NEW: Common Cause Calls on Speaker Candidates to Hold Ethics Vote
Monday, March 24, 2014
Common Cause Rhode Island is calling on the candidates for Speaker of the House to allow a vote for H 7593 that would close the ethics loophole that exempts General Assembly members from oversight.
"The FBI raid of the State House office of Speaker Gordon Fox is a wake up call for the citizens of Rhode Island" says John Marion, executive director. He continues, "The new Speaker, whoever it may be, needs to begin restoring trust in our legislature by not playing politics with ethics reform. Today we are calling on Representatives Marcello and Mattiello to promise to bring H 7593 for a vote during their first two weeks as Speaker."
The Irons Case
In 2009, a decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the William V. Irons v. The Rhode Island Ethics Commission case stripped the state Ethics Commission of most of its jurisdiction over members of the General Assembly. Since that time there has been no mechanism in place to govern conflicts of interest by members of the legislature.
"For less than the cost of a trip across the Sakonnet River Bridge we can close this loophole," Marion says. Both Michael Marcello and Nicholas Mattiello voted for an identical resolution in 2010 that passed the House of Representative 68-5 only to never receive a Senate vote.
The Rhode Island Ethics Commission was created by the 1986 Constitutional Convention and given oversight of "all elected and appointed officials and employees of state and local government."
Since the 2009 decision it has not had jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the Code of Ethics that involve "core legislative activities" of General Assembly members such as debating and voting on bills. H 7593 would put a constitutional amendment before the voters in November 2014 to reverse the holding in the Irons case.
Related Slideshow: Fox Scandal: Winners and Losers
Peter F, Neronha, U.S. Attorney
The bold action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation coupled with Internal Revenue Service investigators raiding the Speaker of the House's office was a major statement by federal authorities.
The investigation tied to now-former Speaker Fox sets expectations of a far broader probe.
Neronha has also indicted developer Richard Baccari and was key to the http://www.golocalprov.com/news/9949/">Google Settlement that brought $230 million to Rhode Island.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed
Generally, the Senate President plays second fiddle to the Speaker of the House, but with a new Speaker to be voted on as early as Tuesday, Paiva Weed's influence will shoot up in the transition.
She will be more influential in the budget process.
Look for Paiva Weed to make a move on controlling the Joint Committee on Legislative Services - the proverbial legislative grab bag for jobs and grants.
Majority Leader Nick Mattiello
As GoLocal Tweeted on Friday, the Cranston Representative and Majority Leader has the edge to take control of the House.
Mattiello (as of Sunday Night) has approximately 40 votes and the momentum necessary to replace Fox.
Mattiello has strong support from former Speaker and lobbyist Bill Murphy. A Mattiello Speakership may cause a big shake up in Committee Chairs and senior staffing.
Former Speaker Bill Murphy
Murphy and Fox worked together for more than a decade and their relationship had both ups and downs. Nick Mattiello, if elected Speaker, is a close ally to former Speaker Bill Murphy.
Murphy had served as Speaker from 2003 to 2010. The former legislator has a successful criminal defense practice and is a lobbyist for notable clients (2013) for UTGR (Twin River), Advance America Cash Advance, and the Brotherhood of Correction Officers.
Murphy will emerge as an ever greater influencer with Mattiello as Speaker.
The resignation by Gordon Fox is a political hit to the General Treasurer who went big for Fox in his surprisingly tough re-election against story teller Mark Binder.
Binder hit Fox both for his role in 38 Studios and his legal work for PEDP applicants.
Raimondo decided to publicly support Fox and walk his district with the embattled Speaker.
It should be noted that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also supported Fox, but Raimondo claims to be the reformer in this race.
Fox's Committee Chairs (if Mattiello wins)
Fox loyalists who have pledged their support to Michael Marcello will be in trouble as will their agendas if Mattiello is in fact elected Speaker on Tuesday.
Committee Chairs like Helio Mello, Edith Ajello, and Arthur "Doc" Corvese might all be replaced as they backed Marcello.
For the past decade, Providence could always count of Gordon Fox to help bail the Providence Budget out of trouble.
From Finance Committee Chair, then-Majority Leader and ultimately-Speaker, Providence Mayors knew that Fox -- the Mount Hope section of Providence Representative -- would increase aid to Providence in one way or another.
Providence always found an extra few millions from Fox. That access is likely to end in 2014 further impacting the City of Providence's budget issues.
Legalization of Marijuana
The pieces were falling together for the effort to pass legislation to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island. Speaker Fox was a social progressive. Judiciary Committee Chair Edith Ajello, who may lose her post in the power shift, was the legislation's sponsor and in command of the key committee.
In addition, Governor Lincoln Chafee has voiced support for the idea.
But, a shift to a more conservative Mattiello would throw a barrier in the way to a 2014 passage.
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