Mattiello “Terminates” Community Service Grants, Common Cause RI Says Details Matter

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

 

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State House Press Conference on Monday

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello announced sweeping changes to the community service grant program at the State House on Monday.

Flanked by the new House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Mattiello said he is dismantling the current community service grant program and replacing it with a new funding mechanism for community service groups within the budget process - but did not address the smaller "legislative grants" or reforms. 

The reforms to the community service grant program will be the third major under Mattiello’s leadership. Previously, he helped to eliminate the master-lever provision that allowed for straight party voting, and he has has proposed restoring the powers to the state’s Ethics Commission so that it has oversight of the General Assembly.

Cautious Optimism

Common Cause RI’s Executive Director John Marion lauded the grant changes, but cautioned, “So the devil will be in the details in how the changes are brought about, but the initial reaction is a good one, because this deals with a couple sticky problems with the community service grants. One is that there was no transparency around them so some of them were buried so deep in the budget no one could find them, and there was no description what they were for.”

Mattiello had said on Monday, “This [community service grant] program addresses the needs of our citizens. It's a list of grants that are made by the General Assembly, and in finally reviewing, we've come to the conclusion there's a better way to administer state dollars, so it's being terminated.”

Community service grants have come under review since former House Finance Committee Chair Raymond Gallison resigned under a cloud of financial mismanagement, as Gallison had been the recipient of such a grant. According to WJAR-10, Gallison's home was raided by law enforcement by law enforcement in March. Gallison has not been charged with any crimes.

New Approach

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John Marion of Common Cause

“There are vital citizenry needs, but the current system lacks the appropriate amount of transparency," said Mattiello. "So in the future we'll address the needs as follows:

* "A direct appropriation in the budget in the appropriate department with the stated purpose - it will be there for debate and discussion. There will probably only be a handful of those, [i.e.] the bigger agencies that serve vital citizens needs. 

* Smaller grants will be appropriated to state departments to administer those funds - there'll be an application or competitive bid process. We expect a significant savings to the $11M dollars. 

* No General Assembly member should be employed by any community service agency that is receiving state dollars through any of the above mentioned  -- and no dollars shall be used for lobbying purposes.

* All agencies that receive state dollars will be subject to audit."

Legislative Grants Not Included

The reform proposals outlined Monday do not impact legislative grants. Paiva Weed said the existing legislative grant programs have to provide transparency in the [legislative grant] process, the public can at least find out who get them, people can fill out applications, which wasn't always the case. 

 

Related Slideshow: Ethics Complaint O’Brien - 2016

 
 

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