A Lively Experiment

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Comments on Your Government

RIPEC's “Comments on Your Government” brief presents information on constitutional conventions in Rhode Island with a focus on the upcoming November 2014 ballot referenda question. It discusses background information on the implementation of constitutional conventions, and provides issues that voters may consider as they prepare to vote. Download the “Comments on Your Government” brief

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ARLENE VIOLET - A vote for better R.I. government

"Creating Jobs" seems to be the catch-all phrase during this election as candidates vie for statewide and local office. Imagine for a moment, though, that you are an outsider potentially looking for a place to plant your firm or manufacturing plant. When you look at Rhode Island what would be the first thing that you would associate with this state? Certainly, it would not be the hoped-for designation as the Ocean State. Chances are you'd think corruption or the worst place to do business according to all national measures, or the give-away state because of burgeoning welfare programs.

Read the full article in Valley Breeze

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Constitutional Convention Can Boost School Reform

By Samuel D. Zurier

Over the past 12 months, Rhode Island lost six years of progress toward its goal of high-quality public education for all. When last school year began, the Board of Education declared that the graduating class would be the first to receive diplomas tied in part to achievement on statewide assessments.

As the school year advanced, it became clear that the fallout from this requirement (especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or with special needs) was too severe, and the General Assembly postponed the goal until 2017. In August, the commissioner of education concluded that even the General Assembly’s schedule was too aggressive, and postponed the program three more years, to 2020.

Read the full article in Providence Journal.

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"Concerned about Assembly's Ethics" by Robert Benson, Jr.

Question 3 on the November ballot will ask the voters if we should convene a constitutional convention. Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union, says “if your concerned about legislative shenanigans, you should reject Question 3 on November’s ballot” (“The General Assembly’s kid brother,” Commentary, Oct. 3).

It is the very concern about legislative shenanigans that is the strongest justification for approving this ballot question. Just this last year the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend passage of a bill that would let the voters decide whether we should restore the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction over state legislators. A day later, House Speaker Gordon Fox used a questionable interpretation of the House rules to void the Judiciary Committee’s vote. If that’s not legislative shenanigans, I don’t know what is!

I testified on several occasions before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill that would have let the voters decide whether legislators should be subject to Ethics Commission jurisdiction. The ACLU’s Steven Brown was sitting right next to me testifying against this bill. Maybe Mr. Brown is satisfied with our state legislature’s conduct on this issue. I’m not.

The only way we’ll ever strengthen the Ethics Commission or realize any other government reform is via a constitutional convention. This is the people’s convention, not the politicians’ convention.

Don’t let the fear mongers make us wait another 10 years for this to happen. Vote “Yes” on Question 3.

Robert A. Benson Jr.


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