Ethics

Rhode Islanders want a government that is free of conflict-of-interest.  That is why almost three decades ago we created one of the strongest Ethics Commissions in the United States.  Since then we have worked to eliminate nepotism, minimize the size of gifts lobbyists can give to public officials, and put in place a comprehensive revolving door policy for public officials.  There is still much work to be done to improve the Code of Ethics and restore the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.

Status update!
Resolution to restore the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission:

S 2060 Has been introduced in the RI Senate and

H 7577 Has been introduced in the RI House.

Of the thousands of elected and appointed officials in Rhode Island, only 113 are not subject to most of our ethics laws, the General Assembly.  Since the 2009 decision in Irons v. RI Ethics Commission we have been fighting to put a question on the ballot restoring the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction.  In 2013 that resolution was voted on, only to be nullified.  Help us make Rhode Island a leader in ethical conduct once again.  Ask your city or town council to support ethics for everyone

Background

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 when it involves their “core legislative acts”.

The Common Cause Rhode Island brief in Irons argued that the 1986 Constitutional Convention clearly wanted legislators subject to the Code of Ethics, for all their actions.  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 partially 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.

Posted in ISSUES