March 12, 2012

Bill to Allow State Employees Serve in Assembly

Patrick Laverty

How's this sound on the face of it? A bill sponsored by Senators Jabour, Crowley and Pinga would remove the restriction that prevents state employees from running for election for a state seat. So a state employee could run for the General Assembly or any of the other General Officer seats. It sure sounds like a conflict of interest, doesn't it? In face, according to, the restriction was put in place in 1939 to eliminate at least this possible conflict of interest. I guess "only in Rhode Island" would the politicians look to add more conflicts of interest.

One can see the point though, why should anyone be restricted simply due to their place of employment? We already have other potential conflicts at the State House. How many lawyers vote on bills that can affect them? How many others are members of unions in the state and bring forth bills that would directly affect the unions? How many voted on pension reform when they themselves receive a pension? However, simply because there are other issues shouldn't be an excuse to add more.

You have to think though, and I don't see it in the bill, wouldn't it be interesting for someone to be elected to be their own boss? What if someone with a job in the Governor's Office were elected Governor? Can he keep his job and his salary on top of the Governor's? How about in the Attorney General's office? Can someone effectively do both jobs? How about being employed by the Speaker of the House while serving in the Senate? What kind of mixed loyalties might that cause? It'll be fun to find out.

Unrelated, how funny is it that the Boston Globe even tries hard to link to the sourced article in the Providence Journal and is blocked out. Gotta love being required to get local RI news from the Boston Globe.

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As a government employee I'm appauld. Clearly a HUGE conflict of interest. Hoe can a state employee be allowed to be elected to a state seat. It would be like a municipal employee being elected to a town/city council and being allowed to collect both salaries. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Boobs at March 12, 2012 5:23 PM

I will get out in front of this before someone reads the House version and sees that I am a top co-sponsor. This came up in my 2010 race for the Assembly, when it was made apparent that my work in a summer job for the state as a "classified employee" precluded me from serving in elected office. I promptly resigned my position to allow me to go forward with my campaign, but it still struck me as odd. I have two problems with the law as it currently is written: First, "unclassified" employees are still allowed to run and hold office. This group primarily consists of political appointees and at-will employees of elected officials and department/division heads, as well as Sheriffs, State Police, and some other employees. The vast majority of employees fall under the "classified" system, which prevents them from running. This setup has 1) not shown itself to be a problem insofar as employees running for office conceivably working under their bosses and 2) demonstrates an inequity for those seeking to run for public office (some employees are more equal than others when it comes to their most basic right to vote). The second problem I have with the law as it is currently written is that no person should be banned from running for and holding public office in our part-time legislature, in particular, by virtue of their employment. If the Assembly were full-time and professional, it of course would be a different story. However, under the current system, with outside employment near-universal among members, virtually all members are prone to potential conflicts and are responsible for avoiding them. It would be no different for government employees.

Finally, if Council 94 wants to fight with me on something, I can give them about 95% of the positions I take. On this one, they have a point.

Posted by: Dan Reilly at March 12, 2012 6:19 PM

Does the prohibition placed on state workers end when their employment ends or does it continue as they collect pensions in retirement?
Why are business owners not acting in self interest as they are allowed to vote on bills involving labor and taxation? Is this not a conflict of interest too?
Why do we not trust the decisions made by voters who are aware of a candidate's employment?

Posted by: Phil at March 13, 2012 8:09 AM

How many state workers serving in the GA would have voted for pension reform? Weren't state workers already represented? What I don't get is how anyone supporting this cannot see this as at least appearing as a conflict of interest. In this environment, I'm surprised that the bill wasn't being submitted to eliminate the unclassified exemption. You don't even have an Ethics Commission that can keep this in check. If you pass this you're just wearing down the trust of government even further. How much further damage can the word government take?

As far as your business owners analogy goes, I'm not forced to patronize private business but I'm forced to pay taxes. I can protest business by withholding my dollars. The only way I can protest taxation is with my feet.

Posted by: Max D at March 13, 2012 10:05 AM

mandatory auto insurance?

Posted by: Phil at March 13, 2012 5:33 PM

"mandatory auto insurance?"

Government hasn't started selling that yet. So far I'm still free to choose what insurance company I want and they still actually compete for my business. What government am I free to choose to pay taxes to? Who is competing with them for my tax dollars?

Posted by: Max D at March 13, 2012 6:03 PM
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