Filippi introduces Constitutional amendments

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 4:45pm
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The following was released by the Rhode Island House of Representatives communications office:

On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, House Minority Whip Blake Filippi (R-District 36, Block Island, Charlestown, South Kingstown and Westerly) presented three resolutions to the House Judiciary Committee to amend the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The bills include H-5401, H-5541, and H-5513.

House bill 5401 proposes a Constitutional amendment, which would empower the People of Rhode Island to take the government to court over unlawful spending. 

“Unfortunately, Rhode Island and federal case law generally prohibit the People from contesting the legality of government spending,” said Filippi. “Hard-working Rhode Island families dutifully pay their taxes. Then, if the government unlawfully spends their money, they can’t seek judicial redress. That is unfair and needs to change. It is the People’s money and they should have the right to bring an action when it is unlawfully spent,” reasoned Filippi.

“We must amend our Constitution to effectuate this reform,” explained Filippi.  “This particular legal topic is complex and changing our Constitution must be approached cautiously. However, providing Rhode Islanders with this legal right will ensure the People have recourse if their money is unlawfully spent. This change will act as a much-needed oversight mechanism by the People over their government.”

House bill 5541 proposes a Constitutional amendment that requires all substantive executive branch regulations be approved by the General Assembly before going into effect.

“Separation of powers cuts both ways.  Just as the General Assembly should not exercise executive functions, the executive branch should not exercise legislative functions. The fact is that many regulations carry the force of law and govern our lives, property and businesses, and should be approved by the legislative branch prior to going into effect,” said Filippi.

Filippi added, “Connecticut, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina already have similar laws in place. For example, South Carolina requires regulations to be approved by the General Assembly before becoming effective.  Meanwhile, in Connecticut, a legislative review committee must approve all regulations.”

House bill 5513, proposes an amendment to create a system of instant run-off elections for all general officers and members of the General Assembly. This will ensure that candidates are elected with a majority vote, rather than through the current plurality vote.

Filippi stated, “A ‘plurality’ is winning with the most votes, even if a candidate does not break the 50 percent threshold. We’ve seen numerous races over the years where candidates have been elected with significantly less than 50 percent of the votes cast, including the last two governors’ races. Governor Chafee garnered 36.1 percent and Gov. Raimondo barely broke 40 percent of the votes case.”

“The last two general elections demonstrate that we have a problem with our plurality voting system. Rhode Islanders have expressed concern that the will of the People is not adequately reflected, and that officials elected without a majority lack the strong mandate needed to effectively govern,” stated Rep. Filippi. 

“Each of these amendment will protect Rhode Islanders from excessive governmental bureaucracy and encourage a healthier republic,” said Rep. Filippi.

House Resolution No. 5401 is cosponsored by Rep. Kenneth Mendonca (R-District 72 Middletown, Portsmouth), Rep. Sherry Roberts (R-District 29 Coventry, West Greenwich), Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (R-District 41 Scituate, Cranston), Minority Leader Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick)

House Resolution No. 5441 cosponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore (D- District 65 East Providence), Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-District 68 Bristol, Warren), Rep. William W. O'Brien (D-District 54 North Providence), Rep. Brian Newberry (R-District 48 North Smithfield, Burrillville. 

House Resolution No. 5513 cosponsored by Rep. Kenneth Mendonca (R-District 72 Middletown, Portsmouth), Rep. Sherry Roberts (R-District 29 Coventry, West Greenwich), Rep. Robert Quattrocchi (R-District 41 Scituate, Cranston), Rep. Justin Price (R-District 39 Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond).