2016-05-05 / Front Page

Abney Chairs Finance

By Tom Walsh

State Rep. Marvin L. Abney, DNewport, and his wife, Cheryl, were driving home on Monday, May 2, after their son’s graduation from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

When a newspaper reporter called, they began to think that something was up.

They were right.

The following morning, Abney, who had been serving as a member of the House Finance Committee, was appointed chairman of that panel by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, D-Cranston, in the wake of former Finance Chairman Raymond E. Gallison’s abrupt decision to resign from the House of Representatives.

Gallison, a Bristol Democrat whose district includes part of Portsmouth, has reportedly been targeted in a continuing federal investigation, the nature of which remains undisclosed.

House Finance is widely considered the most important committee in the General Assembly because it gives first consideration to the governor’s annual state budget proposal. That process will accelerate over the next four to six weeks as House and Senate leaders, along with Democratic Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, come to agreement on the state’s annual spending plan.

Mattiello said House Finance needed “a strong leader who people trust” and that Abney is that person.

Back in Newport, Abney, in an interview with Newport This Week, said “It’s a challenge, no doubt about that.” He said he was poring over briefing books concerning where the next budget stands.

“It’s like the eighth inning of a nine inning game,” Abney, 66, said of the budget process. “But I’m energized. I feel really good about getting this opportunity to serve the entire state.”

Newport lawmakers lauded Mattiello’s choice of Abney to lead House Finance.

“That’s good news for Newport,” declared Rep. Lauren Carson, DNewport. “Marvin’s been on that committee for years and he has a lot of integrity. I think his integrity is one reason why he was given this job. He is definitely qualified for the position. He’s consistent, calm and very dependable.”

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, also a Newport Democrat, heralded the appointment of Abney to chair the prestigious House panel.

“I consider Marvin to be not just a colleague, but a friend. He has a tremendous amount of integrity both at the Statehouse and in the Newport community,” Paiva Weed said. “I couldn’t be happier for him. One of the qualities I admire about him is his willingness and ability to listen. He’s an elected official who really listens and learns as much as he can on a subject before forming an opinion.”

She said Newport will be well served with Abney as Finance chair. And, Paiva Weed added, “Marvin has genuine compassion for the members of our society who are less fortunate. He is an advocate for the elderly, the disabled and the poor.”

Former Newport House member Peter F. Martin said of Abney, “He is by far the most qualified person for this very important job. I am confident that he will quickly rise to this occasion and do a great job for all of us.”

Abney was first elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 2012 and previously served on the House Health Education and Welfare Committee. Abney retired as a U.S. Army major after a 20-year military career that saw him serve as company commander at NATO headquarters in Belgium.

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