Brian Patrick Kennedy

Brian Patrick Kennedy

By serving as vice president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, veteran lawmaker Brian Patrick Kennedy says he will have an opportunity to help ensure Rhode Island has an opportunity to influence the organization's legislative and policy agenda.

Kennedy, a state representative who represents Hopkinton and a portion of Westerly, was elected to serve as vice president of the conference during the organization's legislative summit in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 5. The bipartisan organization serves each state and U.S. territory and the nation’s 7,383 state lawmakers and legislative staff. Founded in 1975, the conference works to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures.

"I appreciate the opportunity to serve as vice president and look forward to working with my colleagues from around the country,” Kennedy said. "NCSL has afforded legislators and staff an unrivaled opportunity to learn from the experiences of other states, exchange ideas and come up with policy solutions that can help propel our respective states and, ultimately, our entire nation forward. I also look forward to working with our Washington office to ensure federal policies are in line with state priorities."

Kennedy's election marks the first time a legislator from a New England state has served in one of the conference's four leadership positions in nine years and the first time a Rhode Island lawmaker was ever selected.

"I think this is big for Rhode Island. Not only do we get to be involved with helping to set the agenda and figuring out legislative priorities on a national level, but we're going to help coordinate these central policies and how they impact state priorities moving forward," Kennedy said.

The conference is engaged on a wide range of issues, Kennedy said. "NCSL covers a spectrum of issues, whether it's housing, medical, broadband or you name the topic, NCSL has a subcommittee and tries to adopt a national strategy," Kennedy said.

The conference, Kennedy said, works to develop consensus before backing specific policies to ensure it truly serves as a voice of the majority.

Kennedy, who is in his 33rd year in the Rhode Island statehouse, has been involved with the conference for more than 20 years and has previously served as chairman of some of its committees and task forces. He was one of five candidates in the running for the position, and while he said he did not know the exact vote count, Kennedy said he learned that he earned the votes of the six Republican members of 12-member committee that voted on his candidacy.

For the past five years, Kennedy has served as speaker pro tempore in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. He said the leadership position was a factor in gaining election to the NCSL executive committee. The other members of the organization's leadership team are speakers of the house of representatives in their respective states, Kennedy said.

Kennedy will serve one year as vice president, ascend to president-elect the following year and then become president at the legislative summit in 2024. NCSL leadership alternates between political parties every year. Idaho Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican, will serve as president-elect of NCSL, and Speaker Scott Saiki of Hawaii, a Democrat, became the 48th president of the NCSL.

Kennedy's election drew the praise of his colleagues in Providence.

"This was a true bipartisan effort with both the house and senate Democratic and Republican leadership supporting Speaker Pro Tempore Kennedy’s effort to become the NCSL’s new vice president. I know he will continue to serve the people of Rhode Island and the NCSL in the same honorable and dedicated way he has served the residents of District 38 for the past 33 years,” said Rhode Island Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) in a news release.

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