News & Commentary from Anchor Rising and the Ocean State Current
Center Recommends Constitutional Amendment to Codify Legislative Process Reforms
The legislative sausage-making process in Rhode Island is in dire need of reform. Those reforms that should be codified through a constitutional amendment, so that 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. Now is the time to demand better government.
Our state needs less control by leadership over what legislation will advance, with more power provided to legislative committees. Through a constitutional amendment we can have a more democratic process to ‘advise and consent’ over committee chair appointments and other leadership positions. This is the way to 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. Imagine 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. We can end – or significantly increased transparency – to the corrupt legislative and community grant process, which is often used as a coercive legislative sledge-hammer.
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 leaders’ motives are not for good-government purposes, but rather as a means to advance their radical agenda. 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.
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. 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.