Rhode Island permits state classified employees to run for office

(The Center Square) – Classified state employees are now eligible to run for state elected offices in Rhode Island.

The change permits a classified employee to run for the nomination or be a candidate for state office if that position of not fully funded by a federal loan or grant money.

House Bill 7213A, sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz, D-Providence, and Senate Bill 2215A, sponsored by Sen. John Burke, D-West Warwick, provide that if that employee is elected to the position they are to resign from their position prior to assuming or holding elected office. Gov. Dan McKee signed the bills last week.

“It is profoundly unfair that classified employees are banned from running for state office while unclassified and non-classified employees are not,” Diaz said in a release. “A secretary, clerk or cook should have just as much right to run as a college professor. The law as it stands now is not only unfair, but it’s classist and potentially racist, since people of color are more likely to hold classified positions.”

Testifying in favor of the bill were the American Civil Liberties Union; Rhode Island Council 94; and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the release said.

Diaz, who had to resign from a state job when first running for representative in 2004, said the bill allows the person to run for the position without having to quit their job first.

“It’s time we afford the same consideration to classified employees as well, especially since they’re the ones who can ill afford to quit their jobs. If they lose, there’s no guarantee they’ll get their old jobs back,” Diaz said in the release.

Burke said the legislation ensures that “we treat all state employees fairly.”

“As long as it doesn’t violate the federal Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of certain state employees, then there is no need to unfairly single out classified employees who choose to run for office, as long as they relinquish those positions upon being elected,” Burke said in the release.

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