NEW: Costantino Proposes Government Reform Package
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Democratic State Representative candidate is proposing a wide-ranging package of government reforms to prevent the last-minute budget deals which resulted in the 38 Studios debacle and this year’s controversial, surprise plan to re-organize the state’s higher education system. That plan has caused confusion and raised concerns among the state’s higher education leaders, including University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, who recently called the still uncertain transition to a new board governing higher education “especially problematic and potentially damaging to URI”.
The Costantino plan to clean up state government includes:
· fighting for passage of the Common Cause proposal to amend the state constitution to repeal the “speech and debate” clause and allow legislators to be prosecuted by the state Ethics Commission;
· amending the state’s Open Meetings Law to clearly state that the Rhode Island General Assembly and all of its committees and subcommittees must comply with the Open Meetings Law; and
· change the House Rules to eliminate the clause that allows the chair of the Finance Committee to introduce last-minute budget amendments.
“It’s not enough to talk about government integrity. We need concrete proposals that will put an end to the last minute, middle of the night deals that resulted in the 38 Studios debacle and a re-organization of the state’s higher education system which was rammed through with no input from higher education officials or the public,” said Costantino. “My plan will directly address the structural problems which have led to the mismanagement and bad public policy outcomes we have seen coming from the General Assembly.”
Costantino said that re-structuring the state’s Economic Development Corporation is only part of the solution to preventing future policy failures like 38 Studios. He said steps must be taken to end what seems to be an annual problem in Rhode Island state government--major proposals being introduced at the end of the legislative session, in the middle of the night with no public input and discussion. That only fuels a perception of insider dealing which keeps businesses from coming to our state or expanding here.
The Common Cause proposal to eliminate the “speech and debate” clause was passed by the House in 2010, but never received a vote in the Senate. Costantino said he will fight to make that Constitutional Amendment a priority and build public support to get votes in both chambers.
At the same time, Costantino will push for the change in House rules, as it was an amendment by the House Finance Chair during this year’s budget debate which led to the sudden introduction of a plan to eliminate the Office of Higher Education and dissolve the Board of Governors for Higher Education. Costantino noted that a special House Committee was formed to look at higher education affordability issues back in 2011 and that the committee held hearing all over the state for nearly a year without ever discussing a higher education reform proposal.
And by changing the state’s Open Meetings Law to clearly state that it applies to the General Assembly, Costantino said the legislature will finally be required to meet the same standard of openness and transparency which is required of local planning boards, school committees, town councils and other public bodies in Rhode Island.
“Every time legislative leaders rush through a special deal to benefit one company or unleash a secret plan that will impact higher education in the state, it looks like the public interest is taking a back seat to insider deals,” said Costantino. “My government reform proposal will help make sure the legislature is more open and transparent.”
Costantino concluded, “This reform plan will send a clear signal that we are serious about fixing state government and getting our economic development efforts back on track.”
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