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A Q & A With RI's New "Most Powerful Politician"

Nicholas A. Mattiello - Rhode Island’s new Speaker of the House - is 50 years old. He lives in Cranston. He is a lawyer, a father, and a motorcycle aficionado with a preference for Harley Davidsons. He was first elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 2006.

He is also, if you believe the many folks we spoke with for this week’s cover story, the most powerful politician in the state.

Earlier this week, he answered a few of our questions via email. Those answers have been presented below in their entirety.

A LOT OF OUR READERS MAY NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE. IF YOU HAD A FEW MINUTES TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

I ran for State Representative less than eight years ago because I truly enjoy helping people and addressing their concerns. I am a family man, and I would not be able to commit my time and energy to helping improve our state without the support of my wife and my two sons.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF, POLITICALLY?

I am a pro-business Democrat. I like to think I am thoughtful and deliberative, and try to find good reasoning in addressing issues.

DO YOU AGREE THAT THE RI HOUSE SPEAKER IS “THE MOST POWERFUL POLITICIAN IN THE STATE”? WHY OR WHY NOT? HOW DO YOU PLAN TO USE THAT POWER?

I will let others offer their opinions about the power of the office. At the end of the day, the people hold the most power, and we are all accountable to them. It is office that must serve the people first and foremost.

HOW WILL YOUR SPEAKER STYLE DIFFER FROM YOUR PREDECESSOR, GORDON FOX?

Everyone brings their own style. I strongly believe that the House must be more member-driven than in the past, and the ideas of all 75 members must be strongly considered. There is no monopoly on good ideas, whether you are a freshman member or a 20-year veteran, or whether you are a Democrat or Republican.

IT’S SAFE TO SAY RHODE ISLANDERS HAVE VERY LOW CONFIDENCE IN THEIR GOVERNMENT RIGHT NOW, AND THE RAID ON SPEAKER FOX’S OFFICE DIDN’T HELP. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO RESTORE THAT TRUST AND FAITH?

I will lead by example, hard work, and by being accessible. A strong reason for a lack of confidence is because our economy has been struggling for so long. The best way to restore that confidence is to enact policies and legislation to strengthen our economy and create good-paying employment opportunities.

DURING THE SEMI-PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FOR SPEAKER, REP. MICHAEL MARCELLO PROMISED HOUSE VOTES WITHIN 30 DAYS ON THREE ISSUES THAT SEEM TO HAVE BROAD SUPPORT AMONG RHODE ISLANDERS: PAYDAY LENDING REFORM, ETHICS REFORM, AND ELIMINATING THE MASTER LEVER. WILL YOU BE BRINGING THOSE BILLS TO A VOTE SOON? WHY OR WHY NOT? SPECIFICALLY, WHAT REASON DO YOU HAVE FOR DELAYING A VOTE ON ETHICS REFORM?

I will consider those and all other issues before us. We have less than 100 days remaining in this legislative session, which is a very compressed timeframe, but we will do the best we can to review all of those matters. While I will not ignore other issues, my main focus during the little time left in this session will be on improving the economy.

YOU’VE STRESSED THE ECONOMY AS A PRIORITY IN YOUR UPCOMING WORK, AND THAT’S UNDERSTANDABLE. BUT HOW EXACTLY DO YOU FORESEE THE HOUSE IMPROVING THE STATE’S ECONOMY IN THE UPCOMING MONTHS?

This can be accomplished by taking a more business-friendly approach to everything from enacting a state budget to adopting sound tax policies. It is imperative that we become more competitive with our neighboring states when it comes to taxes, and we must provide relief from the regulatory burdens that discourage companies from doing business in Rhode Island.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE CAMPAIGN FOR SPEAKER TOOK PLACE OUTSIDE OF THE PUBLIC EYE, WITH REPORTERS OFTEN STAKED OUT OUTSIDE THE BUILDINGS WHERE MEETINGS TOOK PLACE. GIVEN RI’S POLITICAL REPUTATION, THIS LED TO NO SMALL AMOUNT OF PESSIMISTIC SPECULATION. (FOR EXAMPLE, ROBERT CUSACK OF WHALEROCK POINT PARTNERS TWEETED ON MARCH 23, “SOMEONE SHOULD WRITE A PRIMER ON THE DEAL MAKING BEING DONE ON SPK’R VOTE NOW. PROMISES, ETC. ALL PERS., SELF INTEREST, NOT PUB INT.”) WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU GOT ELECTED AND WHAT HAPPENED IN THOSE CLOSED-DOOR SESSIONS?

I have made myself available to the media at every request throughout the whole process. My colleagues elected me as Speaker because my message of improving the state’s economic standing resonated with them. Every other issue that was brought up in my discussions with the other members paled in comparison to the overwhelming focus on jobs and the economy. They know my leadership style, my positions on issues, and my work ethic. After serving as Majority Leader for the past four years, my record is an open book and is available for public scrutiny.

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