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Committees Approve Bill To Give Voters Choice On Stronger Ethics Oversight Of Lawmakers

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The House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that would allow voters to restore state Ethics Commission oversight of...

The House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that would allow voters to restore state Ethics Commission oversight of state lawmakers.

The bill dropped a proposed moratorium on ethics complaint -- an issue that good government groups said shouldn't be part of a constitutional amendment. The Ethics Commission is instead working to address that issue in its own rules.

With striking speed, the House Judiciary Committee passed the ethics bill, 8-0, and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure, 13-0.

The head of the non-partisan good government group Common Cause of Rhode Island, John Marion, called the votes historic.

“With final passage on the House and Senate floor, we’re going to have a chance to let voters decide whether the Ethics Commission should have oversight over lawmakers," Marion said. "This has been seven years in the making, since June 2009, when the Supreme Court took this away from the people of Rhode Island, and now the people will have their say."

With the legislative session about to end as soon as Friday, the full House and Senate are expected to pass the ethics bill. If that happens, a question will go on the November ballot, allowing voters to strengthen the Ethics Commission's oversight of the General Assembly.

Legislative leaders unveiled their support for ethics reform after a controversy involving legislative grants became public earlier this session. That followed the resignation in April of former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison, who remains part of an ongoing law enforcement probe.

The resignation of former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison elevated support for ethics reform.
The resignation of former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison elevated support for ethics reform.