In June 2009 the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in favor of former Senate President William Irons in his suit against the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. In their opinion the Court ruled that Article VI, Section 5, the Speech in Debate Clause of the Rhode Island Constitution, protects members of the General Assembly from prosecution by the Ethics Commission.
The Common Cause Rhode Island brief in Irons argued that the 1986 Constitutional Convention clearly wanted legislators subject to the Code of Ethics. Since our view did not prevail in court, we now support a resolution that will let the voters of Rhode Island decide whether legislators are immune from ethics oversight.
That resolution was voted out of the House of Representatives in 2010 by a vote of 68-5 but has never received a vote in the Rhode Island Senate. In 2013 the House Judiciary Committee passed the resolution unanimously, only to nullify the vote the next day. Common Cause continues to push for the issue on the ballot.