East Providence Sen. Conley aims for ethics reform, focuses on economic issues

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EAST PROVIDENCE — State Senator William Conley's possible position on same-sex marriage may be getting the most notice, but the East Providence lawmaker said he's also focused on a number of other important issues facing Rhode Island as he begins his first term in office.

Mr. Conley (D-Dist. 18) said he has already been impressed by the focus Senate leadership, including his East Providence counterpart Sen. Daniel DaPonte (D-Dist. 14), has put on economic issues. "It's good to see leadership so invested in this issue. It's really exciting."

Mr. Conley is also in support of a measure to remove the so-called "Master Lever" from the ballot box, which allows constituents to cast their vote down party lines with one single stoke of a pen. "I think it would add credibility to the electoral process. I think at this point, most people vote for the person not the party. And I think the ballot ought to reflect that."

A main focus of Mr. Conley's term, he said, will be attempting to amend the Ethics Code to include lawmakers. Opponents on this issue often point to its possible infringement of politicians' First Amendment U.S. Constitution rights. Mr. Conley, however, said he would write the legislation in a way which would still allow for cogent discussion. "As a former legal counsel to the Ethics Commission, I understand the speech and debate clause is integral. But I also think the time has come for the Ethics Code to apply to legislators as well."

And finally, on his first few weeks in the Senate, Mr. Conley added, "It's been very interesting already. I'm going through a steep learning curve. One of the primary reasons why I ran for this seat was to address the state's economy. And I'm glad to see leadership has made it such a high priority."

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