Approve RI Question #2

Posted

When it comes to overseeing the ethics of its General Assembly, Rhode Island is unique — and not in a good way.

Unlike Massachusetts, unlike every other state, Rhode Island now has no mechanism in place to police conflict of interest by its lawmakers. And those lawmakers show, again and again, that they are ready and willing to take full advantage of that loose leash.

Question 2 on the Nov. 28 ballot would set things right again. It asks voters to restore the state Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction over General Assembly members.

Recent behavior by some of those lawmakers, including one close to home, indicates that Question 2 deserves resounding support.

The odd thing is that the question even needs asking. The Ethics Commission used to have authority to watch over legislators and their penchant for crossing the conflict of interest line but that ended in 2009 when the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution’s “speech in debate clause” granted legislative immunity to lawmakers. The judges noted, though, that a constitutional amendment could change things.

Left to their own devices, some took full advantage and in most blatant ways. There are too many examples to note in this short space but the East Bay is watching one case with particular interest. State Rep. Raymond Gallison is accused (among other things apparently) of profiting personally from money granted by the House Finance Committee he chaired to a non-profit he controlled.

Question 2 won’t cure all that ails the legislature but it puts them on notice that they should not vote on matters from which they stand to profit —the same standard every local town councilor and zoning board member must meet.

Because this question involves a change to the state constitution, a two-thirds majority is needed tor passage.

It is difficult to imagine this one not being near-unanimous.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

2016 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Prudence Island · Riverside · Rumford · Seekonk · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc., email mrego@eastbaynewspapers.com.