The Office of Law Revision, under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, is pleased to make available all the changes to the laws of the State of Rhode Island brought about through the efforts of the General Assembly's legislative session.
This comment was appropriately placed
on the bottom of the title page of the 1750 edition of the
The Royal Charter called for a body of "Assistants
and such of the freemen of the said company...who shall be...elected...by the
major part of the freemen...shall have a general meeting or assembly,
[and]...shall be called the General Assembly." This Charter was the
official inception of the lawmaking body of the State of
Since the Royal Charterís call for a governing
body of elected officials, the General Assembly has proposed and passed laws,
called for studies and reports, conducted censuses, and recognized the accomplishments
of citizens through resolutions. The actions of the General Assembly were
passed and enforced; however, the organizational structure was virtually
nonexistent. There was no formal order or indexing used for referencing
purposes, and the bills passed remained at the old State House. Today these
bills reside at the State Archives building on
In the year 1750, with the advent of the
innovative printing press making its way to
The January, 1798, edition of
In the year 1842,
In the year 1896, the State of
The general laws were republished and
updated with new legislation in 1909, 1923, 1938 and in 1956. The reenactment
of 1956 completely changed the manner in which the general laws were
published and organized (R.I.G.L.,
Until the year 1971, all of the passed statutes were published in biannual editions of the Rhode Island Acts and Resolves. In that same year a familiar title reappeared in publication. The Rhode Island Public Laws were published once again; however, this time they garnished a new purpose. This volume contained all legislation passed at each General Assembly session, save resolutions and acts of a local or private nature. In addition, the Rhode Island Acts and Resolves were published to contain what was not included in the public laws. Prior to this change, all of the acts that were not resolutions or acts of a local or private nature were still called public laws but were contained in the Acts and Resolves volumes.
The laws of the State of
There are three publications which contain statutes passed annually by the
They are the:
The Public Laws of the state of
While all acts passed by the general assembly are
considered to be public laws, with the exclusion of the resolutions and
acts of a local or private nature, only those enactments that apply to the
citizens of the state of
The public law volumes serve many purposes. They chart the evolution of a law by providing not only its legislative intent, but also a history of changes to that law. A knowledge and understanding of both is essential to the drafting of new legislation.
Equally important is that the public laws serve as a means of conflict resolution when two or more laws are in fundamental disagreement. The ability to chronologically trace the changes of a law provide a mechanism to reconcile any discrepancies between conflicting legislation.
The public laws of the state of
When a public law is enacted it has been approved by a majority of the House and Senate. Subsequently, it is signed into law either by the Governor, or the public law is allowed to become effective without the Governorís signature; or the Governorís veto may be overridden by three-fifths of the general assembly members present and voting in each of the House and Senate chambers (R.I. Const., Art. VI, Sec. 2; Art. IX, Sec. 2). When a bill becomes a law, it is given a chapter number which corresponds with the sequential order as it was enacted during the session (R.I.G.L., Sec. 43-2-1) . Public laws are statutes that:
From the public laws the general laws were born. General laws are a codified compilation of each successive edition of the public laws arranged alphabetically into titles. The general laws initially consisted of eight volumes in 1956; however, additional volumes have been added to the initial volumes, such as in the case of volumes 4, 4A, 4B, 4C and 4D, making a total of 28 volumes of the current General Laws of Rhode Island.
The primary distinction that separates general laws from public laws is that while public laws include all legislation, except for resolutions and local and private acts, the general laws are a collection of laws that are of statewide consequence. Legislative acts that affect a particular city or town remain public laws. The organization of both is also different. While public laws are organized and numbered by year and order of passage, general laws are organized in alphabetical order by the subject that they regulate. It is important to remember that while all general laws are public laws, not all public laws are general laws.
Resolutions are a type of bill that is passed by the General Assembly.† Resolutions generally are a formal expression of an opinion, intention, or decision of the General Assembly, but usually do not have the formal force of law.
There are three basic forms of Resolutions: Simple Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions and Joint Resolutions.
Simple Resolutions.† A resolution introduced and passed only by the legislative body where the bill was originated.
Concurrent Resolution.† A resolution passed by one house and agreed to by the other house.† This type of resolution expresses the legislatureís opinion, intention, or decision on a particular subject but generally does not have the force of law.
Joint Resolution.† A legislative resolution passed by both legislative bodies, usually for the purpose of appropriating funds or pertaining to state finances.† These resolutions have the force of law and are subject to the Governorís veto.† This type of resolution is passed only upon the Governorís signature (or failure to sign) or veto override.
All public resolutions passed by the General Assembly session are printed in the official ďRhode Island Acts and Resolves.Ē
Examples of Simple and Concurrent Resolutions include:
Extending congratulations and condolences;
Examples of Joint Resolutions include that:
The appropriation of funds for claims less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00);
Local or Private Acts
The final type of statute passed by the General Assembly is the Local or Private Act. Local acts must be passed by both chambers and approved either by the Governor, become effective without the Governorís signature, or become effective upon the legislatureís override of the Governorís veto (R.I. Const. Arts. VI, Secs., 2, 9). Every edition of the Rhode Island Acts and Resolves contains any local or private acts passed in the previous General Assembly session. A local or private act:
While the laws of the State of
Comments regarding this page may be emailed to Susan G. Pegden, Law Revision Director, at email@example.com.††