The 2015-2016 General Assembly was one of the most successful for Common Cause in our history. This scorecard reflects that success, with average scores at their highest point in almost a decade. Significant success in Election and Ethics reform lead the way, while Open Government and Judicial Selection weigh down the scores for some lawmakers.
Campaign Finance and Elections Reform
Three years ago Common Cause set out an agenda that would change the way we register and vote in Rhode Island. In the last two years we’ve seen dramatic changes. Under the leadership of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, and legislative sponsors Senator Gayle Goldin and Representative Aaron Regunberg, we saw online voter registration pass, and by the time of this newsletter it will be implemented. Another important change has been the purchase of new voting equipment, and a pilot program for electronic poll books. Additionally, in the wake of the Speaker Gordon Fox scandal, we saw minor changes made to Rhode Island’s campaign finance laws.
Ethics and Lobbying Reform
For seven years Common Cause sought to put a question before the voters that would restore the full jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission over members of the General Assembly. In 2016 that has finally happened courtesy of resolutions sponsored by Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. Additionally, because of waves of scandals the General Assembly passed, at Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s behest, a complete overhaul of the state’s lobbying laws.
Legislative inaction has been a victory for our judicial selection system in Rhode Island. The “look-back” law that allowed governors to choose judicial candidates off of expired lists from the Judicial Nominating Commission was left to die in the 2015 legislative standoff, and never emerged in 2016.
Open Government and Rules
While our initiative to overhaul the state’s Open Meetings Act did not advance, there were a number of open government initiatives that saw legislative action. Notably the Raimondo administration spearheaded an effort to overhaul the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, opening up the rule-making process and bringing us into line with best practices.
Separation of Powers
More than a decade after the Separation of Powers Amendments were put in our Constitution, the legislative work necessary to implement them has largely come to a close. Although several pieces of legislation that would have violated our constitutional order were proposed, none received votes. We did see a new challenge to Separation of Powers through a bill that would delegate legislative authority to municipalities in a manner that violates the constitutional order.
2015-2016 Common Cause Legislative Scorecard(corrected version)