The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform; reforms that should be codified via a constitutional amendment.

Center Recommends Constitutional Amendment to Codify Legislative Process Reforms

All Lawmakers Should Have a Greater Say in the Legislative Process

New “Reform Caucus” is Disingenuous

Providence, RI — The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform; reforms that should be codified via a constitutional amendment, according to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

“Now is the time to demand better government. Now is the time for General Assembly leadership to cede some of their excessive powers and to reform our government so that all lawmakers on Smith Hill are freer to represent the families and businesses in their districts. No more excuses,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It is far better that the many elected representatives have a greater say in the legislative process than to be pressured to support the agendas of the few in leadership.”

The Center supports the reform ideas previously put forth by Representative Jared Nunes (D, Coventry) as a good starting point. However, now, with the statewide debate gaining momentum, the Center recommends that a more permanent solution should also be considered.

In calling for a dual-legislative track, the Center’s primary objective is to ensure that elected Senators and Representatives will have greater capacity and freedom to represent their individual districts, rather than being compelled to back the personal agendas of Senate and House leadership.

The first piece of legislation would immediately implement certain reforms for the 2019 General Assembly session, while the second piece would call for a ballot-referendum in 2020, whereby voters could approve codification of those reforms into the Rhode Island constitution.

“The recently concocted ‘Reform Caucus’, led by progressive-left activists, is currently making disingenuous calls for similar reforms. It should be clear, however, that their motives are not for good-government purposes, but rather as a means to advance their radical agenda,” warned Stenhouse. “We must institutionalize these reforms in our constitution, because the ultra-left cannot be trusted not to reimpose authoritarian measures if they ever assume leadership control.”

The Center calls on lawmakers from the left and the right to publicly back this legislative initiative, and for leadership to consider how they can be viewed as heroes by supporting these obvious good-government reforms.

Among the high-level goals that the legislation and constitutional referendum should seek to reform, include:

  • Less control by leadership over what legislation will advance, with more power provided to legislative committees
  • A more democratic process to ‘advise and consent’ over committee chair appointments and other leadership positions
  • An end to the corrupt end-of-session “cattle-call” votes, whereby dozens upon dozens of bills are rushed through committees and brought up for floor votes in the course of just a few late-night hours
  • A process that restricts the capacity of majority and minority leaders to ‘suspend the rules’ to circumstances where only true emergencies may occur, and with limited duration or scope.
  • An end – or significantly increased transparency – to the corrupt legislative and community grant process, which is often used as a coercive legislative sledge-hammer
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