Senate Education Power Grab
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
If passed, the bills would significantly increase the Senate’s say over state education policy.
The main sponsor of the bill, Sen. Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, D-Middletown, said it’s simply the right thing to do. He said it isn't an attempt to increase the Senate's power.
“I view our investment in education as one of the most vital and critical investments we make as a State and 39 cities and towns,” DiPalma told GoLocalProv. “With regard to k-12, we invest upwards of $2 billion annually. I believe it is critical we, the Senate, appropriately exercise advice and consent. Over 150,000 students are counting on us to get it right. … Exercising Senate advice and consent is the right thing to do.”
Chafee says Senate reaching beyond constitutional powers
The bills are opposed by Governor Lincoln Chafee, who says they violate the state Constitution. In submitted testimony, Chafee said the advice-and-consent power of the Senate is tied to the Governor’s appointment powers. In the case of the commissioner, however, it is the Board of Regents and the Board of Governors, he said, that select the commissioners, not the Governor.
He said the bills are also inconsistent with existing state law.
But DiPalma said a subsequent analysis of the bills had shown that there isn’t any violation of the state constitution.
The state Department of Education also does not agree with the proposed changes, according to spokesman Elliot Krieger. “We believe that the current system, in which the Governor and the Board of Regents appoint a Commissioner, has worked successfully,” Krieger told GoLocalProv.
A spokesman for Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed did not specifically say whether she has a position on the bills. “The committee process is central to appropriate diligence around all pieces of legislation pending in the Senate. This legislation is scheduled for consideration before the Senate Committee on Education on Wednesday,” said Greg Pare.
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