October 24, 2009

A Constitutional Glitch in the Ciccone Consolidation Bill?

Monique Chartier

Andrew brings to our attention Senator Frank Ciccone's pile driver consolidation bill, enumerating the ways that this is a bad idea and adding some shrewd speculation about the (possibly calculated) existential threat that the bill poses to the Mayor's office of North Providence, a position currently occupied, it would seem, by a trouble-maker obsessed with stabilizing local taxes.

Part of the senator's consolidation proposal would involve passage of a separate bill eliminating Rhode Island's home rule charters, thereby returning all such power, including the power to tax and spend on the local level, to state government.

Now, Rhode Island's current home rule charters came to exist at a Constitutional Convention in 1951. So how could they be revoked simply by an act of the General Assembly? Wouldn't it take another Constitutional Convention to accomplish this dramatic change to the structure of Rhode Island government?

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Wouldn't that be like if Congress wanted to abolish the states and make "America" just one big country with no internal borders? I'm sure each of the states would be really thrilled with that and would pull out the US Constitution as evidence that they can't. Not much difference at the state level, it seems.

Posted by: Patrick at October 24, 2009 9:07 PM


Legally speaking, states are the most fundamental unit of government in the American system; they are source of the power and legitimacy of the units of government above and below.

Unlike the Federal Government, which was clearly created by an agreement between states (which also allowed for other states to join), states did not come into being via already-established cities and towns entering agreements to cede part, but not all, of their powers to a "higher" unit of government.

Posted by: Andrew at October 25, 2009 10:24 AM
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