In 1986, Rhode Islanders voted to amend the state constitution and establish an ethics commission that had authority to investigate and sanction all elected and appointed officials and public employees for conflicts of interest. However, in 2009 the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that an older piece of the constitution prevents the ethics commission from investigating and sanctioning state lawmakers for conflicts involving legislation.
In order for the Ethics Commission to have full oversight over members of the General Assembly, the state constitution has to be changed.
In November, Rhode Island voters have the opportunity to restore the Ethics Commission’s authority to investigate and punish ethics violations by members of the General Assembly.
Vote YES on 2 for a better Rhode Island.
It’s no secret that Rhode Island is notorious for unethical government — and that hurts all of us. Businesses don’t want to come to a state known for backroom deals and “I know a guy” politics. The truth is that a handful of bad actors — and some outdated laws — are ruining Rhode Island’s reputation for all of us.
This year we have a chance to take a stand and make a change by voting YES on 2. Question 2 puts the “teeth” back in the Ethics Commission by giving them the ability to investigate and fine General Assembly members for unethical behavior related to legislation.
Who's talking about 2?
H. Philip West Jr.
Former Executive Director, Common Cause RI
Executive Director, Common Cause RI
Karen Hobert Flynn
President, Common Cause
Explanation and purpose of Question 2:
This Constitutional Amendment would restore the Rhode Island Ethics Commission's power to hear ethics complaints concerning members of the Rhode Island General Assembly (State Senators and State Representatives). The new text to be added to the amen·dment is underlined in the ballot question. Text that will be deleted is crossed out.
The Ethics Commission is an independent, non-partisan body created in 1986 by Rhode Island voters to investigate the actions of Rhode Island officials accused of violating the Code of Ethics, and punish those found guilty of violating the Code of Ethics. In 2009, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the "speech in debate" clause of the Rhode Island Constitution in Article VI, Section 5, gave lawmakers immunity from Ethics Commission prosecution in cases involving their "core legislative functions." Approval of this question would restore the Ethics Commission's constitutional authority to police ethics violations by members of the General Assembly. It would also require the Commission to approve new rules by a two-thirds (2/3) majority.
How much money will be borrowed?
The referendum would not authorize any borrowing.