PROVIDENCE — Caught up in the political crossfire of the last few days, East Providence Representative Helio Melo (D-Dist. 64) has likely lost his perch as chairman of the House Finance Committee. Rep. Melo confirmed the information via text message Sunday night, March 23.
Rep. Melo, part of the leadership team under former Speaker Gordon Fox’s regime, was ousted during a power struggle that took place over the weekend, ending Sunday following separate meetings of the House Democrats in Johnston and Providence and leaving Cranston’s Nicholas Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) the current House Majority Leader, as the likely new speaker barring any last-minute breakdown.
Rep. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence) resigned the speakership and announced he would not seek re-election in the fall following a raid of both his Providence home and his office in the State House by State Police and the FBI Friday, March 21. He made his resignation official the next day.
Leader Mattiello, almost immediately lay claim to the speakership Friday, following the actions of law enforcement. He called a caucus of Democrats to Providence that evening, and left believing he had the necessary votes among the 69 members of his party to take over the top spot.
In various published reports Saturday, March 22, Leader Mattiello continued to proclaim enough support to do so. After another lenghty caucus Sunday, it appears he will be elected the next Speaker of the House when the session resumes Tuesday, March 25. The indication is Leader Mattiello won out after a brief struggle against House Oversight Chairman Michael Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate and Cranston) and his backers.
The six Republican members of the House will also cast votes. As of Sunday evening, Leader Mattiello was claiming 41 solid votes while Chairman Marcello claimed some 33. One of the two prospective candidates for the speakership needs at least 38 votes, one more than half of the 75-member body, to secure the position.
For Rep. Melo, his tenure as the House Committee on Finance chairman comes to an immediate and inauspicious end after just over three years with the gavel and dead in the middle of the 2014 session with work on the Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget well underway.
Early indications are Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick and Cranston) will take over as the Finance chair as of Tuesday when and if Leader Mattiello is elected speaker.