Ken Block & Call on Governor To Challenge Constitutionality of Legislative Grants


[ issued the following statement late this morning.]

Ken Block, Chairman of WatchdogRI, is calling on Governor Raimondo to ask the Rhode Island Supreme Court for a written opinion on the constitutionality of the corrupt legislative grant program.

Rhode Island’s constitution empowers the governor’s office to ask the RI Supreme Court to create an opinion on a legal question in Article X, Section 3, which states in its entirety:

Advisory opinions by supreme court. — The judges of the supreme court shall give their written opinion upon any question of law whenever requested by the governor or by either house of the general assembly.

For years, many Rhode Islanders have taken exception to the legislative grant program. This program dispenses millions of dollars a year in what many believe to be an unconstitutional scheme. The recipients of these grants are selected by legislative leadership, and the entire program runs without any input from the Executive branch of government.

The grant program likely violates RI’s constitution as it pertains to separation of powers.

Legal challenges to the grant program have been mounted before – notably by former Rep. Nick Gorham. In a surprising move, the RI Supreme Court declined to hear Gorham’s complaint because he was deemed to not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit over the grant program. Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, it is unclear that anyone would have standing to challenge the grant program legally.

The corruption of the program came vividly to light after media accounts highlighted the fact that Speaker Mattiello granted $126,000 to himself for projects in his hometown.

The time for wink and nod politics must end in Rhode Island if we are to become a competitive state for business and jobs. The reluctance of our General Assembly to do the right thing and eliminate this program necessitates that others step in and force reform on the General Assembly.

Governor Raimondo has the power to issue a legal challenge that could end the corrupt legislative grant program. Will she use this power, or by declining to do so will she be complicit in allowing this corruption to continue?