Rhode Island representative Moira Walsh says insane amount of drinking in state house blows my mind you can make laws that affect peoples lives forever
A new lawmaker in Rhode Island has condemned the insane amount of drinking that goes on in the legislature as its members conduct the states affairs.
Moira Walsh, a Democrat from Providence, said lawmakers had file cabinets full of booze and described how they recently took shots on the floor of the House of Representatives to celebrate the Dominican Republics independence day.
Walsh took office in January after ousting a longtime incumbent in the 2016 Democratic primary and is known for being blunt. She was fired from her job as a waitress in January after her employer said her liberal political views hurt the restaurants reputation.
It is the drinking that blows my mind, she told talk show host Matt Allen on radio WPRO-AM. You cannot operate a motor vehicle when youve had two beers but you can make laws that affect peoples lives forever when youre half in the bag? Thats outrageous.
Legislative leaders sought to dismiss her claims of rampant drinking. Democratic House majority leader Joseph Shekarchi told the Providence Journal he had never seen anyone intoxicated on the floor of the state house or impaired while voting.
But its not uncommon for Rhode Island legislators to have toasts of alcohol during celebratory occasions. One of the biggest is next week ahead of St Patricks Day. Nor are Rhode Island lawmakers alone in drinking on the job, though some other states have sought to curb the practice.
In Massachusetts late-night antics ultimately forced a rules change essentially banning the House of Representatives from meeting past midnight. A Missouri lawmaker in 2016 proposed legislation banning smoking and alcohol in the state house. And a pattern of drunken-driving arrests of California lawmakers led the legislature to provide them free after-hours transportation, though the free rides were ended in 2015 in an attempt to restore public trust.
Alcohol is prohibited in some capitols buildings including Oklahoma and Idaho. In Oklahoma its also a violation of House and Senate rules for a member to be intoxicated on the floor.
Walsh has criticised Rhode Islands political culture before.
She said in 2016 that one of the things Im personally very concerned about is Ive heard rumours that theres drinking during sessions. I dont imagine thats going to go over well with me.
She also said that as a low-income single mother she was bothered that too much was decided at late-night dinner meetings between legislators.
Joking with WPROs host Tuesday about the possibility of a police checkpoint outside the legislators parking lot, Walsh said, Im going to be the person who ruined drinking at the state house. Theyll love me forever.