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Guest MINDSETTER™ Sen. Sheehan: Vote Yes on Question 2

Friday, October 21, 2016

 

Senator James Sheehan

The people of the State of Rhode Island have a unique opportunity this election season. In addition to casting your vote for president and various other public offices, you will be asked whether to amend our state constitution to definitively give the Ethics Commission jurisdiction over the Rhode Island General Assembly.  

The Ethics Commission was originally created to be the citizens’ watchdog over public officials and their actions, with specific authority over the General Assembly.  But as a result of a 2009 ruling, in a case involving former Senate President William V. Irons, the Ethics Commission’s oversight over the General Assembly was struck a severe blow.  The ruling effectively exempted state lawmakers from scrutiny and prosecution by the state Ethics Commission for violations relating to their core legislative acts such as introducing and voting on legislation. 

The late Sen. J. Michael Lenihan took up the effort to restore the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission following the 2009 decision. I proudly took up the banner of ethics reform after Senator Lenihan retired in 2010.   

Rhode Island citizens do not trust their government, especially the General Assembly.  In a Fleming and Associates 2016 poll of what issues Rhode Island voters want the General Assembly to address this year, “Government corruption” was ranked second (behind creating jobs).  Restoring the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission over the General Assembly would represent a great step forward in rebuilding the people’s trust in government by deterring future instances of public corruption. 

We all need rules to check our behavior as well as a mechanism to hold persons accountable for unethical behavior. Re-instituting the Ethics Commission’s oversight over members of the General Assembly will encourage members to listen to the better angels of their nature, whose voices remind us all that the nobility of public service resides in placing the common good above self-interest. When lawmakers do this, we are at our best in making a real difference in the lives of others. 

This ethics amendment is a good and sound measure. I firmly believe that it will help us restore a modicum of the peoples’ trust in their elected assemblymen and women. 

After years of hard work, the ball is now in your court. This election year, you can not only choose individuals to represent you in government, but actually play a constructive role in making a positive change. Help us to do that. Please vote yes on Question 2.

 

Senator Sheehan is a Democratic senator representing District 36, which includes Narragansett and North Kingstown. He is chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. He resides in North Kingstown.

 

Related Slideshow: Seven Big Surprises So Far in the 2016 Election Season in RI

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#1

GOP Chaos

This year had all the makings for a big pick-up by the Rhode Island Republican Party, but to quote Earth Wind and Fire, “Something happened along way.” 

Instead of a robust GOP slate of candidates that would have challenged the Democratic party — who is suffering from Ray Gallison, Anastasia Williams and John Carnevale hangovers — the minority party has been unable to put forth an average -- or even sizeable group -- of candidates.

Maybe the GOP infrastructure should have spent less time of the Presidential primary circuit, less time bickering, less time on the opinion page, and more time rolling up their sleeves and doing the real work of running a minority party.  Recruiting candidates, fundraising and building a technology infrastructure is handwork. Going to the Presidential debate in New Hampshire is fun.

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#2

Progressives are Marching

It started with the Bernie Sanders rally at Roger Williams Park before the Democratic Presidential primary — an estimated 7,000+ showed up for the Dem Socialist before he crushed Clinton in RI. 

It was supposed to be the year of the GOP in RI. With angry voters flocking to Donald Trump, Sanders captured the wave of big upsets. The GOP was supposed to be the party that tapped into the dissatisfaction of voters, but in order to capitalize, you have to have credible candidates and a strategy. So far the progressives look to be offering a competitive collection of candidates.

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#3

Doreen Costa, is that really your story?

Doreen Costa has been an emerging star for the RI GOP for the past few years. She has been at the forefront of so many battles and has been one of the most energized legislators. Now, she is stepping down at the last moment due to self-inflicted term-limits. 

As part of her announcement, GOP Chair Brandon Bell said, “Doreen can see outside the dome. She was on Smith Hill for the right reasons and now she is moving on to her next commitment to public service."

This is a big loss for the GOP and an unusual story for her exit.

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#4

Who is more powerful -- Warren or Barrington?

The Democratic battle for Rep District 67 is looking like a rivalry battle between tony-Barrington and the folks in Warren. Long-time Democratic Representative Jan Malik is being challenged by Jason Kinght who has a base in Barrington. 

On Monday, the Barrington Town Committee voted to endorse Jason Knight for over the incumbent, Representative Jan Malik. “I’m so pleased and thankful to the committee for their endorsement,” stated Knight. “I’m campaigning to bring a new voice to the state house for Warren and Barrington and clearly the committee agreed that it is time for a change.”

Knight continued, “The voters of Warren and Barrington have a choice this year between a conservative incumbent who is anti choice and has enjoyed the support of the NRA or a new voice with real Democratic values who supports ethics reform and knows that we need new and creative ideas to get our economy back on its feet. The committee's vote shows that Barrington is ready turn the page.”  

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#5

Carnevale Draws Fire

Representative John Carnevale is out on a disability pension, once was charged with rape, but the woman who filed the charge died unexpectedly before Carnevale went to trial.

His most recent challenge is a law enforcement investigation as to whether he has violated voting laws by living outside his district and voting at a location that he did not live. Now, he faces five opponents: Ramon Perez, Lisa Scorpio, Joshua Beeman, Anthony Defilippo and David Marshall.

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#6

GOP Chaos (Part 2)

Speaker Nicholas Mattiello lives in a district in Cranston that Mitt Romney captured 47 percent of the vote in 2012. Thus, it is a competitive district for the GOP, but instead of marshaling their energies and talents they have decided to run two candidates.

Steve Frias, an attorney in Boston and a Providence Journal contributor, is now facing a primary from anti-vaccination activist Shawna Lawton for the GOP nod and the opportunity to face off against the most powerful elected official in RI -- but not from the GOP pespective to replace him.

You would think the GOP could avoid a primary in the most important race in Rhode Island.

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#7

The Biggest Ethics Reformer

No one has had more success in the past two decades driving ethics legislation through to adoption than Speaker Nick Mattiello. In his couple of years as Speaker he has overseen the elimination of the Master Lever and the passage of a complete overhaul of the ethics statute.

That transformation now goes before the voters for approval in November.

 
 

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