Common Cause calls on candidates for Speaker to hold ethics vote in first two weeks

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause calls on the candidates for Rhode Island Speaker of the House to allow a vote for H 7593 that would close the ethics loophole that exempts General Assembly members from oversight. “The FBI raid of the State House office of Speaker Gordon Fox is a wake up call for the citizens of Rhode Island” says John Marion, executive director. He continues, “The new Speaker, whoever it may be, needs to begin restoring trust in our legislature by not playing politics with ethics reform. Today we are calling on Representatives Marcello and Mattiello to promise to bring H 7593 for a vote during their first two weeks as Speaker.”

In 2009 a decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the Irons case stripped the state Ethics Commission of most of its jurisdiction over members of the General Assembly. Since that time there has been no mechanism in place to govern conflicts of interest by members of the legislature. “For less than the cost of a trip across the Sakonnet River Bridge we can close this loophole,” Marion says. Both Michael Marcello and Nicholas Mattiello voted for an identical resolution in 2010 that passed the House of Representative 68-5 only to never receive a Senate vote.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission was created by the 1986 Constitutional Convention and given oversight of “all elected and appointed officials and employees of state and local government.” Since the 2009 decision it has not had jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the Code of Ethics that involve “core legislative activities” of General Assembly members such as debating and voting on bills. H 7593 would put a constitutional amendment before the voters in November 2014 to reverse the holding in the Irons case.