June 3, 2015
Common Cause Rhode Island calls on the General Assembly to hold a separate debate and vote on the pension settlement bills (S 876/H 6181). Currently it appears the legislation will be considered as part of the annual state budget deliberations beginning next week. “This extraordinary legislation, that will affect every Rhode Islander – and every Rhode Island state and municipal budget – for decades, should not be rolled into the annual budget as if it were just another article,” says John Marion, executive director. “The budget debate that typically occurs in a single evening and includes debates on amendments concerning dozens of issues is not the place for this important legislation,” continues Marion, “it deserves special consideration so legislators, much as they did in the special session in 2011, can take this up on the merits alone.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement all parties, including Governor Raimondo, “will not, directly or indirectly, propose, support, encourage or advocate for any legislative action concerning or relating to retirement benefits other than the adoption of the Legislation.” If the proposed pension settlement is rolled into the state budget it appears from the covenant that Governor Raimondo is prevented from using her veto power under the state constitution even if she opposes other portions of that legislation. Tying the hands of one of the sovereign branches of government this way would be unprecedented and for this reason alone S 876/H 6181 should be debated and voted on alone.