October 26, 2005

The Lieutenant Governorship and Voter Initiative

Carroll Andrew Morse

I think voter initiative is a good idea. The usual objection -- that voter initiative gives undue influence to money in politics -- is not any more relevant to voter initiative than it is to the rest of the political process.

However, I also believe that it is a mistake to view political reform purely in terms of procedural reform. Procedural reform, by itself, does not create sound policy. Unless there is strong, honest political leadership, procedures, by themselves, will not guarantee that the government process is used for the benefit of the people. Fortunately, the current election cycle provides the people of Rhode Island with a chance to implement better lawmaking procedures AND to elect a leader who is willing to use those procedures for the public good.

Here is the synergy: Rhode Islandís voter initiative movement should also back a candidate for lieutenant governor who declares his or her willingness to take on the role of the peopleís legislator.

Now wait a second, you may be asking yourself; hasnít this website posted volumes on the subject of the worthlessness of Rhode Islandís lieutenant governorship? That is true. And that is the beauty of the situation! Since the job doesnít have very many well-defined duties, the lieutenant governor is free to define the position largely as he or she wants.

1) Whether or not voter initiative passes next fall, the LG could set up a process to help citizens introduce bills at the state house. The LG would take the ideas that people have, use the resources of the office to research the technical and legal aspects of bills, and help find a legislative sponsor for citizen-created bills.
2) The LG could set up a transparent system for tracking bills. Because the LG is not beholden to the legislative leadership, he or she would be free to be honest about what the legislature is trying to kill without allowing a vote.

Finally, as an added bonus, running for LG as the peopleís legislator will provide a stark contrast with LG candidate Elizabeth Roberts, who has already stated that she believes that minimal citizen involvement in lawmaking is something to be desired.

And Sen. Elizabeth Roberts, likely Democratic lieutenant governor nominee, has "grave" concerns [about voter initiative]. "Issues are decided in somewhat of a policy vacuum," she says, with voters apt to make decisions without considering all the ramifications.

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This is an important issue that we as RI citizens need to support. The audacity of this Sen. Roberts is unbelievable! I would consider the General Assembly (Roberts included) to be in a vacuum. Citizens coming together to work on getting referendums concerning issues important to the citizenry of the state is a wonderful thing!

We need to get a grassroots groundswell here in RI to support this initiative!

Thanks for the post...

Posted by: K in RI at October 31, 2005 8:19 PM