March 26, 2010

The Most Ethical Place in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

Mark my words, this will go down as one of the all-time-great quotations to come out of the General Assembly:

"I've been here a year and a half now," said freshman Rep. Scott Pollard, D-Foster. "There aren't any corrupt people in the building ... you smile, but I know them and you don't, OK?"

Well, that settles it then. Clearly, far from seeking to make outright bribery illegal, at the State House, we should hand them even more stringless money and power!

On a mores serious note, I see reason for concern in this:

No vote was taken Tuesday on the fix-it legislation crafted by the citizens advocacy group Common Cause that Fox introduced on Feb. 4. Asked why he did not seek a vote, Fox said, through a spokesman: "I want to make sure that the language is correct before we ask voters to consider a Constitutional amendment. I want to review the testimony that will be offered tonight, both pro and con, and make sure we get it right."

Perhaps I need to tune my cynical ear, a bit, but what I hear in that statement is: "We want to wait and see if there's some way out of this that gives us credit for considering ethics legislation but makes the whole issue go away without its being anybody's fault."

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I was there. I am sympathetic to the issue that several on the committee raised - in fact, Brian Newberry was most vocal about the bill's chilling effect on free speech on the floor.

While I support the declared intent of this bill - to repair the damage done by the Irons decision - the actual wording is defective. The amendment removes the Article VI section 5 immunity for "speech in debate" by removing the immunity under that article completely. But the offense of the Irons decision was that it got him off a charge of selling his vote, not his speeches. What we need is a bill that corrects the error of the court, which declared that a bribed vote is the same thing as speech in debate on the floor of the chamber.

Now I am not a lawyer, and Gordon Fox is. In fact, I suspect that he wrote the bill in this way precisely so that the GA could vote it down as defective and make people forget about the real issue. These guys in the Dem leadership are not stupid - evil, but not stupid.

Posted by: BobN at March 26, 2010 12:17 PM

They stamp "By Request" on bills like that. It is certain death to it.

Posted by: Bicycle Bill at March 29, 2010 11:17 AM

It is apparent from the snide remarks he makes the General Assembly TV censors let slip through that Foxie is wound pretty tight. (I'd use a clothing analogy but it ain't PC)
Since he was foolish enough to put his name on this bill I am sure with enough prodding about its' failure to move he could have an entertaining meltdown. GO for it.

Posted by: Bicycle Bill at March 29, 2010 11:52 AM
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