regularly suspended in the last week of the session, at which point hearings may be posted only a few minutes before they happen or not at all.
- The exact time/room of the hearing will be listed on the Committee Calendar.
- Be prepared to wait. You are permitted to sit and wait in any hearing room unless they are filled to capacity.
- If a revised version of the bill is approved (called a Sub A, Sub A/2, or Sub B), ask the committee clerk for a copy once the meeting concludes.
Monitor Floor Debates
- The House and Senate chambers are located on the second floors, but the galleries where you can view the proceedings are on the third floor.
- Voting boards will indicate the number of the bill being discussed and will display vote counts.
The End of the Session
- Once the budget is approved by the House in June, things move very quickly. The House and Senate generally "suspend the rules," which means that they stop adhering to requirements that they post notices 48 hours in advance. If there is a bill you are interested in, it is best to be at the State House during the final legislative days in order to keep on top of things.
- The House and Senate generally still post calendars online, and hearings and floor sessions are still televised and streamed via CapitolTV.
- Do not hesitate to contact your legislator on issues that are important to you, but be prepared that they may not have time to immediately respond.